A Note Left in Jimmy Leonard’s Shack

Near the dry river’s water-mark we found
      Your brother Minnegan,
Flopped like a fish against the muddy ground.
Beany, the kid whose yellow hair turns green,
Told me to find you, even in the rain,
      And tell you he was drowned.

I hid behind the chassis on the bank,
      The wreck of someone’s Ford:
I was afraid to come and wake you drunk:
You told me once the waking up was hard,
The daylight beating at you like a board.
      Blood in my stomach sank.

Beside, you told him never to go out
      Along the river-side
Drinking and singing, clattering about.
You might have thrown a rock at me and cried
I was to blame, I let him fall in the road
      And pitch down on his side.

Well, I’ll get hell enough when I get home
      For coming up this far,
Leaving the note, and running as I came.
I’ll go and tell my father where you are.
You’d better go find Minnegan before
      Policemen hear and come.

Beany went home, and I got sick and ran,
      You old son of a bitch.
You better hurry down to Minnegan;
He’s drunk or dying now, I don’t know which,
Rolled in the roots and garbage like a fish,
      The poor old man.

James Wright, “A Note Left in Jimmy Leonard’s Shack” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright © 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose (1990)
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