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A Blessing

March 25, 2013

By James Wright

Larkin’s poem about Brown Jack, click here, reminded me of this. It neither rhymes, nor scans, but it’s accessible and by golly it captures the moment – Larkin would have approved.

In 1958 Wright was driving back with his friend the poet Robert Bly from a visit to Bill Duffy and his Swedish wife Christina in Pine Island. He was going through a bad patch. His marriage was breaking up over his affair with crazy Anne Sexton (click here), he was drinking heavily and about to lose his job. He’d just written the puzzling Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota (click here).  

He started A Blessing back in the car after they’d stopped to pet the ponies, and omitted all his troubles; perhaps Lying in a Hammock, perhaps the ponies, had sorted him out. Whatever the cause, the result is pure celebration, one of the best loved poems of the 20th century.

Years later Wright’s most famous pupil, Garrison Keillor, engineered the placing of a plaque at the spot. Here’s a poor quality picture. I’d love a better one.  It’s on Interstate-90, at the eastbound High Forest rest area, near Stewartville.

blessing plaque2

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.
By James Wright

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