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A Thorough Examination after reading a few poems by James Wright

by Alan Britt

The snow
hops away on blue paws
behind dark maple trees.
I have never seen snow:
That is a lie
and you know it.
Sometimes I say things I don’t really mean.
I am not concerned about the cold,
I would lie to you
if I could;
you know you would believe
anything I say.
As this situation
presents itself,
I think about the snow,
and I realize it is all a lie.
It must be a lie,
I am afraid to think anything else.
If I were to say the trees
invited me inside
and covered
my hands with bark,
what would
you say?
I know you would
pour my blood over the ground
to see if the color was right.
Isn’t that so?
Then you would
stomp on my bones to see
if they break.
I know your kind.
I know all about you.
Your voice is so familiar,
but your face remains a blank.
I have died many times
trying to think of your name.
but it is impossible,
useless. I have
become afraid
and stay in the dark places.
It is much simpler,
besides, I don’t know
what to do with my hands.
I am tired of lying to you.
I am tired of sneaking around
even in daylight,
pretending my collar is a bird
in search of a grey limb.
I am tired of it all:
the night in its rubber hunting boots,
the automobile stalled between the duck’s brown feathers.
I am tired
and it is all your fault.
Put this poem down
and wash your face,
plant a tree in your eye socket.
Let go of my elbows.
I am tired of your silly comments
about my poems,
and your wooden eyelashes
that bang against the wind.
I am not sure you exist.
Oh, yes. I am very careful
on matters concerning you,
I wouldn’t lie about a thing like that.
I stand in the cold grass
and search for you a long time,
your vacant face and wilted hands,
but you are hard to see beneath
your cufflinks and tie pins.
You stumble over the silverware
and fall beside the ham in your plate.
If it were a matter of interest,
I would say that this is humorous.
But as a matter of doubt
I would say you
never even got this far.

 

Alan Britt’s poems in this issue are from a manuscript he is putting together for his MA at John Hopkins. A poem of his will appear in the For Neruda/For Chile anthology. (Spring 1975)


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