In the North Country, it is high summer. The heat and humidity weigh upon us and we live indoors as much as possible… just like we do in January. Again, we wonder for the thousandth time who was the first European who said, “this would be a great place to live” (cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey in January, hot as a hell-hound’s ass in July). But when the weather breaks, we will forget it all and flee out of doors again… happy to breathe clean air and to feel real breezes upon our faces.
A week ago Sue and I drove through Kentucky and blue grass horse country. Each time we saw horses in a field, I thought of this poem by James Wright. That is the way of a great poem. And this is a great poem in every sense of that word… one of the most beautiful ever written by an American poet.
James Wright seems to me to be in the peculiar position of being frequently anthologized and quoted but seldom read. I include myself in this. I know some of his poems by heart but have spent little time with his body of work. Maybe after I finish working through Sandburg’s Collected Poetry I will take some time to study Wright. It seems like it is high past time for me to do that.
In the meantime, on a hot July Minnesota morning with horses on my mind, what poem could be better than “A Blessing.”
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