Reading: A Blessing by James Arlington Wright

James Wright (1927-1980) won a Pulitzer Prize for his collected poetry in 1972 (fun fact: his son Franz Wright also won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry, which makes them unique). He was considered a technical innovator, well known for his depictions of the post-industrial American mid-West. The following poem is frequently anthologized:

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
Into blossom.

Such a tender encounter.  Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass! Hello Whitman. The ponies are unique in their loneliness and their kindness is dark. The two loving ponies mimic the poet and his friend, of course. Two guys meeting two gals, not in a hazy bar with the prospect of mating, but in a field in the vast American mid-West, with the prospect of a little bit less loneliness.

I touch her long ear like I would touch a girl’s wrist, tender and vulnerable spot. Then comes the realization of the blossoming. Why? Is the body holding me back? Without it, I would be reduced (broken) into mere blossom, prospect of fruit but not fruit itself? The body is essential because it makes us more than a mere promise, a blossom to each other. It is a powerful correction of two millennia of body-shaming that is Christian culture. Thus goes my vitalist reading, but perhaps you like another interpretation better?

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