Friday, January 4, 2013

Aimless Reading: The W's, Part 33 (James Wright)

Above the River
Wright, James
Above the River

Purchased at St. Mark's Books. This is a book that I should have purged from my library by now. I bought it, literally, because I like that one poem about the football team in the coal town, Martin's Ferry, OH.

The one reason I had any interest in that poem at all was because I actually went to college for one year in Wheeling, WV, which is on the other side of the bridge from Martin's Ferry, OH, so the place was familiar to me. We used to go over the bridge to buy beer, which you could still buy as a nineteen-year-old in Martin's Ferry, when it had already risen to twenty-one in Wheeling.

This was the mid-eighties, when coal-mining industry that had sustained the area had more or less collapsed and both places felt kind of hopeless. It didn't feel dangerous, like many cities at the time, just demoralized.

I wrote quite a bit about my time in Wheeling in these posts here. They're mostly about my friend M., who I'd assumed I'd probably never see again. We'd drifted apart many years ago. I made that assumption as Facebook was busy taking over the world, but hadn't quite done so. It wasn't long after I wrote those posts that I established contact with him again on Facebook.

We've exchanged a few notes and birthday wishes since. I was glad, though, that I wrote all that before we'd established contact. Not that I am embarrassed by it or anything, but I might have hesitated here and there if I'd thought he'd be reading it.

Autumn Begins in Martin's Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other's bodies.

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