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By James Wright

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,   

Asleep on the black trunk,

Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.   

Down the ravine behind the empty house,   

The cowbells follow one another   

Into the distances of the afternoon.   

To my right,

In a field of sunlight between two pines,   

The droppings of last year’s horses   

Blaze up into golden stones.

I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.   

A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.

I have wasted my life.


James Wright, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright � 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose (1990)

  • Nature

Poet Bio

James Wright
James Wright was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio. He served in the U.S. Army during the Second World War before entering Kenyon College, where he received a B.A. He went on to the University of Washington for an M.A. and Ph.D. Wright studied under John Crowe Ransom and Theodore Roethke. He worked at several universities, including the University of Minnesota—Minneapolis, Macalester College, Hunter College of the City University of New York, and State University of New York at Buffalo. 

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