Strange bird,
His song remains secret.

He worked and he read,
drank a few beers and laughed.
There was no other way.
Fifty years in the 3M plant a dustless sterile place –
his place in this world.

Murdered, I was left to rise from this black ditch of a river.
A black Missouri swan
rising from the chemical tar of this strange water.
The Missouri River,
a tomb from which to rise.

Hatred could have been the shuddering in his soul.
Silence could have been a frock for anger.
Once a young man, fleeing to Chicago,
he returned still furious for freedom
full of confusing words and the politics of poverty.

To be close by the big river is to be home again.
Back to my only country where the white rose blooms.
Returning from a ghost town, the old loneliness intact.
I have no roots but the ones I drag behind.
I am poor.

Soon, darkness will set in and he will loom in memory
the way new snow drifts in the from the west.
His ghost will float along the river to Montana
where he will sit, the water will flow past
and he will be younger, older than I am or ever will be.


Quotation from Youth by James Wright