April 27, 2007

James Wright: “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”

Posted in Poetry at 8:00 am by The Lizard Queen

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in the 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, 1963



  1. Evil Bender said,

    I’ve gone back and forth over the years about whether Wright really earns that provocative last line. But even if he doesn’t quite, you’ve got to admire the daring that inspires one to write such a line.

  2. Indeed, I’m not sure he earns it, either. But yes, it’s daring, and I also enjoy it simply from an aural/sonic standpoint.

  3. John Brodsky said,

    The beauty and the evanescence of the preceeding imagery justify it.

  4. David Smith said,

    The poem transcends space and time. He is justified within the natural quadrant.

  5. Dallas said,

    Some people have a hard time with the last line “i have wasted my life”. In my opinion he just means that he wishes he had done this before, that he’s wasted his life doing all of these other things. That lying in the hammock is just so nice.

  6. alex said,

    a sense of purpose and comfort, illustrating himself simply lying in a hammock on the Duffy’s farm, realizing his dark, voided and flawed-self, yearning for content, diving into the souls of the bright, natural objects surrounding him–the bronze butterfly sleeping, yet with the potential to live purposely; the beauty of the horse’s golden dung, blazing up into “golden stones”; the harmony between him and the chicken hawk floating above, looking for a home, only to come to the conclusion that he was already sitting at home.

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