Earlier Poems

Earlier Poems

by Franz Wright


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The haunting collection of poems that gathers the first four books of Pulitzer winner Franz Wright under one cover, where “fans old and new will find a feast amid famine” (Publishers Weekly), and discover how large this poet’s gift was from the start.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375711466
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/14/2009
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Franz Wright is the author of ten books of poetry. The recipient of numerous awards, including two National Endowment for the Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship, he lives in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Poem with No Speaker

Are you looking for me? Ask that crow

rowing across the green wheat.

See those minute air bubbles rising to the surface

at the still creek's edge—
talk to the crawdad.

Inquire of the skinny mosquito

on your wall stinging its shadow,

this lock of moon

lifting the hair on your neck.

When the hearts in the cocoon start to beat,

and the spider begins its hidden task,

and the seed sends its initial pale hairlike root to drink,

you'll have to get down on all fours

to learn my new address:
you'll have to place your skull

besides this silence no one hears.

Entry in an Unknown Hand

And still nothing happens. I am not arrested.
By some inexplicable oversight

nobody jeers when I walk down the street.

I have been allowed to go on living in this room. I am not asked to explain my presence anywhere.

What posthypnotic suggestions were made; and are any left unexecuted?

Why am I so distressed at the thought of taking certain jobs?

They are absolutely shameless at the bank—
you'd think my name meant nothing to them. Non-
chalantly they hand me the sum I've requested,

but I know them. It's like this everywhere—

they think they are going to surprise me: I,
who do nothing but wait,

Once I answered the phone, and the caller hung up—
very clever.

They think they can scare me.

I am always scared.

And how much courage it requires to get up in the morning and dress yourself. Nobody congratulates you!

At no point in the day may I fall to my knees and refuse to go on, it's not done.

I go on

dodging cars that jump the curb to crush my hip,

accompanied by abrupt bursts of black-and-white laughter and applause,

past a million unlighted windows, peered out at by the retired and their aged attack dogs—

toward my place,

the one at the end of the counter,

the scalpel on the napkin.


I took a long walk that night in the rain.
It was fine.
Bareheaded, shirt open: in love nobody gives a shit about the rain.
I suddenly realized that I would hitchhike the 60 or so miles into Kent—
it was so late
I could make it by dawn,
and see the leaf-light in late April called your eyes. The evil we would do had not yet come. No one but me knows what you were at that time, with a loveliness to make men cry out, haunting beyond beauty.
We had what everyone is dying for lack of, and let it finally just slip away.
I will never understand this.
I was at the time a relatively intelligent person. Only terrorstricken already at what my life would be—that what I longed for most would be exactly what I'd get at the price, sooner or later, little by little,
of everything else,
every last fucking thing.
Yet that morning exists, it must,
it happened. And the years we had—
those almost endless summer afternoons and nights,
a solitary hawk sleeping on the wind, your incandescent whiteness emerging from the water in the moon, or snow beginning, horizontally, to fall as you fall asleep with your head on my shoulder while I drive...
where are they? They exist, the way the world will when I'm dead. I won't be there but another nineteen-year-old idiot will be and to him I say: Don't do it!
But he will—blinded, spellbound, destroyed by the search for something he can never see or touch,
when all the while he holds it in his arms.


It's one of those evenings we all know from somewhere. It might be the last summery day—
you feel called on to leave what you're doing and go for a walk by yourself.
Your few vacant streetes are the world.
And you might be a six-year-old child who's finally been allowed by his elders to enter a game of hide-and-seek in progress.
It's getting darker fast,
and he's not supposed to be out;
but he gleefully runs off, concealing himself with his back to a tree that sways high overhead among the first couple of stars.
He keeps dead still, barely breathing for pleasure long after they all have left.

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