Wright taught at my Alma Mater (latin, I just learned, for "bounteous mother"), and though I was too shy to ever take a class with her (she taught mostly graduate-level courses), I frequently saw her walking her greyhounds through our Providence streets and I would quietly follow her for a spell. I was trying, at nineteen, to decipher what it meant to be a poet. Her poetry had found me at a time when I didn't understand most of the contemporary poetry I read. The first book of hers I read was slim and green. Further Adventures with You (1986), brought poetry to a place I could intuitively, if not rationally, understand: earthen, radical, quietly feminist, vernacular, rooted in place. I still turn to these early poems of hers in times of confusion, because confused about poetry I often still am.
Here is one of my favorite poems from that early book. I loved it at nineteen before I had been pregnant in a house with electricity but no running water, before I had given birth and lived through "the great pain." I love it more now. Happy morning to you all.
Wages of Love
The house is watched, the watchers only planets.
Very near the lilac
a woman leaves her night soil
to be stepped in. Like other animals.
Steam lifts off her mess.
They have power, but not water.
Pregnant. She must be.
The world is all that is the case.
You can hear the strike of the broom, a fan
slicing overhead light.
At the table the woman stares at a dish
of peaches, plums; black ants
filing down the sill to bear away the fly.
Everywhere in America is summer. The young
unaware they are young, their minds
on other wounds or the new music.
The heart some bruised fruit
knocked loose by a long stick
aches at the stem.
It's not forbidden to fall out of love
like from a tree.
As for the tenants whose waters
will break in this bed,
May they live through the great pain;
may their offspring change everything--
because everything must change.
The man joins the woman in the kitchen. They touch
the soft place of their fruit.
They enter in, tell their side, and pass through.