TheThe Poetry
≡ Menu

1) Read the following poem by James Wright:

Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nursing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood,
And the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes.

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

2) Extricate yourself from the puddle of tears into which you have crumbled.

3) Can you think of another poem that uses a word like “therefore” as brilliantly as this one does?

To get free latest updates, just sign up here

SARAH V. SCHWEIG's poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Western Humanities Review and Verse Daily. She is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Columbia University, and is also a 2010 Ruth Lilly Fellowship finalist. Her chapbook S is forthcoming through Dancing Girl Press. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

View all contributions by

  • Adam Fitzgerald February 17, 2010, 6:07 am

    Falstaff. But to say I know more harm in him than in myself,
    were to say more than I know. That he is old, the
    more the pity, his white hairs do witness it; but
    that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster,
    that I utterly deny. If sack and sugar be a fault,
    God help the wicked! if to be old and merry be a
    sin, then many an old host that I know is damned: if
    to be fat be to be hated, then Pharaoh’s lean kine
    are to be loved. No, my good lord; banish Peto,
    banish Bardolph, banish Poins: but for sweet Jack
    Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff,
    valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant,
    being, as he is, old Jack Falstaff, banish not him
    thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s
    company: banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

  • Micah Towery February 17, 2010, 9:46 pm

    As for your challenge, I am stumped.

    On a related note, I’ve always found the following Wright poem to be a great companion to “Autum Begins…”:

    In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia, Has Been Condemned

    I will grieve alone,
    As I strolled alone, years ago, down along
    The Ohio shore.
    I hid in the hobo jungle weeds
    Upstream from the sewer main,
    Pondering, gazing.

    I saw, down river,
    At Twenty-third and Water Streets
    By the vinegar works,
    The doors open in early evening.
    Swinging their purses, the women
    Poured down the long street to the river
    And into the river.

    I do not know how it was
    They could drown every evening.
    What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore,
    Drying their wings?

    For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,
    Has only two shores:
    The one in hell, the other
    In Bridgeport, Ohio.

    And nobody would commit suicide, only
    To find beyond death
    Bridgeport, Ohio.

    (I’m not sure why I associate these two poems. Maybe it was Wright himself, or some other poet, who made that connection for me. All I know is that the connection was not my idea.)

  • Renae Keep February 18, 2010, 2:42 am

    I tie my Hat—I crease my Shawl—
    Life’s little duties do—precisely—
    As the very least
    Were infinite—to me—

    I put new Blossoms in the Glass—
    And throw the old—away—
    I push a petal from my gown
    That anchored there—I weigh
    The time ’twill be till six o’clock
    I have so much to do—
    And yet—Existence—some way back—
    Stopped—struck—my tickling—through—
    We cannot put Ourself away
    As a completed Man
    Or Woman—When the Errand’s done
    We came to Flesh—upon—
    There may be—Miles on Miles of Nought—
    Of Action—sicker far—
    To simulate—is stinging work—
    To cover what we are
    From Science—and from Surgery—
    Too Telescopic Eyes
    To bear on us unshaded—
    For their—sake—not for Ours—
    Twould start them—
    We—could tremble—
    But since we got a Bomb—
    And held it in our Bosom—
    Nay—Hold it—it is calm—

    Therefore—we do life’s labor—
    Though life’s Reward—be done—
    With scrupulous exactness—
    To hold our Senses—on—

    Emily Dickinson, #443

    I think the ‘Therefore’ is somewhat overshadowed by ‘But since we got a Bomb’… brilliant nonetheless. Thanks.

  • Bianca Stone February 21, 2010, 6:14 pm

    I love that poem. I was repeating the last lines all throughout the fall.

Leave a Comment