I had read this poem a long while ago, but it didn't hit me nearly as much as it did when it came up in class last night as we discussed dithyrambs, getting out of ourselves and receving a moment of perspective.
Well, What Are You Going to Do?
I took a nap one afternoon in Ohio
At the end of a pasture,
Just at the good moment when Pet our poor lovely
Lay moaning and gave birth to Marian my calf.
What was I going to do? All I could do
Was wake and stand there.
I don't know anything about the problem
Of beautiful women.
I was afraid to run two hundred yards
To call my mother
And ask her what to do
With a beautiful woman.
Besides, she wouldn't know either.
Two whole hours.
While Pet lay mumbling among the Grimes Golden apples
That fell from time to time.
I ate two or three, maybe.
What was I supposed to do there
But eat the apples while Marian's face
Peeked out slowly?
I ate the apples,
And when Marian was born
I helped her come out.
I had been in love with a lot of girls, but that was my first time
To clasp the woman beneath her chin
And whisper, Come out to me,
Come on, come on, and you can be Marian.
I led Marian out of her mother's belly
Down in the cold
And there was a pile of horse manure
I couldn't evade, and so by God
I did not even try.
All I could do was fall
From time to time.
Marian's face was all right, speckled with rust
And more white than snow.
The one I was the more in love with
Was Pet, the exhausted.
I lay down besides her, she snuffled, she smelled like a Grimes
Then I carried Marian two hundred yards down the pasture.
She delicately sprayed the insides of her beginning body
All over my work shirt.
I don't know that I belonged
In that beautiful place. But
What are you going to do? Be kind? Kill?
- James Wright, from Above the River