From My Commonplace Book - 43

One Hundred and First Reason to Stay in Your Room

by Franz Wright

I was just coming from a visit to my doctor. Not the medical one this time, though they both work for the same company. One of those inimitably dark April days in Boston, the cold returned, though not in a big way: gray, drizzly, brain still closed for repairs. It was then I noticed the squirrel crossing the deserted Common. This was over in the northwest corner, where they used to deal with the witches and Quakers, those dangerous conspirators; and on desolately chilly days like this, the warmth from the fire alone would have drawn quite a crowd. I'm making that up. We didn't burn them anymore, like those European barbarians; we just hanged them, in the cold, within sight of the governor's office but far enough away to keep them from disrupting business there in the great gold-domed statehouse on the hill. I've had a couple of occasions to wander its oddly dim myopia-inducing hallways, and the only thing I remember with any clarity is the big round stained-glass window depicting a Native American shaking hands with the pilgrim in his preposterous uniform, the one who has braved exile and the terrifying sea to worship as he saw fit and make sure you do too. It had crossed my path from left to right, frozen in midflight, and looked me in the eye, shivering. I had never seen a squirrel shiver. For a minute it made me feel like I was dying. Thank you for coming to help us, the naked Caucasian cartoon of an Indian is saying, forever, in an arc of English words across the sky.

This prose poem is from Kindertotenwald, the latest collection by Franz Wright (American, born 1953), who has published eleven other volumes of poetry and five works of translations, three of these the poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. Franz is the son of poet James Wright; both father and son have been winners of the Pulitzer Prize.


Hello Merry, How nice it is to see your new and very interesting prose/poetry. The title itself made me chuckle, familiar for different reasons of course. Pity the squirrel and ours are so cheeky locally. Also appreciated the historical reminders and "witches" - we are doing a bit of ancestry research and much hoping nothing too awful "pops out the woodwork" - so far so good though to 1066. Thanks very much for another interesting piece of writing and introduction to Franz Wright.
Dear Enid,

Thank you for your response.

I smiled at your remark on your family history research: "hoping nothing too awful 'pops out of the woodwork' - so far so good through 1066." To be able to find records back as far 1066 is amazing. I would love to hear what you find out. Please email me if you ever have information you'd like to share and can find the extra energy to write it out.

With the above post, the prose poem by Franz Wright, I bow to my Quaker ancestors -- who did not bow down to anyone.
Mary Poppins;bt5840 said:
'myopia-inducing hallways' - how very apt. I love reading your blog, Merry.
Thank you so much, Mary Poppins, for your interest in the blog and kind words.
I will certainly send you some finds Merry - it seems my Norman ancestors (one side) didn't bow to anyone either, but calmed down eventually when they settled down with the poor old Anglo Saxons (locals). Your own family research sounds so interesting too.
Merry, do you remember the signs that used to adorn the Mass Pike? Their logo was a pilgrim's hat, with an arrow through it. They could never get away with that today.
jimellls, is it so very wrong to shoot arrows into a pilgrim's hat?


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