She stands between the trees and holds
One hand in the other, still.
Now far away the evening folds
Around the siloes and the hill.

She sees, slowly, the gardener
Return to check the gate before
The smoke begins to soften the air
And June bugs try the open door.

And through the windows washing hands,
The patients have the mattress made,
The trousers felt for colored stones,
The pleasures of the noon recalled:

For some were caught and held for hours
By spiders skating over a pond,
Some parted veils of hollyhocks
And looked for rabbit holes beyond.

But now the trousers lie in rows,
She sees the undressed shadows creep
Through half-illuminated minds
And chase the hare and flower to sleep.

She too must answer summons now,
And play the chimes inside her brain
When whistles of attendants blow;
Yet, for a while, she would remain,

And dabble her feet in the damp grass,
And lean against a yielding stalk,
And spread her name in dew across
The pebbles where the droplets walk.

Minutes away a nurse will come
Across the lawn and call for her;
The starlight calls the robin home,
The swans rise beneath her wings.

Surely her mind is clear enough
To hear her name among the trees.
She must remember home and love
And skirts that sway below her knees.

But why must she desert the shade
And sleep between the walls all night?
Why must a lonely girl run mad
To gain the simple, pure delight

Of staying, when the others leave,
To write a name or hold a stone?
Of hearing bobwhites flute their love
Though buildings loudly tumble down?

This poem was first published in Wright’s first collection The Green Wall in 1956. It won the Yale Younger Poets award.


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