Reconciliation And Healing
by Harvey Shepard

I love the short poem “P.S.” (in Walking to Martha’s Vineyard) because it goes beyond the moments of transcendence and grace found in many of Franz Wright’s poems to a deeper sense of reconciliation with his past. Here is the poem:


I close my eyes and see
a seagull in the desert,
high, against unbearably blue sky.

There is hope in the past.

I’m writing to you
all the time, I am writing

with both hands,
day and night.

For true inner peace we need more than the fleeting instants of respite and hope found in Wright’s earlier collections. To heal, we somehow must come to terms with what we did in our lives and see its relationship to those who formed us. And to actually find “hope in the past” is remarkable for someone like Wright who has expressed much shame and even self-loathing for his periods of torment and struggles with addiction.

He looks inward: “I close my eyes” and finds “a seagull in the desert” – an unexpected form of life in an arid place – “high, against unbearably blue sky.” The power of Nature and his love for the earth are a sign that healing is possible. And he is writing to “you” not the divine “You” of his more religious poems. In many of Wright’s poems this “you” is his dead father. But it also includes the reader, and the simple, direct tone invites us to sit with the poet and share his struggle.

He is grounded on earth, aware – as he says in the poem “Reunion” – “what lies/ before me is my past.” And thus he is working as hard as he can “all the time ... writing/ with both hands,/ day and night” to find the harmony he now knows is possible.

For me there is a magical power in Franz Wright’s poetry that often unlocks something that I want to say. I am very grateful to him for this gift.