“Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” by James Wright
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
When I was little, we gave my dad a hammock. I am guessing it was for Father’s Day. I remember piling into it with him, and my impression has always been that he really liked it. When we moved, we didn’t have a place for it. Although there were plans to get it set up, first at one house and then another, my dad never got around to doing that. There were no trees, and there was no hammock stand, so it spent a great deal of time in the garage. And when Mike made some noise about wanting a hammock last year, my mom let him have my dad’s old one. Which makes me very happy.
Apparently, Mike’s natural habitat is the hammock. He spends every possible minute there. That is not just a thing that a wife would say, either. I have witnesses: The neighbors often ask me how much hammock time Mike is planning on for a weekend. With the implicit assumption that he’ll be spending quite a bit of time there. And, obviously, I have spent some time there myself. I do not deny it. I have no wish to deny it. I do, however, enjoy looking at Mike in the hammock and accusing him of wasting his life. Sometimes I read the entire poem to him. Or . . . AT him. Accusingly.
Today we watched the son of some of our friends, and he and I had some hammock time, too.
If this is wasting my life, well, sign me up.
(P.S. I do know that the poem is about “wasting your life” by not enjoying the beauty around you. It’s just fun to give Mike a hard time.)