Autumn Begins in Martin’s Ferry, Ohio

Growing up in my own small Ohio town I hated football, people who loved football, and especially my peers who played football. I had disdain for their working class families. I mocked my stupid, small town and how backwards I thought it was. I knew I was better than them. I knew my family was ‘above’ certain professions and lifestyles and that my future family would be above them too. I knew that I was too good for such a ‘podunk’ town and it’s inhabitants.

I’m a little bit older now. I’m still not a fan of the game of football, but I’ve planted my own roots in a smaller town than the one I grew up in. Even though I love walking through the city and the life it buzzes with, I wouldn’t trade the rhythms of small down life for it. I have a family of my own now and I can relate to the feeling (shame? guilt?) that your wife and children are worthy of something more than you seem capable of mustering up most days. I’ve found out that being a cubicle slave isn’t more glamorous or more important than swinging a hammer (and I often wish I was doing something manual, making something physical with my hands).

Anyway, this poem repaints my arrogant youthful memories in a more humble color. (and it almost makes me want to go to a high school football game……almost. 😉

Autumn Begins In Martins Ferry, Ohio
James Wright

In the Shreve High football stadium,
I think of Polacks nurshing long beers in Tiltonsville,
And gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace in Benwood,
and the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel,
Dreaming of heroes

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.

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