In Terror of Hospital Bills | Contributor: Jen

Role: Community Member

“And frightened, knowing how soon I will waken a poor man.”


Read More

Written in 1971, this poem helps to communicate the precarity that many individuals face. While the author is able to support himself, he recognizes how easily he can become homeless.

“In Terror of Hospital Bills,” by James Wright (1971)

I still have some money
To eat with, alone
And frightened, knowing how soon
I will waken a poor man.
It snows freely and freely hardens
On the lawns of my hope, my secret
Hounded and flayed. I wonder
What words to beg money with.
Pardon me, sir, could you?
Which way is St. Paul?
I thirst.
I am a full-blooded Sioux Indian.
Soon I am sure to become so hungry
I will have to leap barefoot through gas-fire veils of shame,
I will have to stalk timid strangers
On the whorsehouse corners.
Oh moon, sow leaves on my hands,
On my seared face, oh I love you.
My throat is open, insane,
Tempting pneumonia.
But my life was never so precious
To me as now.
I will have to beg coins
After dark.
I will learn to scent the police,
And sit or go blind, stay mute, be taken for dead
For your sake, oh my secret,
My life.