Hook

by James Wright

I was only a young man

In those days. On that evening

The cold was so God damned

Bitter there was nothing.

Nothing. I was in trouble

With a woman, and there was nothing

There but me and dead snow.



I stood on the street corner

In Minneapolis, lashed

This way and that.

Wind rose from some pit,

Hunting me.

Another bus to Saint Paul

Would arrive in three hours,

If I was lucky.



Then the young Sioux

Loomed beside me, his scars

Were just my age.



Ain't got no bus here

A long time, he said.

You got enough money

To get home on?



What did they do

To your hand? I answered.

He raised up his hook into the terrible starlight

And slashed the wind.



Oh, that? he said.

I had a bad time with a woman. Here,

You take this.



Did you ever feel a man hold

Sixty-five cents

In a hook,

And place it

Gently

In your freezing hand?



I took it.

It wasn't the money I needed.

But I took it.