In Terror of Hospital Bills

Wright, James

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Nov-08-1995


The speaker is poor, homeless, and desperate. The place is Minnesota, the season winter. He cries out, "I am a full-blooded Sioux Indian." He is about to go hungry and "to leap barefoot through gas-fire veils of shame . . . . " Yet, the man acknowledges, "my life was never so precious / To me as now." He will learn anything, do anything, be anything, for the sake of his precious "secret, / My life."


This is an exceptionally moving poem about poverty and homelessness. It is a good companion piece to Wright's The Minneapolis Poem (see this database) which originally appeared in the same collection. Much of the work in Shall We Gather at the River deals with the experience of being down-and-out and alone at mid-century in middle America. This poem is an affirmation of individuality and integrity despite the brutal facts of existence.

Primary Source

Shall We Gather at the River


Wesleyan Univ. Press

Place Published

Middletown, Conn.