Robert Wrigley

August 23, 2023 Wrigley Robert



We listened as a pair of owls rousted
whatever fearful thing would run,
the blind girl and I. She thought it hilarious,
being on a blind date with anyone


not also blind. We were parked
at the end of an abandoned road,
and she asked is this where you neck?
I didn’t think necking occurred


anymore, I said. Just making out.
Off to the east in a different dark
a snag against a live tree bleated
or moaned, rubbing through bark.


She asked if I would help her climb
a tree, and I said of course, of course.
A hoot like an almost human
voice. I said, they eat mostly mice.


Tell me about the the light of the moon,
she said, and I thought for a long time,
wondering where to start. Yes, someone
had called the place we were Lovers’ Lane.


Can you feel my hand near your face?
I asked. She replied, do you want to make out?
She said, let’s make out under the stars.
Then she laughed. How stupid, “make out.”


My hair in her hands, she pronounced
brown. She said It’s dark brown.
It’s dark brown, I said. Your eyelashes are blonde
I said, by the light of the moon.


I said an owl doesn’t need to see
its prey. It can hear a mouse whisker twitch
beneath a leaf. Your lips are soft, she told me.
I could have flipped the dome light switch,


she would never know. Light of the moon
almost enough.  Can you feel what I see
if what I see is you being seen?
Touch my face, I whispered, tell me.




                                    the divine afflatus


I get my sophisticated sense of humor from you,
my father, who found nothing as funny as farts.
May the afterlife for you be an eternity
of breaking wind, a flutter-blast, a buttock bassoon. I wish
I could tell you about the turd that whistled for the right of way,
but what’s that story really about, I have to ask?
I think it’s time we had this talk:
time to air-brush the boxers, bask
in a back-door breeze, beep your horn, belch from behind.
Recline in the paradise of flatulence and laughter, Father,
and know that far greater poets than I have written on the subject.
Understand too that I am more reticent about such things
than you ever were. I rarely even presented my children
a finger to pull. That was your job, another
at which you excelled. Therefore let such one-gun salutes
bring you endless and ethereal joy forever.
Let this be my ode to the rectal shout, the recital
of the trouser tuba—speak to me,
oh toothless one!—of the national anthem
of whatever heaven you abide in for all time.
Meanwhile, back here, ethereal—a word you never once said
but understood the concept of—still means
extremely delicate or too perfect for this world,
or else it is a solvent made of ether.
Though I give you also God, reaching out to Adam.





Good neighbors, over time it has come to our attention—
through the winter-bare wild shrubs we’ve always left
between our house and yours, even when the previous owners


owned your house—that despite moving here
from some surely more illuminated place, you must be,
since you leave lit not one or two or three


but four outdoor lights all night every night all year—
well, you must be sore afraid of the dark. We see your lights
and find ourselves a little lost somehow, almost bereaved.


Why move to such a deliciously unlit spot
and bring the lights of elsewhere’s anxieties with you?
Have you noticed the stars? There are many more.


We used to hear coyotes howl between
our houses. Not so since since your arrival.
But why shine an unwanted light on unwanted light?


We don’t want any hurt freedoms. We don’t want to assume
you have no good reasons for fearing the dark.


But in this, our odd form of neighborliness, let us say
that among the best darkest times are moonless nights
in dense fog.  With no light
fog’s as black as the air, and we bask in it a while,
its damp haunches rubbing against our legs.


We are the Cheshire watchers of the universe
entering our eyes. Other times moonlight
reveals us vaguely naked in the hammock.


Sometimes stars twinkle like the lights of town,
and sometimes in the darkest cold, two, three, four,
even five packs of coyotes sing distant hosannas around us.


Your cat visits every night, by the way.
A sweet pretty kitty (whose name we do not know),


she leaps into our laps against the cold but squirms
and circles, nervous in the dark. We stroke and comfort her
but soon lift her down, and she slinks off wherever she goes.


She sees with her cat eyes more than we can guess
and looks out as if she perceives nothing and everything.
Nothing out there but owls and coyotes among the trees, we tell her,
although it seems she hears neither howls or hoots.


Maybe she can see how far away what she can’t hear is.
You follow us?  Her shadows, phantoms, wing-traces
under starlight?  She might be too big to be an owl’s prey now.


Although, as you know, coyotes wouldn’t need light either,
but there it is. It’s unclear if she stays over here
in the dark night all night—
it’s not far back, there’s cover for hiding both ways—
or whether she goes home only under cover of the sun.


Robert Wrigley’s collections of poetry include The True Account of Myself as a Bird (Penguin, 2022;  Box (Penguin, 2017); Anatomy of Melancholy & Other Poems (Penguin, 2013); winner of the Pacific Northwest Book Award; Beautiful Country (Penguin, 2010); Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems (2006); Lives of the Animals (2003), winner of the Poets Prize; Reign of Snakes (1999), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; and In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (1995), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award and finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award from the Academy of American Poets. His most recent book is a collection of essays, Nemerov’s Door, published by Tupelo Press. Wrigley’s honors include the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, Poetry magazine’s Frederick Bock Prize, the Poetry Society of America’s Celia B. Wagner Award, Poetry Northwest’s Theodore Roethke Award, and seven Pushcart Prizes. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts. His poems have been widely anthologized, included five times in Best American Poetry, and featured four times on Garrison Keillor’s “The Writer’s Almanac.”