Reading 'Lives of the Animals' by Robert Wrigley

I chewed your words with my morning
coffee and watched drivers peel out
of their driveways, while you crawled
“along the thoroughfare
of snakes.” Then I ate a peach and sweetbreads.

I went inside the mouse mummy, kissed
your horse—but not the dead one,
the billion flies that rose as a horse,
the other horse dead, too, by the “snake in the trough.”

I followed Highway 12 past page 50 thinking
of my mother at the table in assisted living,
and after another cup of coffee I went back
to watch you kick a nest of mice into the empty
hog pen. I had hefted an aspen-leafed nest
of rats in the bird house over my own fence.

I watched you send your father’s frozen
puddle of blood “like a stone into the woods” on page 73—
and it dawned: I had only two
of your poems to go. I looked up in time

to see last night’s moon, white
as the round stone I’d found on the 39-degree
morning in a bed of shriveling kelp on the beach
full moon perched on top of a fir, as if a father
had climbed a ladder to put the angel on top of the tree.

Even if I don’t believe in angels, in wishing on dead
stars—sometimes something comes,
as you said, something to open a “coarse
inexplicable soul to their sight.”

What's Left

for Dick

I love what’s left over—
sage leaves stripped,
stirred into the stew,
a green stem remaining,
holding only itself.

I undress the garlic cloves,
garlic warding off evil,
my grandmother said.
The papery skins lift
in a gust of wind through the window.

A half-inch of wine turns
my glass by the sink
into a red prism.
Five of the set of twelve glasses
we bought at Ikea remain.

Next morning, I grind dark beans
into a wake-up call. The cup
you used to drink from
sits in the corner
of the cupboard.


            Another banishment
of-the-eldest-son story, he says
            he was the coal burning
his family’s hatred,
            the son who wouldn't stay

for his mother's madness.

He walked with the mute girl

            out of the locked ward
one summer afternoon into a field
            where she looked
in slow motion, pointed to the hills
            and sun, bent

down to finger one blade of grass,
            then another. She picked
a daisy.
            Flower, she said.

he took her back

locked her in.