The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Robert Wrigley



These are not songs, but maybe they are
singers. I have been unkind fewer times
than I have been kind, but one is air,
the other stone. The sound of the poem saying
what it says is not the same as the sound
of the poem when it is said. I despise power
and wish myself the strength to annihilate the powerful.
I have been unkind. I have been unkind. And so on.
For five days now the fluffs from the blossoming
acacia trees have entered the room and assembled
themselves into a symbol the size of Schrodinger’s golf ball
cat-batted into oblivion, which is only dust.
Setting the poem to music kills the song, saying the song
proves it is a song. Once I thought I would die
if I could not touch a woman. Now I know
I will but can’t, or won’t but would. Or might.
What it says is exactly what it doesn’t mean,
what it means is exactly what it sings.
After you’ve learned the word for bird in Italian,
you never want to not say uccello again. I may be wrong
but meadow seems far more beautiful than prato. Still,
I have been unkind and hope never to be again.



Robert Wrigley

5:44 A.M.


A great horned owl’s rummaging
through the guts of a chipmunk
just outside my window this morning.
A ways up the same tree’s trunk
there’s a raven waiting like a raven.
Which is to say, with both interest

and principle—integrity of raven,
fascination at what an owl ingests,
figuring something will be saved.
If nothing else, the chipmunk’s eyes,
caviar to corvidae, black and glazed
with resignation and surprise.

It adds up, all the little black things.
Ants, beetles, last year’s huckleberries
here and there on twigs, dangling.
The owl tears, the raven’s at ease,
as patient as it had been all night,
while the owl flew, dove, and fed.

And now the owl soars out of sight,
so that the raven descends, wings spread,
and alights, it wiry black talons
just where the owl’s deadly ones had been,
and tugs the chipmunk’s head into position
and one by one takes the black eyes in.




ROBERT WRIGLEY is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus at the University of Idaho. His latest volume of poetry is, BOX (Penguin, 2017).



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