a blank expansiveness...

from my anthology of must read (a)merican poems

Robert Wrigley


Old two-hearted sadness, old blight
in the bones, the history of sugar
and the daily syringe, show tunes,
Shalimar, car after car after car.

Here are my names, all three
trochees ratcheted out like comeuppance,
here my oldest living forebear,
the Depression, my nose, my love for jazz.

Let us locate our first marriages
festering in the cedar closet.
You show me proximity, I’ll show you
the blank expansiveness of the West.

O roads, varicose and meandering,
bloody Kansas after Kansas between us—
there are days I’d kneel to kiss
the knuckles most like my own, other days

When a blue Pacific sun shows me all
that’s possible, whole oceans of air
I can dream myself a kind of prince in,
a kind of bird, who believes he reigns there.


I am drawn to the wonderful music in Wrigley’s lines – the unexpected phrasings: “car after car after car” to “trochees ratcheted out like comeuppance” to “O roads, varicose and meandering”. The language supplies the motion in this piece. His focus is the geography between people – the landscape of relationships – the network of family, in the broadest sense.

The poem’s closing carries such force. The blank and expansive West slips into

                whole oceans of air
I can dream myself a kind of prince in,
a kind of bird, who believes he reigns there

The imagery is beautiful – a blue Pacific that will transform the view … yellow to orange to red … dropping into a black line. Much happens in that reigning darkness: bloody Kansas, the cedar closet, two-hearted sadness, old blight in the bones. Yet, the power of Wrigley’s final stanza is found in the word possible. “I can dream myself,” Wrigley writes, creating the world as I go.


Collin said...

Love it.

SarahJane said...

really a wonderful poem.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks for the read Sarah & Collin.