Reading Lives of the Animals by Robert Wrigley

by Susan Landgraf


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.”

SUSAN LANDGRAF’S What We Bury Changes the Ground, a full-length poetry collection, was published by Tebot Bach in 2017. She’s published more than 400 poems, essays, and articles in 150 journals, magazines, and newspapers, including Prairie Schooner, Poet Lore, Margie, Nimrod, The Laurel Review, and Ploughshares. She’s given more than a hundred workshops, most recently Centrum, the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, and the Marine and Science Technology Center. Finishing Line Press published her chapbook Other Voices; Prentice Hall published Student Reflection Journal for Student Success. She taught at Highline College for 27 years and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in 2002, 2008, 2010, and 2012.