A Walk in the Woods

So maybe there isn’t language enough,
maybe language truly is debased
by common usage, or used up, like fuel.
It seems a sad, pathetic theory though,
almost as if a professor somewhere
had got himself tenured on the basis
of a monograph which postulated
that love doesn’t always last forever.
Or maybe it’s just the weather these days.
Unseasonably cold, constant rain, wind.
Though I noticed how, on this morning’s walk,
just before I stumbled across that crop
of perfect, rain-washed, succulent mushrooms,
that the woods—all of it, from its soils up
through stalk and blossom to the crowns of its trees—
seemed not so much wet, or soaked, but sodden.


It’s a shock how cold this door handle made
of deer antler becomes, a deeper cold
even than steel. Yes, this is something else.

It’s a special kind of frigidity,
a cold no man’s meager skin is match for,
chilling from bone to bone and thus to blood

as though the hand in its common grasping
were the mind of a wakeful animal,
needing some old way to survive the moon.


Robert Wrigley is the author of six books of poetry, including Lives of the Animals (Penguin, 2003), and Reign of Snakes (Penguin, 1999), winner of the 2000 Kingsley Tufts Award in Poetry. His book, In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (Penguin, 1995) won the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award, and his poems have appeared in many periodicals, including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, and The American Poetry Review. Recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Idaho Commission on the Arts, Wrigley is Professor of English and director the MFA Program in Writing at the University of Idaho.

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