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Robert Wrigley

Poems - Bio


Those Riches


The week after your father left

you still carried his note in your wallet,

and on the night before the bank

said they’d come for the car

we were on our way to St. Louis ,

our last dime in the gas tank, and you

every way you could find

abusing the family sedan,

pounding the dash for the radio it lacked,

shifting without the clutch

and wringing from its feeble six

every stinking, oil-ridden mile per hour.

Down the long hill past the Catholic cemetery,

under the dead viaduct

and into the bottom lands we rolled.

You spoke of jobs you might have soon

at this or that plant or refinery,

smoked my cigarettes, thought

you’d save up for a car and a tattoo.

Through the banks of smog,

the swampland haze, great flames rose

above the foundries and steel mills,

and there was nothing in school

so bright.  It was Saturday night,

and you would never go back, not ever.


We found our way to Gaslight Square

and drove slowly down its streets.

You refused to acknowledge the sidewalk crowds,

the soul and blues, the smack jazz

seething from the nightclubs.

At the last bright reaches we were stalled

by traffic, and a whore in hot pants

called from a Laundromat doorway.  Sugar,

she sang, and came outward.  She walked

to your window, leaned her breasts on your arm

and grinned, and you turned and spat in her face.


What you could not accomplish that night

a handful of outraged, high-heeled prostitutes could.

They kicked at our fenders, spit

with amazing accuracy through our windows.

And with what you claimed to have seen and known

as a blackjack, one leering redhead

bashed in the windshield, turning all

its clear expanse to a sagging honeycomb

of safety glass, before the traffic opened

and we were on our way half blind

into the diesel scented night.


Could that have been what we were after,

that joy, those riches

reeling from destruction?

Ten blocks farther on we stopped

and forced the whole window out, down

onto the dash and floor and front seat,

then drove home with the summer highway

wind in our faces, laughing,

sitting in a gravel of glass

that flashed under streetlights,

in the full of the moon, like a carload of diamonds.




Poems - Bio


Robert Wrigley was born February 27, 1951, in East St. Louis, Illinois, Illinois, and grew up in Collinsville, a coal mining town. He received his B.A. (with honors) in English Language & Literature at Southern Illinois University in 1974, and his M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of Montana in 1976, where he studied with Madeline DeFrees, John Haines, and Richard Hugo.


His collections of poetry include Earthly Meditations: New and Selected Poems (Penguin, 2006); Lives of the Animals (2003); Reign of Snakes (1999), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award; In the Bank of Beautiful Sins (1995), winner of the San Francisco Poetry Center Book Award and Lenore Marshall Award finalist; What My Father Believed (1991); Moon in a Mason Jar (1986); and The Sinking of Clay City (1979).


His work has also been published in numerous anthologies and literary journals. Wrigley's awards and honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Idaho State Commission on the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as the J. Howard and Barbara M.J. Wood Prize, the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, the Wagner Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Theodore Roethke Award from Poetry Northwest, and two Pushcart Prizes. From 1987 until 1988 he served as the state of Idaho’s writer-in-residence.


Wrigley lives with his wife, the writer Kim Barnes, and their children, on the Clearwater River in Idaho. He has taught at Lewis-ClarkCollege College, at the University of Oregon of Oregon, twice at the University of Montana, where he returned to hold the Richard Hugo Chair in Poetry, and at Warren College. He is the Director of the M.F.A. program in creative writing at the University of Idaho.

Poems - Bio

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Robert Wrigley