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A Poet's Plea 

by Robert Wrigley

Dear Inlander: I feel as though I should begin with an apology. I mean, I don't do this. "This" being the sending of poems to publications that don't usually publish poems. I can publish them elsewhere. That's not the problem. The problem is November 2, 2004 -- four weeks off. Anywhere else I might publish poems like these would take months to get them into print.

My father and mother left Idaho not long ago, after a week-long visit. They made it back to Illinois in five days. Not bad, given their ages, 82 and 77, respectively. It is, of course, their age in part that made me worry about them going back home. Though there is also the habit they have of toasting at every meal -- breakfast, lunch, dinner, with coffee, water, or wine -- the same way. "To the defeat of George W. Bush!" they exclaim, this man who is indeed a decorated World War II navy veteran, and this woman who was indeed a "Rosie-the-Riveter" in the shipyards at Bremerton -- these good and patriotic American citizens whom conservative Republican pundit Ann Coulter insists are traitors. They are also liberals and proud of it. On the other hand, they were going to be driving through Wyoming, home state of Dick Cheney. They're hard of hearing; when they toast, everyone listens.

On the other hand, they understand, as I do, that the election this coming November is the most important in my lifetime at least, and maybe in theirs too. It is, as my mother says, about the very soul of the republic, whether we are a nation that not only talks freedom but embodies it too.

These poems, therefore, are for my parents, who still believe the nation should do the right thing, always. The poems are topical, even occasional. I will almost certainly never include them in a book, but at the moment they seem necessary. As a poet and a patriotic citizen, I want to say the things that need saying. -- Robert Wrigley


to the author of Treason

Although the alloy apparatus used

to fix his broken hip makes it harder,

my father, at eighty-two, manages

nevertheless to kneel within inches

of the TV, the better to brandish

his patriotic American fist

in the face of the talking woman there--

a blonde, he says, he didn't catch the name

--who, because of his beliefs, has called him

a traitor, this decorated second

World War veteran of the navy.

Therefore my mother, who riveted ships

at Bremerton, has to help him back up

and urge him through two additional reps

of his evening exercises, so that

the pain might not make him suffer so much

later on, meaning bedtime, when he still

cannot let it go, this aged man

she has loved for going on sixty years --

he's still quivering, indignant -- until she,

a mild, practical woman who will feel

some guilt for it later on, sweetly damns

the blonde straight to hell, so that he can sleep.



September 2004

Lord, not that he should be required to read

poetry, but that if called upon he could,

and thus would see fit to admire the shapes

of assertions, not only their political use.

Not that he must know how it feels to die,

but that he might recognize what it means

to ask others to do so in his stead,

and thus to say in the plainest of terms

there is nothing I will not do to not do that

which should have been the last thing I did.

Not that we'd expect such a promise in blood

or flesh, though both would be appropriate

from any decent man who asks to lead

and leads with neither shape or recognition

into that place he himself would not go,

neither in the flesh nor the mind. Amen.


First, there were women who ended

pregnancies, which explained the airplanes

crashing into buildings, though these

were also assisted by the thought of women marrying

women, or men marrying men. The need

to invade a country not at all involved

was obvious, even if the reason was not.

Then later, no one in authority knew anything about it,

but anyone could see the naked prisoners were arranged

so as to duplicate American pornography,

even if they suffered no more than in a harmless fraternity

hazing. All of this was made clear on a drive over the mountains,

a Thursday night, only one

unnaturally powerful radio station coming in,

as I drove through small towns in continual decline

despite their fealty

to the dominant political party,

and through a forest, some of which would soon be gone,

to keep it from burning.

Robert Wrigley is the director of the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of Idaho. He is also the author of six volumes of poetry, including Reign of Snakes, In the Bank of Beautiful Sins and Lives of the Animals, and is a recent winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award. He lives with his wife (the writer Kim Barnes) and their two children near Moscow, Idaho.

Publication date: 10/07/04

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