Robert Wrigley – Aubade

I was first introduced to the poems of Robert Wrigley when Dorianne Laux used his poem Horseflies in our workshop as an example of a memorable poem that uses an amazing image and uses gorgeous, musical language. I eventually purchased his book this poem came from, Lives of the Animals, and have since purchased Moon in a Mason Jar, What my Father Believed, In the Bank of Beautiful Sins and Reign of Snakes. (Still looking for The Sinking of Clay City) The poem I have posted here is the first poem in his book In The Bank of Beautiful Sins, and stuck with me from the first reading. I was writing an Aubade at the time myself, and this poem is the way it should be done. Gorgeous, moving, sensuous, prayerful, musical. Many adjectives could describe it. Let me know what you think.

Aubade

Sun-baked all day, the south-facing cliffs
breathe fire. The canyon air itself
can’t sleep, sheets beneath them
gone incrementally to musk, and the man
at last awakened alone, a train whistle
moaning upriver. Maybe the train’s
clank and ratchet brought her out first,
or the hope some breeze has happened,
not fire and water, the river’s ice, a clammy flank of air.
Whatever it was, now the moonlight’s made of her
a woman burnished by silver, leaned against the porch rail
and looking at the water through the almost-dark.
It’s me, he says from the doorway,
and she doesn’t turn, but opens
her stance, so that he might kneel
and crane his neck, and lick
along and up the sweet, salt seam
to her spine, her shoulders, her neck,
his hands a fingery wind along her arms,
down the fine column of ribs to the palm-fitted handles
her pelvic bones afford—
                                   Lord, he prays, if I have sworn
my loathing for the sun and cursed the salt
that blinds my eyes at work; if I have not slept
but have believed hell a canyon of basalt
a cold clear river taunts through; if I have turned,
scalded by this skin and the murk of damp bedding,
then wake me, wake me by whatever light is called for,
so I might find her, bathed
in a glow that is pure hell alone,
but tempered by her silver
to a dark the mouths remember, breathing
flesh into flames. Let us be candles
melted to a single wax. Let us be tangled at dawn
and lick awake the lids of each other’s salty eyes
and rise—
                 to welcome the daily fire.

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