Robert Wrigley's new book is a portrait of a nation, one that is a singular part of a singular planet--an experiment in democratic governance still aspiring toward perfection, with an exuberant and frequently exasperating culture. In such a country, the glimpse of a horse under a full moon can be a defining moment, full of grace and a new, if not always comfortable, awareness. So it is with a saved lock of a lover's hair, the memory of a vanished glacier, or a childhood friend disappeared in war. As it is with a T-shirt company called "American Fear" or with a disabled soldier shaking hands at a gas pump. Elegiac and lyrical, playful and angry, Beautiful Country offers a vision that is fierce, unflinching, and clear.
Robert gives an overview of the book:
County of innumerable nowheres, half its dogs
underfed and of indeterminate breed. County
of the deep fryer, staples in glass against mice,
county of horned gods and billed hats. Sweat county,
shiver county. The hallowed outhouse
upholstered in wooly carpet, the sack of lime,
time out of time, county of country music.
Insufficient snowplows county, county
of the blasted doe all winter in a drift, dust sift
and feather duster county, county of the quo
all status is attached to. Of batches and bitchdogs
howling, of rowels and boots, of soot wash,
of the chimney sweep’s red beard,
of the songless radio preaching to no one in the shed.
County of the deadly road, of the shoat pig roasted
in a pit. County of molasses, hobo coffee,
and sugarless soft-drink, county of the methamphetamine
picture window, of the padlock and massive hasp.
County of tools and dewormers. Curry comb
and salt block, black pepper gravy, red-eye venison,
blood sausage, county of Bud Light girl posters.
Treblehook county, chum county, bear bait
and dead wolf county. County of the coyote pelt
nailed to the barn door. Bruised woman county,
of men missing one or more fingers, single-finger
wave county. Pistol alongside the cash register.
Pitch-dense firewood county, county of the fearful
and fearless, of the distant mysterious school.
Target-poor county, distant WalMart holyland,
malodorous pulp mill and paper plate county.
County of the hundred yard drive to the post office,
oddly familiar faces among the wanted posters,
four hour drive from the county seat county,
unadopted highway, county of no return.
County of August always somewhere burning.
Beercan bejeweled barrow pit county, hardly
one bullet-unpunctuated county road sign county.
County of the ATV and ancient Indian trail
into the high mountains. Get your bull or buck
doe-see-doe, hundred frozen casseroles
after the funeral, go to heaven county,
blister and blister rust county, Jahweh trailerhouse
county, unassisted living, county
of the Gospels and the Penthouse under the bed.
County of tenderness and terror, of almost
universal skepticism, Jesus country county.
County of the cell tower stipend, everywhere
and anywhere, boneyard county, county
a day’s drive from the end of the open road.
Softshell Baptist county. Pentacostal pancake county.
County of illusions and of hard facts. Rock
and broken shock, rock and roll aught-six
save your shell casing. County of not quite breath-taking
vistas, of the for sale sign, of timothy and brome,
spring and autumn slaughter county, meat county, home.
A LOCK OF HER HAIR
As a hoodoo-voodoo, get-you-back-to-me tool,
this hank’s thankless task is vast,
a head down to the ground impossibility, possibly,
since what I’m thinking of is your toe pad pinknesses too,
your soup hots and round-and-rounds, the fine
and perfect poundage of you on my paws, the very cause
and problem I moan for and bemoan
the absence of. For Love, above the head
this reddish coil once lavishly wore, there’s an air so far away
it’s sad for me to even think the same sun’s rays play
where it was and do to you what I would do
if I were there or you were here. Still, some thrills
remembered do resemble thrills, one hopes, and the ropes
of it that gently fell around me bound me so well
no hell of miles can defile this dream I dream. I mean
the anyway DNA I can find of you. I mean the home
of bones and blood that holds the whole of you
and which this fizzed-up missive means to conjure, missy,
my world in a curl, girl, this man oh man half man I am
when you’re gone.
I was born in the Midwest but have lived nearly all of my adult life in Idaho. I studied writing at the University of Montana, with Madeline DeFrees and Richard Hugo, in the mid-seventies, and I now teach in the MFA program in writing at the University of Idaho. Awards I've...