The Scholar

We were to know we would never know
as much about it as he did. He knew
we didn’t care and believed his knowing
was evidence. He was a scholar,
a critic, a wielder of wit for it,
its minutiae and mysteries,
which, for him, were no mystery at all.
Machinery, maybe. Cogs and pistons,
the pinioned heart in the heat of it.
Someone asked about love, the fool.
Our backs ached. The sun was relentless.
He leaned on his hoe as though
it were a podium, drew a kerchief
from his pocket and wiped his face.
He pointed at the sky, where a hawk hovered,
awaiting the mouse that would bolt
from our work. One mouse was just
like another, and we were more or less
the same, except for what we’d never know,
which we knew, even without his saying so.

Robert Wrigley has published eight collections of poetry, the most recent of which is Beautiful Country (Penguin, 2010). His poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, The Atlantic, Barrow Street, and The New Yorker, and were included in the 2003 and 2006 editions of Best American Poetry. Wrigley’s honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Idaho State Commission on the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation, as well as a Poets’ Prize, Kingsley Tufts Award, 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 six Pushcart Prizes. From 1987 until 1988 he served as the state of Idaho’s writer-in-residence.