Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Risk

Robert Wrigley
From Prairie Schooner, Vol. 85, No. 1 (Spring 2011)

After he steps from the ladder to the limbs
of the tree, he has to stop and holler
an explanation to his wife, who’s seen him
from the house: A baby swallow,

he yells. It fell from the nest, and he knows
she knows, though she does not say so,
the idiocy of what he’s doing, and he wishes
he’d simply smiled and waved hello,

knowing she will report the honest facts,
after whatever authorities are called
to haul his broken-necked, stone dead
carcass away, and that this most importunate act

will become—and why should it not?—
the awful joke his friends and neighbors
will remember him by, as in his shirt pocket
the barely fledged bird chirps and chitters

and seems to stare not simply skyward
but directly into his lunatic eye,
its tiny torrential swallow’s heart
whirring just to the right

of his gigantic one thundering in the wind,
the wind that took the bird from its nest
and may also have taken the nest along,
the wind which sways the tree west to east

and also brings to his ear a chirp
identical to the one risen from his pocket,
so that he studies a long time, looking up
until he sees it, tucked not