by Robert Wrigley

from the journals of D. D. Pye (1871–1890)



For the twigs, being dry and loosely stacked, burned

swiftly, and the kindling, being hewn from a long-standing larch snag,

was also ideally seasoned and crackled brightly into flames.

Then the first small log splits likewise ignited, and I rested there

on my rock, the ever-darkening night cooling the back of my neck

as my face flushed with the glow and heat of the fire.


This was when I chanced to see an ant emerge

from a hole in the smooth bark side of the last length of wood

I had offered to the flames. Although his situation, surely, could not

have been more dire, he seemed calm in his side-to-side explorations

of the log, scurrying away from an edge only once

when a smoke cloud wafted its acrid breath in his face.


By way of experiment, I laid a long slender branch

from the stones of the fire ring to the opposite end of what was both

his potential death-plank and temporary salvation, calculating that,

if resourcefulness and survival ticked as saliently in his jet encasement

as it did within my own skin, he would find this route

to safety eventually. Which he did, but as his bad luck would have it,


from deep within the log he’d perhaps long called home, a pitch pocket,

having reached a temperature from which its brew could no longer expand,

blew with no more than a campfire pop, hardly even a report,

but hard enough to shake from their flaming superstructures

both the log and the bridge I had provided into the flames,

taking the ant as well, whom by now I had in my lonesomeness


become exceedingly glad for, although he was gone in a instant

in the seethe of those coals. This was the point at which I became aware

first of the excessive heat upon my face, so rapt had I been

at my watching, and then, looking up toward the coolness of the night,

aware also of an abundance of stars beyond any man’s ability

to reason, let alone cipher or bear, let alone be alone beneath.

Read more Robert Wrigley in Little Star #1

“Every Night the Long Swim,” by Robert Wrigley

Order his new book, Beautiful Country

Read “I Like the Wind,” from a recent New Yorker

Two poems from Beautiful Country on Poetry Daily

Robert Wrigley reads in Lincoln, NE, on October 21; the Montana Festival of the Book on October 28-30

Robert Wrigley has published seven books of poetry.  He lives and works in Idaho.