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Poet Robert Wrigley Reads Verse About Partisanship

November 6, 2006 at 6:00 PM EDT
Robert Wrigley, Professor of English at the University of Idaho, casts his vote in the county fair building in a peaceful corner of rural Idaho, but that has not enabled him to escape the anger or passion of partisanship.

ROBERT WRIGLEY: My name is Robert Wrigley, and I live in the woods on Moscow Mountain, about six miles away from the town of Moscow, Idaho. We’re on the far western slope of the Rockies, surrounded by farm land and pine forests.

The other morning on our daily walk my dog and I ran into a bull moose, which was exciting but not uncommon. As a matter of fact, I’d guess there may be nearly as many deer, elk, and moose in Latah County as there are people.

This poem is about the experience of voting. When I vote I vote at the the Latah County Fair building, the same building that just a couple of months earlier held prizewinning pumpkins and rhubarb pies.

The poem is called “Partisan.” This poem is a kind of response to the idea of partisanism.

We’re all, when we vote, partisans of some sort, but like many of us, I feel like a lot of other people feel like these days we have just a bit too much partisanship.


I wasn’t paying attention to the task at hand, I guess.
I’d angled forward to watch the beautiful young mother
three booths left shift her pink swaddled infant
arm to arm and her standing toddler boy
from one deft and patient hand to the other.

She caught me at my stare and smiled. She must have
noticed we wore the same good
quixotic candidate’s hopeless campaign pin.
But just then, the citizen I’d been waiting for
rushed from the voting booth

like a rodeo bull from its Friday night catch pen,
and so close was I, he clapped me exactly
in the nose with his balding pate, and snorted.
I was silent as the blood burbled out,
and he was already barreling off toward

the sky blue and newly-fettered confines of the dark republic we’d become.
So covering my face with a red bandanna,
I stepped in and pulled the curtain closed. I’d been thinking
of a split ticket, for some reason, though now,
out of simple pique or pure American patriotism,

I voted, yet again, a straight ticket. So there I was then,
outside, seeming to myself at least
a hero in the contact sport of democracy, my fellow voters making room
to let me pass my bloody way among them, but I didn’t move.
Instead, I looked to where the beautiful young mother,

my good comrade, had been. It was her toddler boy I spotted first,
slapping the blue curtain behind her back and forth,
his baby sister cupped on mother’s left forearm like a football.
She had the boy’s hips locked between her knees to prevent escape.
He was a little prisoner, but happy to be there.

“Mommy!” he yelled, throwing the curtain back, and “Mommy!”
throwing it closed again. A campaign slogan, it sounded like,
from a little man enjoying the best the nation could offer
and offering his own in return. “Mommy!”
he shouted,”Mommy!” His vote.