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Liberty Walks Naked
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MARK WAGENAAR

 

 

 

 

mwMark Wagenaar is the 2016 winner of Red Hen Press’ Benjamin Saltman Prize, for his forthcoming book Southern Tongues Leave Us Shining. His first two, The Body Distances (A Hundred Blackbirds Rising), and Voodoo Inverso, won UMass Press’ Juniper Prize & U of Wisconsin Press’ Pollak Prize, respectively. His poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from The New Yorker, 32 Poems, Field, Southern Review, Image, & many others. He holds a PhD in English Literature from the U of North Texas & an MFA from the U of Virginia, & this year he is serving as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Valparaiso University. 

 

1st prize in Gregory O'Donoghue International Poetry Competition 2017

Late Song

 

 

Empty streets & the company

of heaven: autumn leaves carried down the gutter

on currents

                    of wind or water,

I don’t know, a little ways east of Cold Mountain

or a little ways west,

                                somewhere near

the place that holds the forgotten half

                                                            of the half-forgotten.

I keep missing it.

Maybe my car keys are there, & my grandfather’s voice.

Maybe the chalk blown from the outlines of bodies

on the asphalt ends up there,

                                              chalk that disappears a grain at a time,

voice that evaporates

                                   vowel by vowel,

carried away by the leaves

with my childhood.

 

And the year of darkness in his bones goes with them,

& the three hundred years of rain

 

in our family name, runneled down

the landscape to a river

with fog rising

                        like a mass ascension of fingerprints.

 

 

 

Portrait of a Laryngologist

 

 

The larynx is an ark drifting through one’s solitude, an ark with one of everything: pins, coins, a locket that clasped a picture of a woman’s husband who was gone when she returned. On the cervical x-ray of the upper chest & throat, the larynx is an afterdusk landscape above the whitewashed latticework of ribs—the object becomes the radiolucent moon of the body, a relic of one’s desire. I’ve been asked why I do it. The word itself, larynx—from the Greek larunx—is almost as old as civilization itself, as the hollow organ that gave us our first word. What we recover is inextricably tied to our ability to change, to the oldest stories, points toward metamorphosis, like the man who swallowed fire & awoke to a peach tree in bloom beside him. All language is the revelation of our need: to be nearest voice is to be nearest prayer. It’s a kind of prayer, then, an intimacy, a recovery of the missing, that has one swallowing the dearest items, & calling it an accident. I’ve become a counsel of sorts. A man gestures at the x-ray, a pictograph of his story, trying to explain the ring in his throat, that has left him wordless. I want to say it will be touched somehow by the hidden gravities beneath it, the pulsing dream clouds of the lungs, the shuddering heart. Every word you utter will ghost around her ring, will become a vow.

 

 

©2017 Mark Wagenaar

 

 

Author Links

 

'Goat Hour Gospel' in The New Yorker

'They Ate the Bulbs of Tulips' at poets.org

'Poem for Max Ritvo, Perhaps' in Rattle

 

 

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