Saturday Apr 13

Wagner Poetry Jeanne Wagner is the winner of the 2014 Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Award and the 2015 Arts & Letters Rumi Award, judged by Stephen Dunne. Her poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Hayden’s Ferry, Alaska Quarterly Review, Shenandoah and American Life in Poetry. The author of five collections, her most recent book is In the Body of Our Lives, which was released by Sixteen Rivers press in 2011.

Baptism in Blue

I sing my praises for blue, Lord,
for illusory skies, their affinity with windows and water,
for the clarity of a cold afternoon
when the sky shimmers over the schoolyard,
immersing the children at play,

for the azure cut of swimming pools, radiant as set gems.
Iconic as sapphires pulled from the mud.
For the years, Lord, when the heavenly blue of backyard pools
saved us from blocks of suburban stucco,
from hard sidewalks, from the Valley’s arid days, the hot asphalt
singeing our naked soles.

When I was a child, I drew as a child, crayoned strips of horizontal sky,
hung them like a canopy overhead.
I saw pictures in my catechism, learned that heaven is real estate,
pearly clouds and sheer aquamarine,

saints ascending, like swimmers pushing up from the bottom
in halos and full regalia,
their faces impassive, but their feet, Lord, just look at how their feet
hang down below their hems,
soft and white as doves.

Sometimes it’s all you can see, the upturned feet of a diver,
so cleanly vertical
only the toes and arches show, pointing upward
like hands clasped in prayer.

To submerge is to disappear and be born again, to swing the gate open,
cross the wet grass, dive into the neighbor’s waiting pool,
To remember how you vanished with just the ghost
of a splash.
A brief white dahlia, blooming overhead.

On Hoarding

Every morning I walk by the hoarders’ house,
a perpetually deferred garage sale
in progress—
or should I say regress—
because they’ve outgrown the house
of their lives,

colonized the front yard
with old Atari games, seedy bird cages,
Chutes & Ladders,
video cassettes whose tapes must stretch for miles,
their cartridges unwinding
a narrative of loss.

Maybe their marriage too is unwinding,
their children moved on.
Yet it’s brave,
the way, having filled every room in the house,
they’ve put their former dailiness
on show,

stacked it up like home-grown produce
at a county fair,
or packed it in open-topped boxes
covered with tarps
so winter rain can’t defile those sad
rejected Lares.

I almost envy them, their refusal
to part with the past,
I’ve thrown so much away, things that held me,
cushioned chairs and dream-stained
a mirror’s fickle light.