Three Poems

Unknowable Aubade

What does waking mean to you?
The first sound of the world must have been the moan
of the waters drawing back from rock & earth—
as they recede from our bodies as we wake—
a murmur like our first words out of sleep,
that sound like thyme rags stone hush.
How strange to rediscover
we do not know the world, to weigh again
all that is taken against what is given back—
morning rekindling the cardinal’s wings as it unwicks
the streetlights. And though no one is going to appear
as if out of nowhere to stand in their fading
nimbuses, & descant on the absences
we dwell in, to wish us on towards another
consolation, the world is given back to us again
as irises & horses, as bamboo stands & tides of corn,
as the last hushed vowels of the sleeping.

A Prophet Dies on the Day He Predicted

Out of all of the questions you had—
What cage will hold the eclipse? Why do the grey petals float?
Who bottled the poppy’s heart, closed the mole’s eyes,
who whispers the litany
          of pomegranate seeds?
I had but one answer, no use to anyone.

You might have taught me to love crows,
to give you a new name upon rising—

dated star chart, wheatgrass poultice,
aster’s memory of water...

You might given me more than questions
to take with me on the passage,
pressed a copper coin into my palm.

I’ve cut the bloodroot’s fleshy underground stems,
I’ve tasted its red sap. You will drowse on a bed of its white flowers,

beneath the Dog Star’s heliacal setting,
                 following my heels in your sleep.

Who will hold our umbrellas, who will we shiver against?

Make a wreath of your shoes. Linger near the tulips’ cups.
Take shelter in your new belief,
& give me the new names you could not before—

Missing keystone, body on air, body of milkweed seeds,   
                   drifting gondola...

You’ll carry a branch of the sunbright forsythia,
swinging it before you like a censer. You’ll mistake the ashes

for the waters that carry them.
A finger on the seam between wind
                    & the rumor of wind,
between tendon lines
bread crumbs send
             rippling across the water—
they cannot bear me up any longer.

I do not know who will hold
the torches to light the new path. I can only
wait, in a light that will not remember my face,

in a rain I cannot touch.

   —after Simic

Where it says hoof prints in snow
read eleven ribs

Where it says eleven ribs read
steps to an amphitheater 
             in fog

Where it says one rib read
scroll of an emakimono painting

I had no time for the way road salt
& watch hands & the rain’s pilgrims transfigure

by the light of the cardinal feather 
                 by the jackal’s tongue
by windfall by tidechange

by the light each evening adds until there is only the dark

Where it says proof of my love
read smoke quickblued through pines

MARK WAGENAAR, after having a few paycheques bounce while playing professional soccer, decided to up-stakes & go, & pursue his second love, poetry. He was fortunate enough to be admitted to the MFA program at the University of Virginia, where he sits at the feet of Charles Wright, Greg Orr, and Rita Dove. He is the 2009 winner of the Yalobusha Review’s Yellowwood Poetry Prize, the 2009 winner of the New Delta Review’s Matt Clark Prize, the 2009 winner of the Connecticut River Review’s Poetry Prize, & a recent finalist in the contests of Dogwood, Many Mountains Moving, Nimrod, & The Pinch. His poems have been accepted or published by Poetry East, West Branch, Tar River Poetry, The North American Review, The Denver Quarterly, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, & many others.