Mark Wagenaar is the author of Southern Tongues Leave Us Shining (Red Hen Press, 2018), winner of the 2016 Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, and The Body Distances (A Hundred Blackbirds Rising), (University of Massachusetts Press, 2016). He teaches at Valparaiso University and lives in Valparaiso, Indiana.
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Aubade with Horses (Fort Worth Impromptu II)
There’s no right word for the color of the ashes,
you said at the New Orleans hospice—
every week a new urn carried out
& poured into the nameless garden.
Maybe it’s true. And maybe,
just there through the fog,
this morning’s mare & her foal,
dapple-gray & steaming,
come close enough.
Or the grime-dulled silver of the quarter you were given once
to dig a horse’s grave—
a piano’s worth of hand-thrown earth,
when you were young, first of many.
A quail flailing skyward might come close,
or the color of an unanswered prayer, or the first mouthful of gob,
sucked & spat out from the rattlesnake bite
before the blood hits.
And if the horses are the ashes, this sundog’s
southeast of the sun, toward Nacogdoches,
dragonfly glimmer that Sherwin-Williams might call
Skin at the Soprano’s Throat, if she’s under the bright lights,
if her last aria is on our forgetting
& how the language fails us, as it so often does.
O cloud of flesh, O dream
of rain out of cloudless skies,
we begin to be erased
when we lose the graves,
when we lose the tongues.
Someday we’ll know how to mend the horse’s bones
without driving her mad.
Someday we’ll come to the green pastures,
where we’ll be poured out, & the lost vowels
will fall back to our tongues like snow.