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Mark Wagenaar

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Mark Wagenaar

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. 

by this poet

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,

have retired now that the circus
has closed, to their watercolors
& bowling leagues, their tusk-dug
rose gardens, their record collections,
their calligraphy—
                             say one has
begun a letter to you, peacock feather
gripped in the beautiful gray coils

                —too many waltzes have ended . . .
                   – Wallace Stevens

It’s only when the stars
are lined above a burning
cathedral, charnel house

or theater, when the air
is filled with riffling ashes
that hallow a space where tragedy

& comedy are indistinguishable
that these