Out of the perfect circles of feathers
on lawns & roadsides,
out of the rotting maws of javelinas,
from the bowed heads of wilting wildflowers,
from bathtub rings around lakes,
& the exposed Indian graves once in twenty feet of water
the drought rises to walk amongst us,
& translucent skin a sheer rippling
above the trees, body of vapor & heat,
limbic shadows knotting
& untying beneath the bean & pecan trees.
Diminish, diminish, it says
with its mouth full of feathers,
hot finger in my mouth,
in the mouths of every one of the yet-to-be-transfigured.
What do we mean by shelter, it asks us,
the same question castoff shoes
& empty gallon bottles in ranch fields ask us.
Add that to the others we’re in the midst of answering--
how far north do the narcocorridos carry?
What are the coyotes charging, human traffickers,
what’s the exchange rate
on the peso black market?
The skies are cloudless, answerless--
only a distant thunder on the horizon
that tells you it's dove season,
that the white-striped wings will soon be falling.
Those walking the fields will stay invisible--
they will show only as white blazes on X-rays of eighteen-wheelers,
lives hidden amidst ripening mangoes,
the unseen body that walks beside you,
like an undertow of feathers,
like a call that must go unanswered
if it is to exist at all.
MARK WAGENAAR is the recipient of the 2015 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize Honoring Jake Adam York. Recent poems appear in The New Yorker, Crab Orchard Review, FIELD, Yemassee, and elsewhere. Wagenaar received the 2012 Felix Pollak Prize for his collection Voodoo Inverso and the 2015 Juniper Prize for his collection Body Distances.