Sister echoes us, little mockingbird,
says another day another dollar.
Sister spins in the living room, bird feet chirping
on the chipped & faded hardwood,
counted bones & silk of skin in the air then not, shimmer
shimmy & spin, of the air & not. She says teacher says
a crate of tap shoes washed up on a beach somewhere,
someday she’ll have a pair. In North Korea, she says,
they have billboards that say We Have Nothing to Envy.
shadow on the clapboard walls, only something pressed
of hollow bones could turn like that, living shadow,
a thousand socks tied to balloons
are floating across the border right now,
winter socks for the coming cold, for those who have nothing.
Sister, I can hardly hear the voice on the radio from the next room
over your feet, & that’s all right,
half-flame, sometimes driving backwoods gravel I spin the dial
& those voices edge in & out
of me, & I’m glad someone is putting tongue to hunger,
someone who’s arisen from a shotgun shack
or one of the fine condos
of Section 8, someone who’s traced the tongue marks
in the cans of grease out back, & understands
there ain’t much to get us through,
& even if out of earshot, even if the voices travel through us
like the unnumbered particles that Perseid each & every second
through the dark skies
our bodies envelope, I’m glad someone’s mumbling the charms
that had a woman’s bra wire deflect the bullet last week,
had a blanket save a boy the week before,
a bullet that whistled through wood & drywall
& was stopped at the skin by wool.
Numb-fumbling voodoo, bluebird bones & moonlight,
saint or Santeria, whatever works
in this evening of haloes & absences:
white soap shavings around Martin on his chair,
after whittling all that’s not angel from the soap bar,
vigil candles guttering, auraed by the perfect circle
they make of their flames. Sneakers hanging by their laces.
And a cloud of beating moth wings around a streetlight,
shaking heart of dust & wings
around blue sodium.
Whatever works, forty ounces or pipe dream,
blue train or jellyroll, whatever the moonlight can make of us,
here where the gandy dancers once flickered by the rails,
sister, let these tongues attend us, those we cling to,
O flesh that fails, that falls from another flesh.
Light & dust. Of the air & earth.
Let the rivers run through their throats, fine
alluvium, southern tongues come find us
if the new shoes never show,
if our angels are still out of reach,
earshot & eyeshot,
southern tongues leave us shining
for another day.
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.