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This poem first appeared in The Antioch Review in Summer of 2010.

Gacela of the Wounds

by Mark Wagenaar

Only a half moon tonight 
			     drifting in a starless southern sky,
only the half truths it offers—

better than a sharp stick in the eye,
as my father says, better the desires
we struggle against 

than the listlessness that attends their absence...
light at dusk, venous light, a dark red
				          blued as if by skin,

no stars but the white catalpas
heaping their incense onto the flames,
the scent of Paradise 
		         from outside its high walls. 

Better to marry than burn, 
St. Paul said, he of the second sight
& the slaked thirst—

which seems only half right, 
since so much around us burns instead, 
		              	             even the waters
we lie down beside, 
that hurry elsewhere,

better its dark music, like the sound
				        of tail feathers pulling free,
the sound of a hieroglyph I know I’ve seen written somewhere—

graffitied on a subway wall
		                  or tattoed along a clavicle, 
or maybe inside the Court of Nine Petals,
					     one for every heaven—
the sound of a thirst
for a kiss that tastes   
		       of the copper coolness of blood,
for a body we will know by its wounds. 


Mark-Wagenaar-cropped-225x300Mark Wagenaar is the 2014 winner of The Pinch Poetry Award, & the 2013 winner of the James Wright Poetry Prize, the Poetry International Prize, & the Yellowwood Poetry Prize, and he has recently been named the University of Mississippi’s 2014 Summer Poet in Residence. His debut manuscript,Voodoo Inverso, was the 2012 winner of the University of Wisconsin Press’ Felix Pollak Prize. Recent acceptances or publications include the New Yorker, Field, Image, Ninth Letter, the Chattahoochee Review, the Florida Review, Washington Square, Shenandoah, & the Missouri Review. He and his wife, fellow poet Chelsea Wagenaar, are doctoral fellows at the University of North Texas in Denton. He’s on Twitter @MarkGWagenaar.

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