Chelsea Wagenaar

Penance III
by Chelsea Wagenaar

“Life on earth depends on the sun’s table scraps.”
an article from The Atlantic

A litany of our best efforts to repay this: we toss fistfuls of apple peels and tea leaves skyward. We touch each other gingerly, as though we might rupture. A woman pins sheets to a clothesline, her hair wet and unbrushed. We count your flares and watch our electronics for a sign of devastation. We give our own sadnesses away, like hallucinations, too delirious to hold them closely. Strangers pass each other in the street; our griefs nod hello. One man wants to be catapulted heavenward when he dies, his body cresting the constellations, scalding steadily toward that other aura: is this the debt we owe? We look through bright windows and think champagne, we paint without explanation. We hold our lost languages on our tongues, dissolving grains of sugar. We mimic you to warm our hands. We hang collections of light on our walls and say museum. Forgive us as we crawl around, our hands and knees stained and aching, our mouths open and hungry. But see how we turn our eyes from you? How unblistered we are, how we’ve preserved our retinas? We understand ultraviolet, we know exposure. We cannot look. No, we never, never look.


Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 3.

Chelsea Wagenaar is a doctoral candidate in poetry at the University of North Texas. She has had poems accepted or published recently in Barrow Street, Salamander, and The Greensboro Review, and she is the 2012 winner of the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize through Nimrod International Journal.

See all items about Chelsea Wagenaar

Visit Chelsea Wagenaar’s contributors page.

Leave a Reply