Chelsea Wagenaar

Essay: Domestic
July 9, 2014 Wagenaar Chelsea

Essay: Domestic


  1.   Brassiere

Unclasped; thin straps slipping

down my arms, I notice

the areolar bruise

my nipples have pressed

inside the empty cupola

of pale charmeuse.


I rub a thumb over the smudge.

But no smear—I’m duplicated,

indelible.  By day

you are a darkroom

developing the print

of me.  By night, my body

darkens even the drawers

that keep you.


  1.   Trumpet Vine

Orange thickly peppered

with terraces of ants:

slow, inscrutable ellipses.

What omission of yours—

what pause—do they

punctuate?  You ascend

the aged picket shafts

more faithfully than the sun,

gramophone heads

stoic, bleating their silent burn

from hue to hue. Omission?

No.  You, punctuated?

You punctuate—

brilliant gasps of ochre

between the small darks.


  1.   Piano

Damned thing.  All that tension

borne up for centuries, hidden

hammers in merciless suspension

over strings.  Eighty-eight unbidden


throats, dancerless stages.  Cold

shoulder, my lady of never-speaking-

unless-spoken-to-first, I should

have learned from you that touching


breaks even the most formidable

quiet.  I’ll come again, as one

who moves with hunger to table,

and ruin you into sound.

Chelsea Wagenaar is the author of two collections of poetry, most recently The Spinning Place, winner of the 2018 Michael Waters Prize. Her first collection, Mercy Spurs the Bone, was selected by Philip Levine to win the 2013 Philip Levine Prize. She holds degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of North Texas, and currently teaches in Indiana. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review and The Massachusetts Review.