Chelsea Wagenaar

March 21, 2016 Wagenaar Chelsea



She flies south to visit me

though it is deep summer.


Curved in ink

up her hind left shoulder—


its fine filaments splayed

as though in wind-riled disarray—


a solitary plume.




Curved in ink—

needle ink. Jade ink, violet.


Emerald, black.

Indelible accoutrement


to her camisole’s silk strap,

the peacock feather’s eye


will not blink back.

Wielded ink, truth-or-dare ink,


it stalks me, brazen,

will not unmeet my shy eye.


I close my eyes: the afterimage

is green glare, flash of sun


succumbing to horizon.




Truth-or-dare ink.

Truth: in a tattoo parlor,


you can choose your pain,

tell it where to go, what to be.


Dare: against our mother’s counsel,

she’s new in her skin


for the second time,

flesh welted red and tender,


the hurt of what it took to arrive here—

in time, in body—


already vestigial and dwindling still,

like sun-blanked, rain-rinsed


chalk ebbing back into sidewalk,

the last blue silt carried off


in a sudden wind.




Vestigial and dwindling still,

the sear of late light solves


her shirt’s thin cotton

as she walks away from me—


a parsed wing silhouetted there,

faint as shadow, and as fixed.

Chelsea Wagenaar is the author of Mercy Spurs the Bone (Anhinga Press, 2015), winner of the 2013 Philip Levine Prize for poetry.  Her poems have appeared or been accepted recently in Crab Orchard, Fugue, and the Southeast Review.  She is a doctoral fellow in poetry at the University of North Texas and lives in Denton, Texas, with her husband, fellow poet Mark Wagenaar.