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Mark Wagenaar

Second Place: 2015 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $500

About this Poet:
Mark Wagenaar is the 2015 winner of the Juniper Poetry Prize, from UMass Press, for his book The Body Distances. He and his wife Chelsea are doctoral fellows at the University of North Texas, & are expecting a new arrival (their first!), Eloise Virginia, in July.

About this Poem:
Although my wife & I were surprised to learn that she was pregnant, we were also very excited. This poem is concerned with a couple of early scares we had. I'm also trying to explore an area where flesh, spirit, and prayer might entangle--& what can happen to faith when one is rendered helpless.

The Trick

I’ve always loved that scene in The Seventh Seal
where Jof, poor broke Jof the juggler, rushes back
to tell his wife Mia that he’s just seen the Virgin & Child,
so close to me that I could have touched her, but Mia
is skeptical, wants to know what they’ll eat this winter,
wants to know how their son Mikael will have a better life.
And Jof says his son will be an acrobat, or a great juggler,
one that can do the one impossible trick—to halt a ball
in midair. Impossible, Mia says. For us, he replies.
But not for him. A trick for the Illusion Hall of Fame,
with the Fabled Bullet Catch, Houdini’s vanishing
elephant, or today’s, which include the woman who
awoke 45 minutes after being pronounced dead,
& the lab that created a whirlpool of polaritons,
particles with properties of both light & matter.
Resurrection & transfiguration aside, the trick most days
is just getting through the day. Kids to school on time,
pizza delivered in 15 minutes, how to leave a bottle
alone. Yesterday my thirty-fourth year left its last glyphs
on the walls of my bones. Today I found out I’m going
to be a father. And today the trick is managing this rising
tide of panic, & excitement, & God knows what else,
as I drive with my wife, five weeks along, to the doctor,
every ache of her past week scrutinized. Each bloodspot.
Impossible one, you’ll double in size this week.
And again next week, poppy seed to sweet pea,
if you do not give up. And I will shore what faith
I have against this rising helplessness: I knew you
when you were knitted in your mother’s womb,
the psalm says.
Even the light that enters her eyes comes to you,
as it becomes vitamin D, & reaches you through the rivers
of her body. This is the way light becomes blood—
as the Word, too, became flesh, we are told.
And our words, too, our pleadings, must change flesh—
somehow our prayers must make a difference. There,
you appear on the screen, one trembling cloud amidst
dark clouds. Impossible for the world to go still
like this. For you to appear, to arise from nothing.
To not even know what to pray for. Will you give up?
Impossible one, I will listen for your heart to begin.
Be ceaseless. Turn in that darkness you darken.

Copyright ©2015 Mark Wagenaar