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Chelsea Wagenaar

First Prize: 2017 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $1000

About this Christian Poet:
Chelsea Wagenaar is the author of Mercy Spurs the Bone, winner of the 2013 Philip Levine Prize.  Her poems appear or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Image, The Southern Review, and Crazyhorse.  She is a postdoctoral Lilly Fellow at Valparaiso University.  

About this Poem:
One thing I try to do in my work is examine the everyday, the mundane parts of my life, for their deeper significance. Waking in the night with a crying baby is one of those unpleasant parts of being a parent to a little one, a stage we tend to hope they move quickly through, and it has become such a familiar part of my last two years that I never thought to put it on the page and think about it in a poem.  But writing this poem helped me grow in compassion as a mother as I considered the crying child who calls for her mother as a kind of foreshadowing for the older, grown child who mourns the passing of a parent.  

Night Shift

Moon-sliced star-pocked 
streetlit blear, coal train moving
like its own ghost along the tracks.
2:00, 3:00, my shadow sways 
as I catch myself, hand on the wall,
pulled from bed by your nocturnal haunt,
you at your crib rail, blanket clutched,
more sound than body.
There, there. Shh. Shh.
You tremble against me: to nightmare 
without language, no way to tell me 
who chased you, drowned you, snatched you
from my cart when I turned my back:
isn't this a version of hell?
Ah, but these are my nightmares.
Yours are locked from me in the crypt
of your mind, which expands even now
toward syntax, memory. 
Forgive me: I begrudge you these hours. 
St. Paul wrote of those who had fallen
asleep in the Lord, sleep our foretaste
of Sleep. Little crier, wild yawp sounding
the halls, calling me awake,
this is your rehearsal. 
One day your sound will not resurrect me. 
I deceive you, 
climbing from the earth each night,
shaking off the tendril roots of green things
that would enfold me, grow out of me,
make me mother again.

Copyright ©2017 by Chelsea Wagenaar