Skip to content →

Category archive for: Mark Wagenaar

Landscape Rising from Crow Eyes (Ornithomancy)

divination by birds

So you’re in the Van Gogh museum sneaking a pic

of Wheat Fields with Crows with a cell phone because

you’ve come up with a different crow count 3x now,

& because you can’t quite see where crows end

& night begins, because if you look hard enough

you’ll look into the rest of Vincent’s life

since the painting was his last, & you’ll need

something, later, to bring you back to this moment

where forty-five, or forty-eight, or fifty vanishing

points watch you begin to disappear back into

your life, where you’re questioning everything

you know about crows, & light, & last words,

but here’s a hand gripping your collar, & another

knuckled into your back, someone with coffee

& herring-breath muttering kloatsek, a Frisian insult,

meaning asshole, or douchebag, which means the guard

might be from Friesland, a Netherlands province

with a language no one officially recognizes as a language,

but such a little area that he might be a distant

relative, & because comedy will always trump tragedy

in your life, you stumble as you turn to flip the bird

at this longlost cousin, & fall back to the asphalt,

eyeball to shattered eyeball with a dead crow.

And look up at what it looked at last: just another

street, a four story redbrick skyline across the way,

a piano dangling in front of one of the windows.

A contrail-crossed sky. Salt air blowing in

from the ocean that separates you from everyone

you know. If art is just the thing that makes you

more vulnerable, couldn’t this crow, this bit

of char, this black tongue gone cold cursing,

be included? And what else has knocked you

on your ass lately? The man in Argentina who fitted

his father’s left hand to his own, a hand recovered

from a pile of smoldering bones. The splotch on the iris

of a 3-year-old in a picture, yellow sun, that someone

on social media identified as the beginning of Coats’ disease,

yellow shine of an unseen scar on the back of her retina,

& so saved her vision. Or the look in your wife’s eyes,

the glistening at the crow’s feet beside them,

when you finished the crib, twelve white slats on each side

of the golden-ratioed rectangle, one for every pair

of ribs, ribs right now the size of dragonfly wings,

& just as translucent. At the end of two lives,

at the beginning of another, you take your first steps

back into the world, with all the brushwork left

upon you, your body upside down in the canal

next to you, body among the evening stars, a point

of light for every feather burning in your memory.

from Poetry Northwest 11.2 Winter & Spring 2017More by Mark Wagenaar from the library

Copyright © Mark Wagenaar
Used with the permission of the author
on behalf of Poetry Northwest.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.