Starting a Job at the Catholic School

This is what a day is:
the girls roll their plaid skirts
at the waist, ruched button-downs
tucked tight to winnow
some sculpt of a body free
from the uniform as the boys
slouch and pimple and do not
consider what envied attention
flickers in each of their volatile,
blue-lit beings. Ninth graders
wake in a new body every day,
my friend told me when I took the job.
And so does September,
season’s volta, voltage of leaves,
of California mountainside,
the everywhere-orange awry
and awful there—here in the Midwest
it merely mars the treeline
like a teacher’s red ink-strike.
Last month I helped my friend
pack for Los Angeles, each cardboard box
saved from her earlier moves,
reassembled, old label scratched out,
new blue sharpie scribing bedroom
or books in a marvel of thrift and order,
so that, tetrised in the moving truck,
her packed possessions made the disparate,
edited document of everywhere
she’s been, of all she has.
It is possible, I worry, for a life
to read as a series of typos.
For one to wear doubt as dutifully
as pleated plaid. This morning
the sun commutes above a diocese
of deer that have come to nose
my sparse yield of tomatoes
still green in their twisted corset,
unbudging toward my expectation.
Red, red, I want. Slick pulped seeds,
juicebleed on the cutting board.
The deer retreat, empty-mouthed.
The white of their tails blinks
like a cursor in the blank light of dawn.

Chelsea Wagenaar

Chelsea Wagenaar

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.
Chelsea Wagenaar

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Author: Chelsea Wagenaar

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.