Poetry: Mark Wagner

Here is the Plot

Here is the plot: A boy built a home
With a girl who gave him money.
She wouldn’t say where she found it, though
The money was awfully dirty.

The word is a plot: a suitcase.
In the suitcase are trousers, papers.
On the papers are colorful words.
One says “tomorrow,” though it’s unclear

Whether tomorrow happened or not.
So they construct the plot from one
Thing no one remembers but what
They will all someday separately know.

Here is what they know so far:
It’s important not to love the oppressor.
If nothing happens tomorrow
They might have found this out for naught.

And now for some fancy description
To keep you hooked while the plot gets thick:
Forty-two ex-servicemen
Are dusting the handle for prints.

Just so you know: The suitcase gets picked.
The tenderfoot in charge of watching it
Couldn’t resist the almond croissants.
Zing: He comes back and is staring at zilch.

In the distance What’s-Her-Name starts to sing
As if skin’s afire. The place clears out.
That’s when the train starts to roll.
A hundred hurried souls scramble off,

Among them one never here before
Who hands out pencils hoping for change.
Soon the whole place empties
And the singing rises again. . . .

Finally it boils down to this:
Do you love this place we call earth?
Should you, in fact, take advice from a mole?
Or go for a roll in the sack?

Or should you turn to abstract things
Like law and sounds and classroom design?
No telling. The bag with the clue is gone.
The girl who lost her foreskin asks,

Have you seen a suitcase, kinda like a bag?
The boy begins to laugh and then
Builds a home with the money though
The money was awfully dirty.

Lantern Fish

Oceans swallow the rivers
And trees. The water ascends.
Even that which has been long dead
Is gracefully dying again.

But not lantern fish
Hovering in a lightless surf,
A lamp hanging over its eyes.
It illuminates its turf.

O bobbing 0 and an
Omission within the black,
A reader huddled with a book,
An alien in a sack.

Far below the land’s silt shelf
Lantern fish light-full slides.
By following its own self
Lantern fish follows the light.

MARK WAGNER teaches at Nichols College in Dudley, Massachusetts. His collection, A Cabin in a Field appeared in 2001 with Mellen Poetry Press. At present, he is completing a PhD in Education at RMIT in Melbourne, Victoria.

(c) Copyright 2006, Mark Wagner; author retains all rights.