The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Swan Wife by Sara Moore Wagner

This selection, chosen by guest editor Alyse Bensel, is from Swan Wife by Sara Moore Wagner, released by Cider Press Review in 2022.

Invasive Species

I can see myself peeling
potatoes in the window, the light
split by the frame in an x
across my brow, a speckled
robin’s egg, my face—we left
the Christmas wreath out
until Spring, and now a bird
has built a nest, Styrofoam
holly berries flank the twigs,
the thin beak of the baby.
How many times has our daughter
pounded through the door and upset
the balance of this world.
Suddenly the driveway
swamps, what were twigs
turn into hollowed out
ash trees, reaching up
like skeletal arms, chewed lifeless
by the emerald ash borer, serpentining
out, all green and jeweled. There
they are, and there is our little
baby, in the pond moss wetland
of the yard, all blonde amidst
the fallen limbs, the jagged lines
of timber. Sometimes she’ll
scare the mother bird out of the nest
with her shouts. She is
separated from us by a door,
by a moment, by a slant
of light and shadow, by life
and death. By god. We’re all just
waiting to crack open
or be emptied out, to be forced
from our homes or windows,
to destroy what we love
because we need it,
because we think
we’re safe.

Sara Moore Wagner is the author of three prize winning full length books of poetry, Lady Wing Shot, winner of the 2023 Blue Lynx Prize (forthcoming in 2024), Swan Wife (Cider Press Review Editors Prize, 2022), and Hillbilly Madonna (Driftwood Press Manuscript Prize, 2022), and the author of two chapbooks, Tumbling After (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2022) and Hooked Through (2017). She is also a 2022 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award recipient, a 2021 National Poetry Series Finalist, and the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals and anthologies including Gulf Coast, Smartish Pace, Waxwing, Beloit Poetry Journal, and The Cincinnati Review, among others.

Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Wondrous Things: A Poetic Biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, 2020) and three chapbooks. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly ReviewCream City ReviewSouth Dakota Review, and West Branch. She serves as Poetry Editor for Cherry Tree and teaches at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference. 


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