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            Volume 40 ~ 2017



Tessa Wagener

Just a Message


I see gray clouds again,

and I think of you,

memories of cool nights

under September stars,

Disney movies, and pillow forts.

I see you in riled people,

those lingering in the past.

For the most part,

I see you within a smile.

Sometimes you lie between

the tiny spaces of two hands

tangled together, or as far apart

as a distant text while on a drive:

“Be there in five”

I see you hitting send,

and then the tree.


Coming Home


     I’ll hold my baby for sixteen days. He’ll die three times on his birthday, and I’ll beg the doctors to bring him back each time. I’ll watch him sleep, fearful of losing even a second of time. His body will reject his medicine, and eventually, he’ll struggle to keep his breath. But I’ll love him too much to let any part of him go.

His older brothers will wait at home, Matchbox cars in hand with the foolish thought that he’ll be ready to play. Later, they’ll be found sleeping on his bedroom floor, cars set by his crib. They’ll be tired, of waiting, of wondering, but I know that anticipation will fuel their hopes as they wait their most miserable wait.

     “Mommy, when will you be home?” They ask.

     I will not have an answer for them, an answer for myself.

     On our third day in the hospital, the doctors will tell me that he can’t be held anymore. Oxygen tubes will be placed in his nose. He’ll spend the rest of his life in an incubator.

     His older sister will arrange the stuffed animals on his shelf in a different order every day. At night, while she’s waiting for him to come home, she’ll grab what she’s positive will be his favorite one, and will fall asleep clutching its velvet paw. But she will grow in the constant worry that he won’t like any of them. Or worse, he’ll end up liking cars.

     “Mommy, is it almost time for you to come home?”

     For the first week, I will pick up and store the hope that everyone else is quick to drop.

     By the second week, I will feel some of my hope slipping away. My mind will sink further and further into the unsettling future of going home alone. That’s when I will lose it all.

     “Your siblings are waiting for you. I’m waiting for you. Can we go home yet?” He won’t answer. His chest will fall flat yet again. But this time, I won’t call for the doctors. I’ll press my swollen face to the leather of the hospital recliner and wait.


Next Door


The boy next door carries an axe

and lives without a name.


Once, as I laid in bed, he

hovered above me, axe risen,

but he never found a reason to harm.


The boy next door has obsidian hair

hiding a pair of dark, desirous eyes.

I am fooled by his delicate smile of



Once, I watched as he burnt a house

down, pacing in front of it after.


But only once was I truly scared,

as he walked away from the fire with

vacant eyes, and dropped the axe

at my feet.




The man with the purple bag

indulges in populous areas,

with secrets on his mind

and menace in his heart.


At night he connects fuses,

metals, and plastic to cell

phones, and during the day,

he executes and grows

in his bitter winnings,

shawling himself from the

siren cries and the cops’

bursting lights of red and blue.


The man with the purple bag

knows the consequences of

fear when he places the purple

bag in the crowd and beams at

the muffled screams behind him.

Tessa message
tessa coming home
tessa next door
tessa terrorism
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