Mission Street
Jeanne Wagner

Mission Street

Because light is a constant reappraisal of form,
the streets are always in transition,
house fronts flooding with noon
like vertical sundials or the wide open
faces of children,
their songs a secret game of brightness
and shadow,
like the moods of the shops
with their doors ajar,
then nightly shuttered and barred,
because darkness wedges itself
between the boards
of vanishing days,
though you dream of a staircase
leading down
to an inflorescent yard,
and of the shops themselves
with their aromas of onion, coriander,
mangoes and tea,
of everything that relishes
its own self-ripening,
like the body when it turns into a map
of the streets,
where an X says you are here but also
you were there,
evenings walking on the last guttering
green of the park
or sitting on your own stoop,
watching the sidewalk
gradually cool, then realizing
you’ve fallen in love
with its smell of candy and ash.

Jeanne Wagner

is the winner of the 2014 Sow's Ear Poetry Prize and the 2015 Arts & Letters Award, judged by Stephen Dunn. Her poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Hayden's Ferry, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Shenandoah. She is the author of five collections. The latest, In the Body of Our Lives, was published by Sixteen Rivers Press in 2011. She is on the editorial board of California Quarterly.