Sara Moore Wagner is the recipient of a 2019 Sustainable Arts Foundation award, and the author of the chapbooks Tumbling After (forthcoming from Red Bird Chapbooks, 2021) and Hooked Through (2017). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals including Beloit Poetry Journal, Rhino, Third Coast, Poet Lore, Waxwing, The Cincinnati Review, and Nimrod, among others. She has been nominated multiple times for the Pushcart prize, and Best of the Net.
The Internet Asks Me What Do You Want to Be
I am trying to reword
each instinct for sentencing: I am a plastic
bottle of water, store brand, I am
piling myself into a drawer, I am
spilling out of the back of my shoes
when I walk. I am not made to walk
in heels, lopsided, bottom and top heavy,
small at the waist. I float easily
through a day. I don’t know where
to end each thought, whether I drive
each piece, pedal the commas to a field
of blooming wildflowers, even water flowers
where I can take out my phone to scan
and name them. Some people know
the names of flowers, know exactly when
and how to stop talking so much, the turn
in the conversation when it’s just exhausting.
Gladness, and I am a little patch
of late autumn leaves. I want to wear
everything, to have even
the dirt cut my size so it hangs off me.
I am built to be looked at, or so my mother
told me each night, pulling my fine hairs
back into a braid—to give me body, she’d say.
Gladness, and I am a beautiful body, full
bodied, I’m wine and cheese and artificial
dark chocolate flavored disks. I am
counting the syllables on my stomach
then on my knees, then on the walls,
then on the sky. I am a body. I am not
pulling everything back to the body, I know
the body has been done, is overdone,
is something we all should let go.
My daughter puts a coin into the prize machine
at the dentist. They tucked a round quarter into her hand
because she can’t have candy as a treat, on account
of the cavities. Her teeth will need to be spaced and drilled,
capped and filled. A few molars are decayed almost
to the root. What have you been doing, the dentist
asks me. Nothing, I guess—nothing. I let her
brush her own teeth, I say. And the sugar? asks the dentist,
I heard her talk about a bag of candy. Well, I say, yes,
she has a bag of candy from Halloween, and yes sometimes
she is allowed to take one out. Does she have juice,
chips? Is she a snacker? Do you fill her mouth
with sweets? Is your hand a sweet, do you put your hand
over her mouth so the sweet seeps through—is it you?
Is it you? Is it me? I say.
My daughter is between us on the chair, five years old,
she is aware of the painted penguin on the wall
because penguins are her favorite. She knows
penguins will sometimes swallow stones, will dive
so deep into the water to find food they swallow even
what they don’t need, and she says so, loudly,
while I am trying to say no, no—we don’t
buy juice in our house. No. I say my son eats
so many more treats, and he has not had one cavity.
I say, don’t you see—I am that stone she carries
in the pit of her belly. It’s me.