Jeanne Wagner: “Buying a Can of Shipwreck Blue”


It was the name that made me want to buy it.
I found it on a color chart, ordered a quart

“for interior use only.” Color, they say, is only
an interpretation of wavelength, not the thing itself,

so I look for a name to take me where I want
to go, a color that says drink me to the walls.

It’s what I need before I submerge. Not blue
itself but way blue deepens inside a hull,

a frame, the steel ribs that gather it in like winter
twilight when branches clutch the air

and blue turns almost lavender between the limbs.
Like the blue of my mother’s eyes,

full of forsaken journeys. For my birthday once,
she gave me a ring of soft gold and fake

sapphire held down by the fierce prongs of its
bezel. In the movie, the ship is steaming

straight ahead into the phantom blue of bergs.
I don’t say how good they look. I watch

the compass needle tremble and swing between
navigation and desire. Begin to reset my course.

Jeanne Wagner is the winner of several national awards including the Arts & Letters Award and the Sow’s Ear chapbook award. Her poems have appeared in Cincinnati Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, North American Review, Southern Review and Shenandoah. Wagner has four chapbooks and two full-length collections: The Zen Piano-mover, winner of the Stevens Prize, and In the Body of Our Lives, published by Sixteen Rivers Press. Her latest manuscript, Everything Turns Into Something Else, will be published in the spring of 2020 as runner-up for the Grayson Book Prize.

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