Sydnee Wagner

Stealing Fire

I inherited centuries of homelessness from my father.
On the back of tattered shawls,
I sucked the marrow
out of phantom words that pieced together
tapestries of stories too bold to be written down
in any one language
so we created a lexicon of thieves.

My father’s skin cried out Diaspora,
bark from sandalwood trees
scarred from the claws and whips of pale men
who wanted a chance at something exotic.

Peeled flesh like mangoes-
sliced while unripe
foreigners don’t know how to enjoy sweet things
without bringing them to ruins.

Some nights I dream of swimming.
I swim two or three oceans to get to
a home that no longer knows me.
But every face contorts to his,
singing to me muddled greetings
that my body recognizes before I could.

Shame bore me till
I tore at this language limb by limb
and suffocated it at the base of my throat,
sewing manufactured quilt pieces to my tongue,
Weighing it down with a dona nobis pacem.

Sitting under our plum tree, after dusk
there in a graveyard of pits.
He was devouring black butterflies
pulling off their paper wings till it kindled his belly
and smoke incinerated his lungs,
conjuring a fire I could steal.


Sydnee Wagner

Sydnee Wagner is a closet poet and a PhD student at The Graduate Center, CUNY, studying early modern English literature. Though seemingly busied by her research and writing, she still manages to find time to drink copious amounts of coffee and seek out fragments of nature in New York City. Sydnee’s poetry serves as a platform for her to explore her relationship with her mother and father, mixed race and Roma identity, and other things that take shape in the dark.