On a Clear Day
Jasmine Dreame Wagner
On a Clear Day asks the new millennium’s essential questions: What does it mean to bear witness in the years since Y2K, since 9/11? What does it mean to be a producer of images, a silent subject, a maker of noise? From the tops of high-rise skyscrapers to the depths of mine shafts that produced the stones that gave birth to America’s tallest buildings, Wagner looks and listens to the emergence of new palettes in our natural and digital landscapes, to the new modes of being that bring us to the limits of human experience, and to the new human emotions that haven’t yet been named.
5. A BLACK GEL PILL I CAN TAKE INDEFINITELY
My mother pirouettes on her skate’s rubber stopper and glides backwards onto the floor. I clomp after her in my rentals. The dancers, who dazzle the crowd in sequin leotards under the disco ball, grab my mother’s hands and twirl her. With no amount of practice can I attain the grace she embodies. I grip the bannister and watch from the wall. Even as a young girl, my temperament is best suited not to the execution, but to the observation of kinetic beauty.
When the temperature drops, the fire department floods the town hall parking lot with lake water. It freezes overnight into a black tray of ice. A lone lamp on a telephone pole offers a meager spotlight.
Night on the makeshift ice rink: a capsule memory, a narcotic suspended in the soluble rim of my body. The moonless sky, the electric wires that ring the lamp, the parabolas of distant headlights, they harden, become more certain in memory. Beyond the curb, the chain link fence’s white quilt ascends from the irascible overgrowth; remnants of a snow squall crumble like sugar cubes onto the asphalt; and my mother skates loops in the center of all of it; my mother skates late into the night; my mother skates the shape of a question mark just beyond the halo of light.
In La Jetée, Chris Marker suggests that the images from our childhood that plague us into adulthood will portend our destiny.
In The Odyssey, Circe, Greek goddess of magic, restores Odysseus and his men to their authentic state: pigs. Hermes releases the spell, but only so that Odysseus can fulfill his destiny: the circular journey: the loop. Circe’s name is derived
from the Greek verb kirkoô, meaning to secure with rings or to hoop. Myth, too, tethers us to our primary sources of understanding.
I drink from the hose though my mother tells me not to. The water is so cold. It tastes like truth. It’s merely satiation. Please don’t tell me— Let me drink.
Copyright © 2017 by Jasmine Dreame Wagner
Jasmine Dreame Wagner is an American artist, poet, and musician. She is the author of On a Clear Day (Ahsahta Press), a collection of lyric essays and poems that asks the new millennium’s most essential questions: What does it mean to bear witness in the years since Y2K, since 9/11? What does it mean to be a producer of images, of silence, to be a maker of noise? From the tops of high-rise skyscrapers to the depths of mine shafts that produced the stones that gave birth to America's tallest buildings, Wagner looks and listens to the emergence of new palettes in our natural and digital landscapes, to the new modes of being that have brought us to the limits of human experience, and to the new human emotions that haven’t yet been named.
Wagner's first book, Rings, won the Kelsey Street Press Firsts! Prize, selected by Elizabeth Robinson. Hailed as &lquo;powerfully exercised, technically masterful, and encyclopedic in its scope” by Publisher's Weekly, Rings uses and abuses formal verse to investigate digital culture's fascination with urban ruins and the effects of climate change on natural and manmade landscapes. Wagner is also the author of: Ask (winner of the 2015 Slope Editions Chapbook Prize), Rewilding (winner of the 2013 Ahsahta Press Chapbook Contest, selected by Cathy Park Hong), Listening for Earthquakes (First Runner-Up for the 2012 Caketrain Chapbook Contest, selected by Rosmarie Waldrop), Seven Sunsets (The Lettered Streets Press), and an e-chapbook, True Crime (NAP).
In a review of Listening for Earthquakes, Colorado Review champions "Wagner’s masterful skill in bending and breaking the rules" and her "musicality and dramatic verve." Her poems have been described as "powerful and emotionally vivid" by Poets' Quarterly and "a pleasure to read aloud" by Examiner.com. "She continually slams our heads with powerful words and images," writes Thurston Moore in his column, Bull Tongue.
Wagner was raised between New York City and in the rural backwoods with a love for music and multi-disciplinary art-making. Impose Magazine describes her home-recorded, self-released record, Searchlight Needles, as "a long-playing lullaby that detours into night tremor noise interludes." According to The Onion A.V. Club, her recordings demonstrate " a feel for her influences' primal sweetness and creepiness." Wagner has performed her original music and sound-poetry collaborations with Charlie Rauh and Sondra Sun-Odeon at The St. Marks Poetry Project (New York, NY), CMJ Music Marathon (New York, NY), free103point9 Wave Farm (Acra, NY), HM157 (Los Angeles, CA), Charter Oak Cultural Center (Hartford, CT), and at the Olympia Experimental Music Festival (Olympia, WA). Her poems and cross-discipline practices have earned her fellowships, grants, and residencies from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Summer Literary Seminars—Kenya, and The Wassaic Project.
A graduate of Columbia University (BA) and the University of Montana (MFA), Wagner lives and works in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Aufgabe, Colorado Review, Fence, Guernica, Hyperallergic, Indiana Review, New American Writing, Verse, YETI Magazine, and in three anthologies: The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press), Lost and Found: Stories From New York (Mr. Beller's Neighborhood Books), and We Like It Fast: Writing Prompts and Model Stories from the Editors and Contributors of NANO Fiction (NANO Fiction). Wagner is currently at work on a short film with Jonathan Schwarz and a solo record for voice, chamber orchestra, and jazz quintet.