The boy—ten or twelve—was begging roadside,
shirtless, to show the still-bleeding wound.
Shot in Kampala, he said. He accepted a ride
to a clinic, where a doctor cleaned & bound
his torso each day, for three days. He was gone
the fourth. A villager said it was probably
because he was healing—he was on his own,
& a disfigured beggar makes ten times the money.
I understood it was something you had to nurture.
And yet, like Curie’s beloved radium, something
that poisons you as you tend it, carry it, measure
it. Like a pearl, or a garden, if the jasmine & hyacinths
are killing you, if the daisies’ lovely white teeth
tear a morsel of flesh each time they breathe.
Mark Wagenaar is the 2015 winner of the Juniper Prize, from UMass Press, for his second book The Body Distances (forthcoming spring ’16). His first, Voodoo Inverso, was the 2012 winner of the University of Wisconsin Press’ Felix Pollak Prize. His poems appear or are forthcoming from The New Yorker, 32 Poems, Field, Southern Review, Image, & many others. He is the 2015-16 Halls Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison & a doctoral fellow at the University of North Texas.