—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
We can hear the bridge coming
Down as we leave the village.
It is night, God, is it ever night.
The moon hiding just beyond the hills,
Half dressed and frightened looking,
For all its shadow making light.
We can hear the great stones crashing
Into the river, first slowly then
Quickening and insistent.
We’re not coming back this way again.
The horses begin to paw the ground,
Shake their heads and shiver in the air.
We will take the horses and leave
As quickly as we can do so.
The smell of death is everywhere.
We didn’t cause the war.
We can’t help it if we need to eat,
If we need to live and the women
Were so lovely even as they huddled
Into the corners of their ruined buildings.
“Thou shalt not kill,” someone says
Almost under their breath.
Listen to the very power of the words.
Anyway, Steps is our Seed of the Week.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
A house of refuge for the rudest, most hopeless little vagabonds of beggary and vice
Those boys whispering together—
what they’re up to. Not yet ten years elapsed
in their child-lives; incorrigible
thieves and pickpockets; blackjack,
back alley jobs. They’d huddle at night
against tenement-steps as the first
snowflakes fell, or with pigs
in a farmer’s sty.
Look at them now. What are they
whispering? Someone has given them
a barren plot of ground and a hoe;
enough vagrant space for a garden.
They’re whispering a plan.
There used to be, before anyone who
Is alive today can say they saw it,
A space behind the American Falls
At Niagara, a cave where one
Could go behind the sheet of water
And see it falling directly in front
Of one, without dying, inches away and return
To the world to tell others about it.
Today one can still go to the foot
Of that fall and hike up the Hurricane
Deck in yellow rain gear and get slammed
By the water pitched over the edge,
On its way to the Saint Lawrence
And the Hudson and the far Atlantic.
It is all so overwhelming, living in crystal
Jewels, deafened by an insistence of power
More than can be remembered. There was
No current, just light or a dark
That was never still, an emptiness
That is in constant motion.
A moving void full of voices
Greater than the choirs of angels.
The world was never so beautiful.
It was speaking and understanding
At the same time. A wall taller
Than the imagination, full of wild things
That contained eternity and yet offered
It freely to anyone who took just one
More step into the greater mind.
I listen to you, far away tonight
In your room alone, picking out the words
From your trove and holding them to the light
Before choosing to put them in their rows
So meaning can find fell methods to
Open a vein to the soul, full of caring
And feeling from all that rips past,
Pours past in a vertical wall just at
The edge of our understanding, so one
May feel it without dying immediately
And return to the world to tell others about it.
Anything, let alone deep feelings.
The streets seemed too full of people.
The countryside was hurt and much too old.
When we stood on the edge of the road
The landscape seemed to shake as if
It were nervous that we should be there.
Our arms hung at our sides, knives drawn.
We really didn’t want any of this.
We were tired of the constant drum of words
In our ears, our inability to make sense
Wherever they were concerned.
We wanted them gone. Perhaps then
We could have a good look at him,
The place he finally decided to confront us
After all the traveling, the tracking,
The hope that we would see him
Directly before us like a sign
Where his life streamed out behind
Him in a clattering of moments tossed
One upon the other, not even trying
To make sense of each other's presence.
All about the night was starry laden
Walking through the fog about our feet,
The sky so clear the eyes of night could feel
Into our coats and cold light, light our flopping
Hearts as only weather does and we were out for weather.
Tenderly we spread our flesh together to exclaim
The lucid spray of unanswered messages coursing
Across our eyes in meeting each other and are
You the one? or did we hire someone to dream
For us and leave us alone to find these roads and chance
Encounter one another in someone else’s dream.
Would we even understand the place of such a scene?
Would we strip each other naked and pull at our flesh
For pure sensation or find a place of worship where
Few have tread before and names have not yet
Been made for what would happen there?
Waiting. We are merely waiting for the time to come,
For the ropes to be untied, for the hands upon our minds
Guessing what it is we wanted so badly we found
Our way here, not knowing if that is true,
We venture up the hill and crest it just as the moon
Is rising and we can see the others gathered below.
Faith and passion, full of their own manifest and singing,
Yes, singing the songs that lovers sing in languages
They do not understand but grasping anyway for the
Pure water running from the words, spilling into the
Night as obsession cleans itself on these blind hearts
Emptying the river of imagination into the million things
We choose to call ourselves when these masks are
The ones we wear. Craving blindness yet pure visions
We begin the overture once again, all in readiness.
Whatever is broken will remain so.
The universe does not know when
We decide things like broken. It
Just continues to move without regard to
Names and degrees of importance. All is
Equal here. This time I am equal to you.
I will tell you what to be concerned with
When the night makes that noise it does,
Telling us we have no right to be here.
Sparks fill the atmosphere and join our
Language as words of compassion or damnation.
There is no regard for the fact that we might
Have family or that we might be in love with
Someone who is quite important to us. No
Rules here, my friends. The herds of migration
Have no trouble flattening the trails toward
Water or a safe harbor away from the teeth
The sea brings to our voyages there. You
Can place bets but chances are I will have
Sex with those you love and you will have
Sex with those that I love and when migration
Is over we will have no memory at all. Everything
will be the change. Everything will be old again.
We will have no memory except that we once
Could dance. There are sounds, of course.
The great composers play with our libidos
As with flutes or double reed bassoons. We
Will delight at the tickling the tongue makes
Across the reeds. We will think each note
Is special, is ours alone. It is not. The great
Symphony moves into our loins and our minds.
We are lucky if we can remember who wrote
The theme. The memory for music is always
The most difficult to possess.