—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
There is a litany of the names of the saints,
Where we are unable to recall
The names of the saints.
Time after time we
Guess at them. None of them
Seem to work
Again and again we say
Names. They are always wrong.
They are, instead, the names of friends,
Of relatives, some long departed, others
Half-remembered. Their names roll
Off the tongue, easy as the phrase “pray for us.”
Like coming downstairs in the morning and
Asking if the coffee is ready yet. A simple request only.
The saints gather in the corners of the house.
Their voices full of praise, the names of all
The angels upon their lips, as if angels had memory.
Over and over again, we say these
The days pass.
We grow older.
We change our appearance
Time and time again.
Finally, no one recognizes us
We reside in photographs.
Our children say our names
A few more times.
We know what the saints know, implicitly.
A CERTAIN LOST GRACE
By chance I am not you,
Do not carry your name or
Call your mother my own,
But I do understand you, why
You would say what you say
About the oppressive heat causing
The transformers to explode in
A bright pink flash that
Could be felt across the skin
Yet still not be recognized
For what had happened until
The entire neighborhood lost
All electricity and bathed itself
Again in the old darkness now
Mostly unremembered except in
The winter coats dreams use
To ward off mistaken identity.
It is then I remember your
Mother and see her standing
On the corner on a late July
Evening wondering what could be
Keeping memory so long?
There was something here she wanted
So to recall but it disappointed,
Not knowing her again, without
Communication, without having
Any name she could recall.
Without a word she remarked
How different everything was this time,
How she would never know me,
How this place would always
Have this kind of memory for her.
THE SPARKLING DEVICE
That spills over the edge
Of the world as we imagine
Water or song made carnate;
Rippling with flesh and somehow
Telling tales the while. It is all
Discovery and the opening of the field.
Once again, decades later and still
Chanting Duncan’s admonition,
“There is no greater wrong than
To force the song,” a flock of
Yellow birds through dappled forest
Light, twitting and a flash of wings.
“Oh we have seen him there,” we swear.
“We have and leave off from our task.”
I stand and stare even further
Into the forest knowing that we do not
Know what lies there and knowing that
We must go anyway and find that
Water we imagined towering like a
Pillar and astounding the very stars
With its poses and quick stances
Saying our name and asking us to watch it churn.
THE EARTH FORGETTING
We watched the earth forgetting.
There were animals no longer seen,
Gems so brilliant they could create
Silence in the mouths of great kings,
The humming across Summer of insect
Joy, drifting their song above flowers
No longer seen in the draperies
Gathered by the seasons. Whose
Smile was that? and it is gone
Down the street, not part of
Memory at all, a flash, then nothing.
The music of a piano and a concertina
Wrapped in late evening and dressed in
Sharps and flats has gone dancing.
It will not come back. Perhaps
It will be mined from a lost manuscript
Far from now and be seen at eleven o’clock,
But for now, the earth has forgotten.
It is busy counting waves against a thousand
Shores, finding them unspeakably beautiful.
It watches the moonlight on wheat fields
Ready for harvest beneath a full moon
Wondering what color they are, how it
Might be called, if at all. There is
Always more. It forgets the leaves of
A thousand trees and waits for us to
Notice they no longer have names.
Our families stretch their blood lines,
Their nets of living and dead upon the
Days, one upon one and suddenly one
Is forgotten, then two, then an uncle
Who was last remembered by a niece
Many years ago because he offered her a
Lovely glass he had found in a small
Store in the midwest. “I believe that store
Is no longer there. Perhaps you will
Like this glass. Look, it catches the sun
As if it being careful of the light.”
For now we will sit on the steps just
Outside the house and allow the moments
To come down around us without purpose
So we might better understand the earth,
Her strange habits, her long, long thoughts.
THE ESSENTIALS OF THE IDYLL
It is sweetest right next to the sky.
Just before you cross the line.
The air is limpid.
The sea has forgotten
About waves for a few hours.
Words have tracks
As we talk. They look
Like tiny wrens, full of
Close shadings, a bright beak
Flashes; hard to see when
We’re in the woods.
Nothing has a surface.
We are inside of everything.
I was hoping you wouldn’t
Get this far with this poem.
I was hoping the images would
Continue on their own and make
A story for you, elicit a sensation
That would capture you,
Provide some transportation.
Instead, here I am alone
With you, amazed at the color
Of the sky, the way the breeze tricks
Its way through Summer,
The kind of quiet that working
Like this precipitates.
Before you go: one Summer when
I was about eight years old,
My father stopped the car as dark
Was coming. While the children and
my mother watched, he walked into a
Small woods near Lake Ontario
To catch fireflies for us to see up close.
The woods were a great flashing field
Filled with millions of lights, millions.
I have never seen anything like that
Evening ever since then, until now.
THE DESTROYED BEACONS
Hands from the sea,
lying here upon the beaches,
hundreds of them, some in
bundles, some in the guise
of rocks and small animals.
The starfish proves itself
to be two hands disguised
as an ocean. The swell and
drift of waves incites them.
They caress the body like
firm fire feeling and testing
each thing it eats.
Fire who eats and has
no body. The fire song
makes its motion
as fish move into
their spawning beds
obsessed with the idea
of hands, the wonder of
the flame in water and hands,
hands inside the body of the ocean.
THE THREE ODDEST WORDS
When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to the past.
When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.
When I pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no non-being can hold.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. for today's work, including finding the LittleNip for us. His photos are from a church that is in the process of being painting; hence the strange images with the plastic. Watch for D.R.'s new book-length book of poetry from Rattlesnake Press, A Limited Means of Expression, to be released on Weds., April 13 at the Lucky Seven Rattlesnake Birthday Party at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac., 7:30pm. Watch for more details as we celebrate both National Poetry Month and Rattlesnake Press's seventh birthday!
P.S. Our condolences to Davis Poet Laureate Allegra Silberstein, who was in an auto accident this week. She's a bit battered and bruised, but otherwise okay.