—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
His face gave nothing away,
Maybe a couple of small wrens
Hanging upside down from the fine
Branches of a birch tree in Winter,
Dining on seeds, but that was about it.
At any moment you may be given
To understand something that
Will push darkness aside and
Allow all to stand on the upper deck
Totally stopping the infinite,
Plundering it for even more ideas.
Wandering deeper and deeper
Into the labyrinth, hands in
Pockets, whistling a South American
Tune, expecting nothing, watching
The great power of the waves.
We went inside, put some water
On the stove for tea, a perfect moment.
THERE IS A TIDE
I rode its liquid bore
From the darkest part of ocean
Up through the river’s core
Where water, rushing, turned
to black and I turned to the shore.
But there was no thing to greet me,
Not a living soul to meet me
As I struggled to escape the flow
As I struggled hard and sore.
These tides they push into the heart.
They rip its banks and rend its cloth.
They doff the spirit from its loom.
They cast it down into the gloom.
They take the stuff that drives the froth
And pound it to a seething broth
Then pull back to sea again, a cross
Of currents, fast and toss it out to sea.
And Katy says she hears its call
And Taylor says the night does fall
To cover all and hold in thrall
The spirit of us caught upon the squall
That pulls us to both waterfall and wild sprawl,
Pulls us back into the sea again with the smallest
Gifts of words, then ebbs and turns to drag
Us back again, again, to drag us back again.
THE THROES OF DESPAIR
(for Alvaro Mutis)
The town lay dying on the edge
Of the river flowing black, flowing dark brown,
Shining as the widow spiders do, teardrop
Abdomen, reflecting red as its hourglass.
People were begging door to door.
In a back room someone was shouting
Orders but no one seemed to care.
It was like a dog barking against
The street, a lethal eruption with no one
To notice it. These streets know infection
All too well. A stage lit up.
“You boys aren’t going anywhere soon,”
A voice said. It was saturated
With a ferocious conviction that
Didn’t seem to be directed at us at all.
We let it float by, a companion who
Had forgotten our names, dissipating his
Passion in bad ideas and somehow feeling
We must be responsible for all his doubts,
Perplexities and dull memories.
We excused ourselves and went outside.
“I can’t stand the noise the living
Make,” said Lev. Three gray birds
With brilliant ruby patches on their
Wings shot past us as we disembarked.
“We call them clock birds because
They tick when they are eating the
Purple fruit that grows high on the
Trees. Keep your eyes on them. You
could learn something if you’d care to.”
After a while this all begins to look
The same. I’ll wait for you at
The end of these words and we
Can travel a bit further together.
I’ll be going away from the sea for
Awhile. You might enjoy the journey.
The jungle is so different and there
We will be unable to have an agenda.
SILK AND THE HEART AND THE WARS
The long fires are coming down
With no songs before them.
They seek rooms in the heart
Where the doors are small,
Where the transparency disappears,
Where the weeping can be heard
Even before a parade of trains begin
Their haunted night music.
Nothing can disturb the dead.
All these changes are within
Our skulls, which is why these
Wars have such giant heads. Deceit
Is worn close against the skin.
You will hardly know it is coming.
What do you believe in anyway?
Do you feel the silk in these words?
I will draw them over your wounds
To try to stop the light from pouring
Out of you as if they were that song
Before the fire, as if they had ripped
These holes in your body, not the wars
At all, as if it were not
Your heart’s doors closing.
A puppy comes toward us, to see
If we want to play with it.
After walking and walking I found
Myself on the edge of a great forest.
For awhile I watched the meadow.
Many small animals played there.
But I wearied and found myself
Asleep in the shade of the giant trees.
I have come far from my home.
I hid in a drive-in movie theater
In the night and let the great
Screen leaning against the sky
Be my light while the sound came
from hundreds of speakers. But I,
I became afraid when the screen darkened
And the sound ceased to cover the
Desert and I called my uncle,
Telling him I had run away because
I did not want to be a man,
That my father was dead,
That my brothers and sisters would
Expect me to become the father now,
That I was only a boy and that this
Was a terrible thing. He put me
In his car and took me across
The miles of desert I had walked.
When I awoke the forest too was just
Waking up. I seemed to melt into
The trees, knowing all their ways,
Remembering all their seasons,
Looking at them staring at the
Great rains and the lightning and
The fires that swept through here
Yet they had survived. They dressed
Me in leaves and I stayed with
Them for many years.
One day my brothers and sisters came
To the forest and saw me dressed
As a tree, living in the great forest.
“Come home,” they said “You can no
Longer stay here. We are grown and
We have missed you for so long.”
I loosened all my leaves and shook
Them free, I thanked the forest and followed
My kin back to our home.
I never feared again.
DON’T FORGET THIS
We agreed we would tell them
Nothing. This would be the only
Way we could make this work.
The highest communications tower came down first.
The others followed, almost a dance.
We could see the jungle try to hold
Them up. Little purple flowers
Floated down in clouds. They
Looked like swarms of souls.
We will never be comforted.
Love would weep. Next came the thrones,
Crashing to the ground. Small animals
Running from them into the wound in the trees.
Something truly wonderful built a star
From snow and fire and horses made of water.
“Follow me,” a most beautiful wing
Announced. We were ready to go.
Someone began crying. The light began
To tear apart. We stepped
Between the explosions, our faith flashing.
God knows I've done enough crap in my life to grow a few flowers.