—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
There, right where the clouds are
Coming apart, see, it’s blue, a perfect
Blue like drowning or almost drowning,
When the stillness comes upon one believing
You have made a wish, trying to convince
You that it really has something here,
Something you will want. It will teach
You to remember, so it says, so it says.
I trail my fingers in the river as the boat
Moves down the river. See, just up ahead
The night is putting that cloud in our way
So we think that it is dressing. You point
Out the stars and we do not notice that
The sky has turned completely black.
I start to weep but you tell me there will be more
Stars shortly and perhaps a moon. Swarms
Of insects fly around the lantern you have lit.
“Don’t worry,” you say, “They will not bite you.
They have only come to see the light. Soon
They will fly to the stars.” I don’t believe you,
Deciding that this is all a mirror and I am on
One side of it and you are on the other.
Finally, nothing is reflected. I believe I can
Hear you breathing and gaze hard at the glass.
It is like we have been cut in half and no one
Has noticed this, least of all ourselves.
I begin to sing you a song. It is very beautiful
But we do not even speak the same language
And you are unable to know what is being said.
The moon is about to rise. You hold my hand,
Point to the dark at the tops of the trees
Where it is just coming into view. The clouds
Make it look red for awhile, then an intense yellow.
Right then: We decide we both have been dreaming.
I FEEL LIKE MIDNIGHT
The keen edge of a blade opens
The corners of my mouth and steam
Works my face. My eyes close again.
I am the labyrinth of oblivion.
Emptiness is my show. Nothing
Is the road I tread upon knowingly.
I am blind as blind as music
Caught on the night’s arc and tracing
The contours of my face, the skin,
The quietness of a room filled with
Milton and Borges listening to Blake
Open and close the doors to the rooms
In his house. He rumbles from
Room to room referring to them as clouds
He has conquered, perhaps happy, perhaps
Not at all. All of this is a gray wilderness.
I crouch in the corner hoping to hear
At least a few words burning bright
In the forest of the night.
They brought me a dinner plate of broken glass.
I could see the ship offshore
Signaling with lights. The wind
Began to speak up, tossing white
Birds across the top of of cliffs, pushing
Them very close to the ground. They made
Screeching noises and tried to arc toward
The seawall or the shelter of the trees.
An old yellow freighter moving in front
Of our ship suddenly burst into flames.
The sound of the explosion reaching
Us seconds later, an afterthought
The destruction no longer cared to own.
These Italian seaside villages perched
High above the sea seemed so far
Away from the conflicts. A bell
Called Angelus and stopped everything
for a few minutes.
“And she conceived of the Holy Ghost.”
The rosy boys sat down next to me.
“Are you going to eat that glass?’ they asked.
“No, I answered. It was mirrors
I called for my dear friends.”
“But this is the mirror,” one of them
Said, sweeping his arm across the scene.
“I’ve had better dreams than this,”
I replied. “I am outside here. I was
Previously never outside. I feel I am here
Only because someone else could not
Use this space at this time.
It is no more a mirror than the
Night is a mirror to the day.”
By the time night had settled in, the
Freighter was blazing away without
Sound, throwing light on the wave tops.
We could hear music coming from a tavern
Near the edge of the harbor.
“I think we should get down there,”
I said “They may need our help.”
The plate of glass glistened slightly
As we lit our torches.
It has been three days since
These events occurred. We have
Seen no one since that time.
When we reached the harbor
There was no one left at home.
The music had stopped altogether.
We slept there only one more night
Then slipped back into the forest
Pretending to be the rain. Within
Half an hour we were the rain.
We continued for almost a week this way.
TWO GHOSTS TALKING
We forget that we were breathing.
Those same evenings pull their shadows
Along behind them and stretch them out
Against what remains of the light.
Sitting down on the curb, you light a cigarette.
The smoke is barely a color any longer.
“Remember when we used to come
Here on those clear days in the Winter?
You would talk about the great hunks
Of ice moving down the river. You
Said it sounded like a symphony just out-
Side of hearing, but should we
Draw closer a whispering, grinding,
Cracking would replace the music we
Could hear from the top of the gorge?”
I admitted I did say those things and thought
About them for many years afterward.
Now that the city has all but burned
Down I had forgotten them,
Forced to think about getting food.
Keeping warm, and having a safe place
To sleep had moved the music away
From me. I could still hear the ice
Complaining as it always did.
"I just wanted you to know that even
Then I could hear the same thing,
But I thought it was just you riding
Inside my head, like I couldn’t
Have thought like that all by myself.”
“I always suspected you did,” I said.
But the night had arrived and I
Could no longer see you at all.
Just the red eye of your cigarette.
“Why tell me now?” I asked.
“Now, because I listen to the streets,
No one lives here any longer. No dogs
Barking, no birds singing. It is so
Quiet I can hear that music
When no one is there. Except tonight
Here you are and it’s night and we no longer
Have any real bodies.”
THERE MUST SOMEWHERE OUT THERE
Crushing stars with my hands.
Dust settles on the window sill.
From far away we can hear the
Breathing of great armies.
They gather the clouds to the horizon.
We can only stand and watch as
They bear down on our small parade.
Some time in the late hours
I tell you that I love you.
You hear me but think this
Sounds like the wind only.
The rain begins. I shove the
Stars into my pockets. The rain
Soaks through my trousers,
My pockets glowing, green and red.
Sparks collect on my tongue.
There must be somewhere out there.
I search for your hand and we move
Toward the buildings. I hope all of time
Can have this aspect about it. Touching you.
Morning has long hands filled with rain.
Its mouth is full of hissing
Down the street, dull gray reflections
On duller window panes.
Morning here is like morning in
The mouth of fog. It becomes
Hard to tell what one is going to do
With such vast grayness, such
Sameness fondling the day.
Load up the car, drive away.
Every city looks the same.
Everyone’s name has the same
Tonality, a breakdown of fiddle
Music and flat picked guitars.
A single gull carves an arc
In the mist. It is only visible
For a moment. One value exchanges
Itself for a lighter one, then a darker
One, fog moving close to the ground.
Then, finding no place to rest, closes.
You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success—but only if you persist.
Opportunity dances with those who are already on the dance floor.
—H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today's good taste and fine vittles. D.R., Katy Brown and Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz) have a new album, "Wearin' O' the Green", on Medusa's Facebook page, by the way, in honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow.
And the Poet Laureate hunt has begun again, with a deadline of May 12. For more info, go to sacmetroarts.org/poet-laureate.html