—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
There is the window
That sees the whirlwind.
But we will not look
From this window. You
Will only see the marching
Men in endless procession
Down from the mountain,
Through the villages and towns,
Across the river’s mighty flow
Then tumble from the high cliff edge.
Water, white as snow and green
As rocks beneath the rapids are green.
Do not guard yourself against
This vision. It will do no good.
I shall hold your hand in mine,
Lead you down the stairs away
From this great window and we
Shall walk through the parkland,
Away from the horror that boils
Above our heads, for here we will
See the weather, feel the rain,
The enchantment of the snow,
The green of plants that grow.
THE SMALL LOVE POEM
If the poem could get any
Smaller it would. It wanted
To whisper into her ear
The way love poems were supposed
It held a tiny light. The kind
A rabbit might hold
If it were going to announce
Something truly wonderful.
If you looked very closely
You could see the tiny flame
That never fluttered. Never.
I left it there in a break
In the trees at the side
Of the hill. It looked quite
Perfect where it was
With the night around it
And its being love, after all.
I had been called into the house.
When I entered the room
I glanced out the window
And could see the poem
Fluttering in the late air.
It was small, so small
That one might claim it wasn’t
There at all.
“Everyone runs the risk of
being the first immortal.”
But I have bones I wish to shed,
Make a crown with some of them,
Make a shrine with others.
Place my skull upon a stump,
Make a crib of piled ribs.
Some to hold a candle,
Knuckle bones carved to make a die
So that we may gamble.
Pile the spine against a wall
Lest it might go rambling.
The fine wrist bones I’ll use for chalk,
Kneecaps to skip on water
And click the leg bones
One, two, three, to waltz
The quickener's daughter.
The clavicles I’ll paint bright gold
To look like angel’s wings
And we can dance around, around, around
The ossuary, bow to time, be merry.
HOW CAN I FIND YOU WITHOUT A MAP?
I did not think that night would come
And that I would be the only one
Still looking for you this far from town.
I am the son whose father wears the crown.
I rule the animals here, talk to them
Strike fear unto their hearts
Merely by walking here.
You know, all of this is not true at all.
It is only a place to begin. I first
Describe a place I can fall
From and not find myself afraid
That the poem will hide from me.
I watch the sky but it too is no map.
I have been here since Carthage,
The daggers that dissolved an empire.
My words are still talking to images
Incorruptible but tedious with the
Dread of the oceans, undertows and tumbling,
Names that no one understands
Any longer. I hum songs to help
Me find you. I believe that they are maps,
But they are not. They are hands
Like MacBeth had hands and confuse
The finest of incense with sulphur burning.
This is no way for me to find
You again. I will spend the night
Under an ignorant moon begging
Memory to tell me even your name
Once again, but it will only sing
Parting and Death and the Knight
Once again. Eternity goes on
Watching me forge my own maps,
Laughing as an echo. "You will not
know. You will not know... You can
Not even explain your being here.
You still believe that this is all waiting.
You still believe a kind of map will be revealed.
You are willing now to believe anything.”
THE PERSISTENCE OF SENSELESS VIOLENCE
What if we just walked off?
Became figures seen through rippled glass,
Became the distant call of gulls above the headlands?
Parts of song we were once sure
We knew the words to.
Details in old Italian folk tales where
A king had three daughters or a comely,
Handsome son who really understood
Kindness? Sliding away from the easy
Memories, the sound in a minor ninth
Chord walking straight into lonesome
With its hands in its pockets.
There were still lights on when we crested
The hill. The village looked like someone
Had carefully lifted it from an old book
For children. The smoke from the chimneys,
Real candles in the windows and the
Snow, totally unmarked as if no one
Ever walked there, angel breezes
Inventing laughing. We checked our guns.
We could probably blow the whole place
Away in less than half an hour.
We started down to the village.
We can’t wait any longer.
Already the frogs are having Spring,
The clouds are loose in the palaces.
There are places where
We have been told the
Sea encloses and allows
Only the finest of breezes
To cross. The sands are
Golden and purple.
Towers rise around us even
As we speak.
We must hurry.
History has reached its limit.
I am building a cathedral here.
It will soon be finished.
The windows will be made
From dreams spun up
From the streets around
The building. You will only
Be able to see it at night.
There is an altar of error,
There is an altar of truth.
The mysterious will invade
It, unaware of itself
Because of the huge flocks
Of multi-colored birds
That fly in the interior
Forming statues of the saints
In mid-air, for hours
At a time.
Tigers have been seen in the choirs.
It will always surprise us.
People will bring their memories there
Calling the place Geneva
Or Edinburg or even Venice.
This side altar
Is always being rained upon.
We listen to Mass under
Umbrellas and hear the
Thunder of the storm
High in apse,
Thankful for the moment.
Choose something golden.
Remove your shoes.
Today is going to be your day.
Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.
—Jorge Luis Borges