Saturday, July 21, 2012
Dox Quixote and Those Purple Bears
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
FRAGMENT FROM THE HILL JOURNALS
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
The clouds were dark that evening.
Seen from the window they could
Have been thinking, brooding, but
Eventually the stars climbed to their
Places and waited once again for
The cool flame of the crescent moon
To remind everything its light touched
That it was the most powerful beacon
For this time, that anything the night
Might lack could be had in her light.
The table was already set when we came in.
The walk from the villages had seemed
Water had found its way inside my boots.
Making a squishing sound as I walked
To the bench in front of the fire, I removed
Them and began drying my feet with a soft blue cloth.
‘I am never coming that way again.
It looks too much like earth
With its meanness and killing.
I was struck with flying things more
Than a few times. The houses were
Hovels and one of them, near the
Cliff edge, looked to be in a state
Of constant flame but never
Seemed to burn. Flames out
The door. Those horrible people
Gathered round, all talking and
Gesticulating. I hate the way they
Talk. It isn’t language and
That horrible stench. God.’
Ramon poked at the fire.
‘You’ll feel better after you have
Had something to eat. This is
A safe place. No one has even
Ever heard of these white caves.’
I knew it was true, that if we
Had to be anywhere, this was the
Best of places to be.
‘I did manage to bring two of the horses
And there is enough food for a
Couple of weeks in the packs.’
‘We will send someone else
I rose, walked across the room
And sat heavily on the bed.
The next thing I knew, I was
Waking. She was kissing my lips
And making a little morning song to me.
‘You worry an awful lot too,’ she said
‘You tossed and turned all night.’
‘These wars will be over soon.’
I said, barely believing myself.
‘I don’t think so,’ she said.
‘It has been like this as long as
We have been here. We keep moving
Higher and higher up these cliffs.’
‘Come here,’ I said, ‘I will show
You a very special dance.' I rose
And bowed and began to move.
The smile on her face was better than
The dawn all that week had been.
A LATE JOURNEY
We passed the house of the avenging angel
With its parapets and ribboned trumpeters,
Purple and red-violet the color
Of their eyes. It was the hour
When dreams are captured, sorted
And released to the children born
To the damned and to those who
Wander. They are unable to speak,
Dress in cassocks and flowing
Gowns. They do not take bodies
Often as it is this dreaming
That gives voices to the winds.
We can see this in the eyes
Wild animals turn to us
When we encounter them in the forest,
Unexpected and interrupting their precision
We like to call behavior.
The stars wound round him, this lurid angel,
As the singing rose around us. Lights began
To go out as stars became the evening.
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
“SMILING AT ME AS THOUGH I MIGHT
BE VERY YOUNG." ....K. Patchen
I had my own room once.
No, one time, really. I’d listen
To piano music there and sometimes
Sleep. I had a special place where
I kept a candle, a tall one, that
Was as wonderful as a rainstorm
When it needed to be. Ha. Ha.
I guess I mean when I needed it
To be. Like this: ‘There’s bears making that
Sound outside. They won’t be hurtin’
Us. They just don’t know so much.
They have been walking all day. If we
Go out there now we can see them
Leaving the meadow. They were pretty
With that twilight on their fur.
They almost look purple.
Ever see a purple bear?’
A POISONED LITTLE ROOM
The chanting was coming from somewhere.
It had that lonesome-place feel
About it that clusters toward an Orthodox
Byzantine room. The soft gold glow
That time acquires when the sounds
Have almost disappeared. They are
Patched together like years.
A sense of compassion allowed
Itself into his eyes.
A poisoned little room
Cool with basso profundo clicks,
The kind vinyl used to make
When a needle scratched across
Its circular ruins, each song
Dreamed again and again.
Thick stalks of perennials peeled
Back to expose the pith and
A myriad of insects who
Were required to dwell there.
Today I would guess it was a kind
Of cursing rhetoric that could
Be heard and understood as a deep
Disappointment in a mistaken higher power
That lost its name just before one
Completely blacked out,
To wake up in a morning full of ditch water
And a kind of exquisite, misunderstood
Ecstasy John of the Cross might
Might have tried to describe.
Or Cervantes, in his study
Watching Quixote re-mount his horse
And totter toward the horizon still searching
When it probably only meant going to sleep
At that particular time so that he might
Continue writing in the morning.
But there still was that damn
Music that constantly needed explanation.
BEHIND THE MYTH
He always seemed to walk through
Things, never around them as if the night
Were a huge tangle of objects
Moving like a glacier beneath his stride.
And he would crash through
The surface with each step and
Plunge out of sight, reappearing
With the same crashing of steps.
Furthermore, he seemed headed
Nowhere. Our job was to watch
Him. After all he was our guide.
The old ones called him ‘our prayer’
And bowed to him when he would
Arrive late to the caves, cut,
Bleeding more often than not
And always mumbling about
Something he had seen in his journey.
We hardly ever spoke to him
Except to ask common questions:
Would you like more soup?
Are you bringing wire with you tonight?
Except for myself. I had decided
To talk to him as if he were
Not our prayer, but rather a kind of drunk
Wanderer whose job was smashing
Underbrush beneath his feet.
‘What is perfect?’ I asked him.
‘A lamp atop a three-drawer dresser.’
He answered. There are silhouettes
Of deer, squirrels, rabbits, foxes
Birds and the forest in its lamp
Shade. It is perfect,’ he said.
‘It is also only four inches tall.’
He wept and I could feel
The music of a piano musing
Well after midnight come through
His words. ‘What am I feeling?'
I asked, alarmed at this.
‘You’ve never been inside a poem
Like this before, have you?'
His eyes were suddenly the only
Light in the room.
‘Touch the walls here very carefully,
My friend. This thing just ends
And there is no bottom.
Watch what happens when
The words run out.’
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.