Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Staff That Holds All Music

Morning Sky
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I have a relationship with the stars.
It is something we contrived long ago
When anything was possible, before
We could even consider if animals
Could talk, or trees or even the planets
For that matter and that did matter.

I would include the stars in as many
Things as it was possible to include
Them and they would include me
When music was to be made.

Time has obliterated anything
We were once capable of discovering
With the edges of all other creation.
All that remains is a vague glow
That is still my luck to discern.

When I sleep, the trappings of my
Memory might show me a legion of stars
And indeed I am accustomed to their shapes
But now I must poise myself on the edge
Of oblivion, still faithful to the
Common dreams we once shared,
Still eternally bound to their numbers,
Their names, their infinity of beauty,
Still my obsession.  But I am no longer
Part of that eternal sea where
Their music is entirely my own.

I find it now in dreams,
All the appointed places still seen
Upon the staff that holds all music.

But it wanders through my body,
A strange, barely successful
Landscape, found mostly in my poetry
Where I stand unwinding the labyrinth,
The communion of saints,
The words always complicated
By an anxiety of purpose
That may or may not be music to you,
May or may not be the stars at all.
Everything still looking so eternally real.


—D.R. Wagner

I don’t think I should be allowed
Out of doors after the sun has set.
Certainly not when I can see the stars.

I recognize the night for what it is
And it urges me forward, past
What is real, to angels, to remote
Whirlwinds nourished by mythologies
I barely understand but am able
To realize as a mirror of eternity.

And smack there, in the yard
Or in the fields behind the house
Comes an idea that the landscape
Is gilded at its edges, an evening,
Made entirely of gold that will
Never change except for the play
Shadows so blissfully use as conversation.

I should just close the book,
Stop trying to find what kind of instrument
I am. Why these huge ghosts?
Sometimes entire galaxies of them
Prepare exquisite doors for me to
Anticipate what death might be wearing.

Will it sing like a nightingale?
Will it not really belong to me,
But be other, part of another
Matter and I will be caught
Outside looking at the stars again
When the entire adventure ripples,
Magical and massive just that
Far away from me when I
Truly should be paying attention?

I expect nothing.  Frail and yet
Eternal I will stand at the ramparts
Waving to some approaching shadows,
Shouting to them, thinking they
Might be my friends.


—D.R. Wagner

I thought that August would stay.
I know it never had in the past,
But this year if felt like it had
Something to do and would remain
Longer than usual.  Perhaps to count
Something like after a battle,
When soldiers go out on the battlefield
And collect the dead, counting
Them, sorting them, trying to identify
Who these dead men had been
Or what really happened there
After all.  The clouds of flies,
Of course, the smell, everywhere.

But this was not August at all.
It was his mind loping slowly through
Days hoping there was something that would
Totally capture him, quicken the pulse.

The sun seemed to have little to do.
The days were hot.  The sky blue.
A beautiful blue to be sure but only blue.

Because we turn our lives into words
We have the fortune, good or bad,
To have our pockets full of as many
Moons as it is possible to imagine.

And we need not be able to identify
Them at any given time.  We might
Use one accidentally as a quarter
Plunked into a parking meter without
Thinking what that could mean,
Or toss it high and watch it curl
Itself into a dragon that troubles
Children as they try to sleep.

It is always ours to use and use it
We will.  Then one night, when
Everything is still and we are heaping
Words into the flow of night after
Night and employ it as a unique
Device that makes everything fit,
We look up and there it is,

Hanging there in the night sky,
White and fickle and without a name.
We create clichés to bind it to our
Foreheads, glorious and sublime
As we try to name it, as if we created it.

This became a game of moons,
Of myriad descriptions of moon,
Curving or smiling, endless variations
That seemed to have import but
Were always within reach.  A search
For an unknown name that would
Still convey the single idea: moon.

But it was not a place to dwell.
There was no magic in August,
Like one day when perhaps
That giant wolf we had heard about
So long ago would come and indeed
Slay the moon.  But it was not to be.

I dragged the boat down to the water’s edge.
It seemed golden under the reaping moon,
Something unknowable yet familiar.
I laughed at the strangeness of the moment;
August was going quietly.  It was glorious
But it was finished and September was
Right on time.

—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

We brought out the good thunder
To the edge of the edge of the meadow
Where the elms are still incredibly tall
And over two centuries old.

We could ask it to dance and we did
And it did and the sky split.
Hey, hey, the sky split and
Our lips split from the yelling.
The blood had a color never
Seen elsewhere.

We brought three horses there,
Fire in their eyes, and begged
The palest of the blue riders
To mount them and circle
Us faster and faster until
We could see the Western Lands
Rise from the sand, until we could
Come to believe all the stories
These ancient gods could tell.


—D.R. Wagner

Even now the terms are dying.  They are
Suspicious of time.  And rightly so.
Time nibbles the edges of everything
To fulfill its murky omnipotence.

We become unable to recall simple things,
Tremble in the yard like thieves
About to be discovered with the treasure
Of nights and days.  Time will sell us pain
As a miracle, the senses as lasting forever
And we will not know how to address it.

Others will see it in our faces.  We will
Read stories of the lives of others,
Thinking we know them, or that we knew
Them and we may well be correct.  We will
Not ask to continue here.  We have
Other birthplaces, other lives.


That image must be of a street
Crowded with others, as night
Comes to define the tenacity
Of the place.  We sit down
At an outdoor table at the cafe
And question one another.
‘Who are these people?
Why do they come to these places
At all?’


—D.R. Wagner

Just before we were able to remember
That we were not supposed to enter
The white caves we crossed the threshold
To having the ability to navigate in and out
Of a dream state at will.

If we could know we were falling through
The air we could catch ourselves there,
Choose exactly where the air could take us,
Either higher or into the teeth of the thing.

This allowed us to bring our lives to the edge
Of the immortal, tear the skin away from reality,
Allowing us to feel the arrows or not, no longer
Afraid of nightmares or of finding ourselves
In situations where we might come to harm.

But we had entered the white caves.  There
Only words were true.  There was no life without
Them.  We were not breathing but found ourselves
Looking through the letters on the page, seeing
Ourselves captured in them but unable to live
Without the windows they have come to provide.


Today’s LittleNip:

—D.R. Wagner

My fictive life so guarded from itself
By strenuous histories so full
Of myself I barely recognize
The shore when it appears.  I throw
Myself against it, imagine I am
Far above in a black castle, watching
Starlight reflect upon the blank
Mirrors I have recalled from
An even more improbable youth.

I fall asleep to waves crashing,
Cannons firing, the frightened
Cries of men whose faces I would
Never see see, hovering in stories
I will never be able to more
Than imagine.  Their perfect loyalty to me.


—Medusa, who notes that the Fall issue of Convergence is now online at  Look for work by Gale Acuff, Im A Bear, Myles Boisen, Doug Bolling, Holly Day, Karen Greenbaum-Maya, Anara Guard, Patricia Hickerson, Erren Geraud Kelly, Pete Madzelan, Rebecca Meredith, Allyson Seconds, Nina Sokol, David Thornbrugh, and Brenda Yamen.

D.R. Wagner and John Dorsey at the Shine Cafe
Wednesday, August 22
—Photo by Lisa Jett-Gallup, Elk Grove
[For more photos of the Poetry With Legs reading,
see Medusa's Facebook page
for a new photo album by Annie Menebroker.]