Saturday, August 04, 2012
To Trouble Eternity
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
We were returning once again
From having tried to reach the villages.
It was impossible with the rain and the hail
Storms. There were great winds as well.
We lost two horses on the seaside cliff trail
And almost lost Ramon as well. He said
The wind lifted him back on the trail.
It was four hundred feet to the shore below.
We were told that night about the Veils.
They were not ghosts but they had no bodies.
They looked like sheets of rain but with the form
Things of the world take, like men and animals.
They are not angels. They often help us but
They cloud our eyes and we begin to feel in ways
We have never felt before. They seem to enjoy
Strong weather of any kind and grow larger
In the presence of danger. They are nearly
Impossible to see. They have voices that are
Simultaneously loud beyond hurricanes and tornados
And yet are heard as sweet whispers inside the head.
We were told it was Veils that took our horses,
That lifted Ramon back from a deadly fall.
They trade one thing for another. They are mistaken
For miracles. They have songs and are able to carry
Fire far into the deepest woods and keep it hidden
Until a perfect moment.
We were told not to fear the Veils but to learn the
Songs our people have sung for generations to them.
They could hear these songs and would recognize us
As more than wandering spirits or companions of death.
They will hear us and protect us if we sing these songs.
They trade one thing for another. We must discover the other.
THE CAPTAIN WAS LYING TO US. FLOWERS DO NOT
SING NO MATTER HOW VIOLET THE SLOPES
THEY GROW UPON. ‘DO NOT ASK QUESTIONS.’
HE SAID. THE MORNING SHIFTED A BIT
TO SHOW THE DARKER BLACKNESS THAT LIE
JUST AHEAD OF US. WE HAD BEEN FIVE
DAYS ON THE BOATS.
They hammer sheets of gray lead
Over the entire surface of the earth.
Next they will tell us that we live here.
This is the homeland. We will have
A name tomorrow. We are told
Not to expect it to arrive
Any time soon. They show us how
Steel can be made into many forms.
They expect us to play guitar, clarinet,
Piano, a music written by the tides.
The city reaches higher and higher.
They want a power they think we have
Because we have the ability to read.
Before we can react the water
Is up to our ankles. The distances
Become very vague as if most of the land
Were a thick, drying muck that
Is most difficult to walk upon.
The sun keeps rising and setting, rising
And setting. The entire place something useless.
There is no reason to be tormented
By such a landscape. We will live here.
People will come from great distances
To speak to us of our poverty.
We will show them the rusted gates,
The worn paths to cathedral-like
Buildings that seem restless in their
Architecture. We await adjectives that
Will help us describe the moments,
The days, their imagined repetitions.
It was never as we expected it to be.
Initially, it had appeared as the blue
The oceans had laid claim to so long ago.
So perfectly clear but with a sense of not
Being able to see at all, a miscellany of legends
Bound together to resemble fine steel but unable
To find its own way. It depended on our hands.
It was totally unaware of itself and of us.
Certainly it was to be used to take life from
Things, living things, not moons or stories
Or history for that matter, but it could change these
If it found them alone or strung out on some voice
Bound to flesh and willing to give up everything
Just to be discovered centuries later as a footnote
In a book about the sea or the defeat of, at best,
A down-at-heels empire suffering from insomnia
When the sharp edge was introduced and could
Be forced to sink into a great death.
We had the pyramids, which were certainly not
An illusion and they were ruled by swords. Even
Islam itself and the Great Norsemen all saw
Themselves armed with the sword and always
Terribly frightened by the unknown. They wanted
Eternity but had had no lessons in it and so did
Not obey any order but their own. Campfires on
The deserts or upon the cold of blasted plains,
Drawing maps with the tips of their great blades.
But we had come here late. Few of us could speak Latin,
Read the sagas or the ancient books. We had only been
Playing at a war that started long before we discovered
Ourselves here; pulling the swords from the sand, out of the
Ice, the mud, standing in terrible rains. When the rains
Finally stopped there were thousands of us standing
Together on an endless plain, all armed with these
Weapons, praising nightmares, building hells larger
Than any empires. We had arrived much too late.
We believed the swords to be ourselves and not other.
We live in the hollow of a dream, constantly killing
Each other, constantly weeping for losses we cannot
Understand, unable to find the words that would wake
Us, to find the curve to trouble eternity with such a simple
Desire as the understanding of a single word: peace.
A LIQUID WING
A liquid wing as song heard forever
Even if we had no recollection of how
Or where mythology began to devour us.
I began to walk away from all visions.
I could still smell blood. It
Reminded me I was nearing
Seventy years of age and truly knew
The agonies men espoused. My own
Hunger was seated in a half-light
Where it stared out at the
Corridors thrown up like mausoleums
For the unremembered.
I thought I might be dead,
But I was not. I had just
Descended past what I knew
When Ulysses explained about Hades.
The lions walking up and down
The banks of the river.
I could finally see myself among them,
Walking with them.
THE SONG OF THE SOUTH
South of the doors of desire,
South of the gargoyle claws,
South of a need for breathing,
South of all the outlaws.
Hooked through the mouth hard while dreaming
Waiting inside the machine
Placing our freedom in bottles
Trying to keep the house clean.
Believing in voices of angels
Standing on the tips of our toes
Looking to find a new doorway
Stopping to burn all our clothes.
Remembering where we have come from,
Breaking the locks on the doors
Speaking the smallest of whispers
Searching the far distant shores
I’ve tried it all over and over
The results are close to the same
I’ve changed all the relative homelands
They’ve left me with nothing to gain.
I dance with the midnight beside me.
I dance with the heat of the sun.
I speak with the voice of the angels.
My work it will never be done.
...for William Blake
I was unwound. I speak in tongues.
The deep trains begin their low
Distant chanting far away, oh so far away.
My sister enters covered with flocks of birds.
They are brilliantly colored
And do not harm her. They
Are her songs. They carry her
Voice high into the heavens.
We slide into a vortex unable to determine
Surfaces of the ocean from its depths.
Angels of light transform us.
We try to laugh but it is impossible.
We are feeling too much at one time.
Even as we walk the streets
Thousands of things are being born.
They will transform the world
Before we reach the parks.
All around us they begin to eat
The animals as quickly
As they are able. It is never
Enough. Gunfire begins.
‘Proceed in an orderly fashion to the exits.’
The fire trucks are heard coming closer.
Someone picks up a guitar.
Someone else a drum.
We begin to make music, to sing.
We hope the song never stops. We promise
We will never be asleep again.
Originality is not seen in single words or even in sentences. Originality is the sum total of a man's thinking or his writing.
—Isaac Bashevis Singer
—Photo by D.R. Wagner