Saturday, September 01, 2012
Returning to the Oracle
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
ADAGIO: AUGUST AND THE MOON
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
When we saw how many fragments
The dream had shattered into
Over the night we thought that all
Had been lost. It was impossible to tell
What it had been just the night before.
The moon came up as usual
But it was a color we did not recognize.
We had been told that this might
Happen, but we were not prepared
For how peculiar it appeared now.
It was like the moon was thinking.
RETURNING TO THE ORACLE
We were already beginning
To forget the dream.
This was required for us to even
Have the dream. All the names you learned
Would change to bits of driftwood.
We would be hurrying away from the beach
Carrying our briefcases and talking
About how life had become.
You will already be dead by the time
It occurs to you that I may be
Addressing someone else, but I will
Continue to speak to you and I
Will tell you how clearly the oracle
Spoke to me this time. I watched
You tremble. You remarked on this.
“This is the intersection, then?” you said.
But I too was forgetting each moment
We were having. You were no longer familiar.
I had never been this way before.
We became lost looking for the place
Where we had parked the car.
SAVING OUR SKINS
They cut away the dermis that they might
Claim it as a helmet or a sword.
We behave as reptiles before a most
Uncertain fate. We promise to defend.
We do not know the names of death.
We do not recognize the fury of the devil.
The skies are carried away to make sails.
We have come out of the woods
To protect ourselves against these
Obscene dunces. We watch death
Dance with the night, the dawn,
Those long-ago nights, those events
That burnt at our eyes and moved
Us to dreams of the hero, but hiding
From ambush and unable to know
Warning unless destination was
Some kind of exit.
We swear to one another that we will ride
From this darkness, these ashes, and reclaim
Our own skins, but we are bound
By imaginary men who occupy our dreams.
They look like refugees from a Goya
Painting, a water clock of which we
Are the hours and swallow our time
As a kind of truth, plagued by lies
That scab this skin we seek.
Blessed are we in our quest.
Bring us the grace of knowing this is not
A personal destiny. For now,
At least, our understanding is a matter
That will be decided by a single lamp.
Let only that we may find a way home,
That I may finally recognize you,
Even if your skin may never reach
The glowing home of pure peace.
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
CLIMBING THE HILLS
A wash of those same birds
We saw almost a year ago.
Just the way their wing tips lift
Slightly, catch the sun, flashing
An unexpected iridescence back
Toward the high trail we are
Upon. We were as surprised.
There was a dark drawing that,
When looked at closely, was filled
With mysterious forms not quite
Recognizable, yet most definitely
There, almost reflections upon
What looked to be only dirty glass
From a distance. You pointed
This out to me just as the day
Was ending and sunset was ordering
Its last streaming of light
Through the place. It was hard
To concentrate on any one thing.
So I have come here again and this
Time it is an exclamation,
An insistence of small rose-
Colored birds lifting
As we climb toward the high lakes,
Above the villages. “See how it is up here?”
You say, gesturing toward the flight.
“Yes, I do. It seems perfect
Just now.” And perhaps it is, I think.
The shadows jumping to attention
Dancing after the birds as if looking
For a partner to carry across the night.
What, that we could look across the harbor
And still see the boat that brought us here
Steaming away like a black maggot, belching
Diesel and left over evening, splashing red and lurid
Blues all around the upper air. We would be here
Forever and we knew it. Someone lit a cigarette,
Passed it around until it was nothing as well.
We were not seeking. We weren’t even saying.
It was mostly that it was cold and we were without
Features now that night has taken the brush,
Painting furiously to get ahead of a moon that
Would be pale, almost green as it tried to overcome
The entrance hymn that night had prepared.
Somewhere someone began to play an old tango,
El Amanecer, I think it was. It felt like blood coming
From a cut wrist as it inched its way closer. If we
Hadn’t been distracted by the situation we
Might have tried to forget the little bird sounds
That filled its middle, but we were unable to do so.
Better to stay huddled here, away from all
Conversation, dedicating ourselves to leaving
Rather than looking for Albion. Pierre suggested
We try to dance. I took a long drink and stood up.
“Two step or waltz, tango or polka?” I bowed to everyone
Gathered there in the black and imagined they did so as well.
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
THE HOUSE OF COLORED LIGHTS
My teacher, who was Yqar called Stul
Or some say Misthub of the Silver
Lance, spoke to me of the great
House of the Colored Lights.
None could enter here as they once
Did in ancient stories, but are, rather, bound
To increase the seals upon these doors when they
Have been told of its stories.
The house was seen even upon the sea.
The great squid, the whale and the
Finny fish and the dolphins and
The great schools of mackerel.
The silver lightning of sardines were
Seen to bear it up through the waves,
The sea opening like a great mouth,
Its watery lights enchanting
The sailors so that they were struck
Dumb for years afterward and created
Dances to tell the tale of the house.
EDGE OF THE GORGE
And it broke on the tines of the fork
Of the moon and scattered the night
With stars. And it called the men
Home and made them recall
The sounds of the songs that they heard
At the wall of the world when
We all stood together, whenever we
All raised our voices, when we
Looked to the heavens to see wolves
Dancing. The Great River was burning
And the castles of night’s dome
Were light beyond magic
And figures of light stretched
Out to the dawn.
I think that you should go back
To sitting by the side of the well.
No one will recognize you there.
You will meet people who will be
Happy to love you and perhaps understand
Why you are still here, so late in the season,
Describing the leaves to them, telling
About the fickleness the winds adopt.
I stand by the edge of the gorge
Gazing down at the river. From here
It seems to move slowly with just
The easiest of changes as the water
Moves over the river bed all surge,
Sporting fifty-foot-high waves.
I raise my voice to the emptiness
Above the river, as only a fool
Would do. There is clearly no point
In doing this. Nothing could hear me
In the night. I can barely hear
The river. The wind knows how
To laugh. The traffic past
The Whirlpool Rapids also knows
How to laugh. I hear it come
forth in the voices of the gulls.
Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
—Photo by D.R. Wagner