Saturday, February 08, 2014

Poetry for the Dead

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


It looked like an idea, but it was not attached
To anything.  It looked more like a mantis,
Rising up on its back legs, partly spreading
Its glassy wings and extending its grasping
Forelegs to the sky.  It did not want to have
Anything to do with whatever we might have in mind.

We were crouched down in a ditch that ran
Along the edge of the buildings.  There
Was little light but someone had managed
To build a small fire inside one the buildings.
The light flickered importantly but there
Was little for it to illuminate.

Any time now, certainly before morning
Would have anything to do with us, the
Tanks would begin to roll into what was left
Of the streets and the battle would start
Again.  It could barely be called a battle.
The guns would fire but there were seldom
Any targets, just dissolute and indulgent
Volleys of heavy artillery and clouds of smoke
That meant nothing.  We were there to put
Some kind of end to this senselessness.

The edges of the crescent moon looked
As if they had been sharpened recently.
Ramon said that we must release a thousand
Golden birds just as the sun rose, begin
An amplified chanting of one of the cloud-
Calling songs and open the rain as wide
As could be done at that hour of the day.

By noon the tanks were gone. Whatever
Troops had been assigned there were gone.
We had no idea where they had gone.
A huge and dangerous silence spread
Before us in all directions.

We will wait for the birds to return,
Ramon said and so we did.  The sun
Began using swirls of colors that looked
Nothing like battle.  The buildings began
To look as if something could live there
Again.  A sweetness came with the rain.
We could speak our names again.
The birds returned in stunning murmurations
Signaling to everywhere that ideas could
Once again flourish and that we were free
To ask any questions we wished.



We had gone into the forest a little farther
Than we had desired.  An ambit perhaps
Farther from the spirit than we had first suspected.
The way the score for a piano sonata stretches
Out across the pages, full of mountains of notes,
A scribble of notes, suggesting landscapes
Full of clocks and women moving clouds
From one part of the sky to another, first
Quietly, then more quickly, vanishing
As they are passed and filling the room
With their ellipses and deviations.

A scraping of a bow across a violin,
Bright as glass and born of the same fire.
We began to see through this ticking of the notes.

We cleared our throats, crumpling our saliva
Against our ability to express ourselves,
The words unhooking, allowing
Various parts of speech to come undone
From their high and deadly purposes
And wander through our eyes into another
World.  We searched for shapes that did not
Appear as waves, but there was only the endless
Shoreline, strumming across the forest edge.

Now a blue jay, now a hawk, now the moon,
Nearly asleep against all this language,
Falsified by our being here and supposing
We might be the center of this kind of heaven.

Our palms sweated against the lucidity of the silk
This dream might have, its convenient solidity,
Obvious as heartbreak against the maroon
And deep, deep olive with which the place
Surrounded us.  Still, we might dare to find a way out.

There was a path, as certain as dew might be.
That is the way we finally decided to proceed.
We would never speak of this again.
It became a kind of poetry for the dead.
We, a captured presence on the horizon
Of our own perception, walking with our hearts
Full-out and leading us toward our own kind,
No longer willing to be any part of mystery.



In dealing with the object itself
The edges disappear but still show the form.
All during the train ride I was unable
To be certain of anything I was seeing.

People seemed to float by, propelled
By glances in whatever direction they
Were headed. I could sense the change.

A season passed through my body
So quickly I thought it was a chill
Or a weather front I could only observe.

I was no longer innocent.  None of these
Things belonged to me at all.  One realizes
One can not posses some things, Clear
Blue icebergs, an archeology of changing
Emotions seen in the self as elder scrolls,
Something it was possible to achieve but
Never possess,  a gift of skin to feeling.

Near light, the exact rock where we gaze
At the sea and are filled with an understanding
So much larger than anything we are. Our universe
Turning in all direction making rooms within us.
We remain cool and solitary yet still we are home.



When we reached the cliff edge
We knew we were being seriously
Pursued.  We could hear the metallic
Tongues of our peculiar, puissant enemies
Close behind us, lured onward by us
‘By a syllable without any meaning’,
A ghost, larger and more dangerous
Than could be conceived by any image.

We eased ourselves over the edge, gripping
The underside of the ledge with our fingers.
We ceased our breathing and excreted
A glassy, almost transparent shell over
Our bodies like a molted insect’s husk.
It was without form, myth-like in its
Construction birthed from our own selves.

We clung to the underside of the ledge for
Hours as one after another the heart-shaped
Demons, as in some half-sleep, were unable
To discover our place, a secret literature
Hidden deep in a poetry that refused metaphor,
What we were, or even our cloud-like presence
As anything recognizable.  This place, a shelter.

Later, we still had the trees, the grass, the clouds
Totally untransformed, a well-woven blanket.
The same wind blew through our hair, making
The same sounds we were accustomed to hearing.
Much like these words, ordered to reveal
But unable to do so as if they were stars and could
Only remain fixed in heaven, nearly invisible
To one, but with a force very much like a law.

Jade Plant by the Sea


Why did you come here?
Was it for the trees, the lords
Of the forest that hold the wind,
That hold the animals, that guard
The mountains, that are their dreaming,
The carpet of the dawn.

Carelessly tossed aside and opened
To fire.  Whose fire is this anyway?
Did you let it in?  Have you seen
The way it walks across everything?
You’d think it was man
The way it messes everything up
As it rages and fumes as it explodes
Across the fine air of the high places.

I watch the children run to see
The morning.  Is there anything more
Lovely?  Is there anything that
Stops the bloody hands and the
Snapping guns better than a morning
Filled with children gathered on the
Tops of the hills.  Hell, they don’t
Even hear the bombers high
Overhead with their steel eggs.
Someone take them home again.



The circus intermittently illuminated
As if by the light that visits us
When the danger has passed, but is still
Close enough to our blood that it
Chills and releases us, chills and releases.

The wagons clank by.  We want water,
Its sound, its taste, the feel of it
Upon our faces as it pours from
The sky, tears of the sightless who
Sit in the presence of the most high.

Some of the others had gathered by the waterfall.
As the sun was going down they lit
Lanterns and began to move in the ways
The old dances described, lift to the sky,
Step.  Bow to the earth.  Step.  Make the sound
That conversation has when most
Important things are being acclaimed.

There will be a way that is safe.  We
Continue our circus well into the night,
Until the children fall asleep one by one,
Until the rain slows, until it becomes too dark to see.



He took the center out of the morning
And sure enough there was his heart,
His own beating heart and he simply
Looked at it and watched how it pulsed.

The chariot slid into the town square.
No driver.  The horse was a chestnut red
And had friends in the other animals
That lived near the square.  They came
Looking for him, eager to stand with him.

Oh that it were true.  Oh that the land
Could carry the brightest of encounters
Without the noise of that gray city sluicing
Its filthy hands over everything, dividing
It all up into hate and murder and starvation.
On and on as if it were a deck of dark playing cards.

We have no quarrel with whatever you may believe.
This story, disguised here as a lovely poem, could
Care less who or what you choose to call God.
We can see the way the sky is put together,
We can feel the sun on our faces and know
That when the storms come, they too will
Bring all manner of mystery, a million screens,
The loveliness of the labyrinth, the glint and glimmer
The mirrors toss across the teeth of the great beasts
Who watch us knowing we are more than the angels of heaven.


Today's LittleNip:


I saw you
In a dream.

You were dreaming.