Saturday, February 21, 2015

Naked Like Yesterdays

Geisha at the Foot of the American Falls
—Poems and Needlepoint Art by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


Where have they left us this time?
There are cartons of photographs.
I recognize no one in them.  Are they yours?

The water around the place has rainbows
That look like oil slicks on puddles, yet
It is the sea that surrounds us.
We are indeed on an island.

We can see some small fires in the distance.
They appear to be on the other side of the island.
Ramon said it is only a sea fog burning off, but I
Can see flames.  Maybe some of us aren't here
For ourselves; perhaps we are here to shelter,
Nourish others?  I began to feel an astonishment.

Ramon filled his pipe with a meticulous
Lack of enthusiasm.  I wasn’t happy.
I wasn’t feeling brave.  I knew we could be
Anywhere we wanted to be at any time.

I recalled Wallace Stevens telling us that
perhaps "The greatest poverty is not to live
In a physical world, to feel that one’s desire
Is too difficult to tell from despair.”  I did not
Want to cross the island.  There seemed
To be no reason to do so.  “We can just be
There,” Ramon said.  “We do not have to travel.”

A thickening of a dream membrane?
Someplace where I walk out of your dream
To find myself lying beside you in a bed,
The Winter sun streaming in through the windows.

I listened to the voice of the sea. 
The forms of the clouds kept changing.
Sound seemed to come in perfect rings.
One could walk among them for great distances.

The landscape began to look like oily paper.
“Don’t make me regret coming here,” I said
To no one in particular.  These lines are indeed
Crashing around me.  I am not the center
Nor am I centered.  I can feel the shape of a coin
In my mouth but my skin remains warm.
“We are almost there,” says Ramon.
“Here take my hand.  You will feel less
Like a Kaleidoscope and more like
You are finishing something important.”

The smoke was much closer.  We could hear
The voices of those gathered around the fires.

 Maid of the Mist


Always the bridges are too long.
The castle gate too is aways locked
For fear of wolves, of which he has seen
A total of three and it is Winter and there
Is little enough to eat anyway without
Blaming the wolves for lack of game.
There are more than enough deer.

They are easier to kill than taking
A castle in the middle of the night
Just for a lamb or two anyway.

Still they keep to building
Gates and close roads to the castles
Themselves rather than make anything
Easier for a pilgrim or a traveler on a dark night.

To make things worse, Lent has started
And an ecclesiastical state of fasting
Has seized the faithful, making beans and gruel
Gross features of the purple season.

“Domine non sum dignus ut intres sub tectum
Meum, sed tantum dic verbo et sanabitur anima mea.
Suscipiat Dominus sacrificium de manibus tuis ad laudem
Et gloriam nominis sui, ad utilitatem quoque nostram, totiusque
Ecclesiae suae sanctae.”

“I suppose they meant castles,”
He tells himself.
The wind has picked up.
It is too far to go to reach a friendly door.

He curls up into the lee side of a snowbank
And goes to sleep dreaming of the angel choirs.
In Spring the bones are pure white and have the scent
Of roses about them.  The clothing is very simple.
There was a rosary and a small cup for begging and drinking.
The local bishop builds a small pilgrimage church on the spot.

He is given a name and plunked into a litany.  There is no gate
On the chapel and it is kept warm in the coldest of Winter.
He is the patron saint of wolves and travelers in a storm.


             for Maqroll ‘el Gaviero’

I can no longer determine which childhood was mine.
I can see the precarious structure upon which dreams
Are made.  I can see how truths bear
The mark of the incommunicable.

I was watching you stroll along the pier,
Glancing into the water, lifting your eyes
To the horizon.  Here, in the North, the days
Are either too short or much too long.

I squeeze the colors between my fingers.
I will paint the midnight and it will be full
Of horses, gifts of the moon, a brightness
I will not be able to hold in my arms
As I once held you.  I too watch the surf,
How it seems to have a language,
How the waves tease at its back,
Making the conversation impossible to stop.

Someone has come to me in the night
To sell me memories.  They are cheap.
They can become your own by reading things
Like this.  “What are you feeling?” they ask.

I swear this happened to you when you were
Only four years old.  Why, your mother herself told me
It was so.  That screaming has been torn from
A throat no longer able to speak.  You can hear
Them wash upon the shingled beach, a thousand
Voices.  Any of them could be yours.

Tonight, I will stand near the bow and watch
You walk along, above the water, thinking
Whatever it is you may be thinking.

I have a photograph of you doing exactly this.
It was taken years ago.  See, you look so young.
Do not fear any encounter.  Look, the birds turn
And wheel above your head.  They too are memories.
How many do you need?  How foolish I am to ask.

 American Island


Little breaking sounds
Around the edges of your smile.
A ghost of recognition buys a ticket
And boards a train to the lava
Fields of northern New Mexico.

Come here, you can watch
The plane going down, engine
On fire.  Mike Todd framing
The shot seconds before the
Sky and the ground become one.


A couple of years later my scout troop
Finds some airplane parts in
The snaky lava beds, but we
Are looking for rattlesnakes.



Does it matter if we find out the meaning?
This is sand we are walking upon.
The ecstasy is our eyes
And the echoes they toss
Back and forth.  We can
Wear hunger like clothing
And no one will notice
We are naked like yesterdays
Swept beneath the sword.

The lacerations on Sunday morning.
I will watch the battles for you.

I will tell you when they have become dust.
I will sit in the garden behind the myths
Flashing as your lovely light.

I will be your child,
You will hold me
To watch me breathing.



Niagara Live Burial