Saturday, March 21, 2015

Only Travelers

Motorcycles on Main Street
—Poems and Artwork by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


There are many way this poem can go.
There are always small fires
That seem to contain
The special secret of what
Makes a poem a poem.

There is the passing from room
To room as if searching for something
That one can touch and not
Blister the fingertips
With, an unknown phrase
That inspires a situation
Finally, not worth repeating.

There is our being on the road
Again together, not knowing
One another until it is quite
Late and we depart the bus to gaze
Upon a sunset behind a diner.  The night
Crowding in before we can really
Get a good look at it.

Or the space in front of the fireplace
Where the shadows have an important
Job to do, but are more interested
In a Pavane or an adagio that
Has nothing to do with our presence.

Sitting on yellow pillows telling stories
To one another with the agreement
That they will not be true but
Will seem so because of our
Wanting each other’s bodies so
Powerfully we cannot bear to
Mention it.

We climb into the car near the end
Of this and close the doors.
The city is below us, spread out
Like someone hit by a vehicle
That could not stop at all.

We rush to the lights, discussing
All the possibilities death presents
In trying to convince us that it
Is gentle and really doesn’t want
Much from us as it shows us maps
Made up of millions of lines.
"Pick one," death says, "any one."

We cannot see the lines very
Clearly in the dark
And swerve across the road,
Hoping we can negotiate the
Next turn without losing traction,
Or the beautiful glow we see
In each other's eyes.



Let us remember what we have seen.
The ghost of a tramp steamer
Wandering near Arcturus
With a black crew of drowned
Sailors, each with a story to tell.

The dim white light of the North.
The sun not rising until
Almost ten o’clock, then disappearing
Again just before three.
In the afternoon we stood
Watching the Godafoss of the river
Skjalfandafljot on the Diamond Ring Road,
Thinking the falling water contained
The souls of so many lost,
Because of the sound of the cataract.

A private dawn when time
Unraveled itself so deeply within
The heart that the heart itself
Was allowed to escape,
Only to be found broken,
Almost unrecognizable,
Still weeping over a kiss
Given so long ago that, for a moment,
One thought perhaps
It wasn’t our heart at all,
But some lost mirror,
Harbored in a sleep we had found,
Only to realize its skin
Was our own.

We crouched next to it, gazing
At it as one does great strangeness;
A labyrinth of reflection
That showed the paths of long migrations
In the meticulous lines
One sees in maps and in the indexes
Of treasured books.
We recognized our own compass,
The wind choked between
Mountains, a wolf howling
At the passing of the moon
Behind thick clouds.

All we can think of now
Is the open sea.
We strive to keep an order
To our wandering, to our
Hands meeting and holding together.
The islands.  The beautiful fruit, golden
In a long-ago paradise rife
With great birds, memorable days.

Finally we give up on the causes
Of all these things and return
To an imagined order,
Cobbled together from skies
Full of clouds and flocks
Of calling birds in a terrible
Hurry to reach an imagined horizon.


            …for Alvaro Mutis

She came into the room
With the moon tucked
Under her arm.

Her fingertips were dusted
With that blue, yellow, gold
Rubbed from the moon.

“You can’t keep that,” I said.
“Ah, but I can,” she said.
“I will and I shall dance upon it.”

Stars shot from her mouth.
I clamped my hands over my ears
So as not to hear.
I could feel the tides
Calling as they moved through me.

I made a grab for the moon
Just as she was about to dance on it.

It wobbles across the room
And we are both chasing it
As it heads for an open window
With a serene imposing dignity
That ones sees occasionally
In the unvanquished; a certain
Uncommon re-ordering of reality.

For a moment, it looked to be
Made of marble.  It quickly
Mounted the sky, cheered on
By the voices of night.

I could see it illuminate
The spider web
She used to trap our precious moon.
“Now look what you’ve done!”
She says reaching into the night.

The seas rise in approval.
We are once again only travelers
In the service of great mystery,
Its amorphous light, its myth,
Its epic wonder.

 Action Figures


"What is that impossible mess
Down there below us?" he asked.

"It is the order of events that were
The articles of many lives.
The dead keep them here for us
In case anyone wants to use them

"But they are now dead.
Why would anyone want
To use them again?"

"There must have been a reason.
Are the waves of the ocean
Dead once they break, or do they become
Parts of other waves, used over and over?"


            …continued from last week.

Ramon took me to the room
Where the child had died.
There was a small fire still
Smoldering in the middle
Of the floor.

No, he hadn’t said anything,
But he had made some figures
With his hands that had caused
Ramon to weep.  His cheeks
Still looked damp in the dim light.

"Do we know who brought him here?"
I asked.  Ramon shook his head no.
“He was sitting in the room
Like a little Buddha.
He had obviously come a long way.
His clothing was no longer white.
He had come to see me,” Ramon said.

“He had your coat and
The hat you gave him
At the house of the prisoner.
He kept moving his hands like
Whenever you handle
The winds.  He knew he would
Still exist in your mind.

I tried to teach him but
There was a liquidity to him
That death brings when it wants
Its memories back, a dark
Border collecting gloom
That didn’t ever have a name.

When he left Naples
The child had said very little.
His voice was like a moving
Stain covering meaning with
A specially prepared cloth
That could be wrapped around
The head almost like a turban.

He talked of the noise time
Was making and said it he must
Go on ahead.  He would meet
Us when necessary.

We knew he wanted us to go
Down from the cliff top
To meet a small freighter
Painted a faded pink
And blue.  We knew which
One he was talking about.

We had been there three days ago
And the captain had gone
Up to the green station where
He was unloading a lot of weapons
We had never seen before.

'This will stop the wondering,'
He said upon seeing us.
'It is what you’ve been waiting for?'
We nodded and helped unload
The ship.  It took almost all day."

Christobal had seen the child
Arrive and went immediately
To Ramon to tell him.
He was very weak and near death
When Ramon met him.
He wanted us to open an aperture
So he could make some final
Calls before he had to
Completely discorporate.

Ramon took the fire and put
It in a box and removed it
From the room.
“Find him a wind,” he said.
“A true one that will run the Atlantic
And find the Southern Islands.”

I went to my room
And waited until I could
Find such an air.

It was fair above our homeland
Currently but the wind would arrive
Within an hour or so.

I put the box with the fire
In the accession circle.

“Come,” I told Ramon.
"We are not to watch this."

We went to have some fermented tea.
By the time we returned
The box had gone and the
Circle smelled of green pastures.
One could almost hear birds singing.

                    …to be continued.


Today's LittleNip:

I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.



—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for this morning's delights in the Kitchen!

Palm in Flower