Saturday, April 04, 2015

Finding Other Words

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


I always knew I would see you again.
The mind makes quicksilver.
It lives in our pores.

The sky above Albuquerque.
Fire coming from anthills in flame.

A ring found on the mesa.
The figures on it somehow ancient.
"Made in Japan" on its inside.

A screen at the drive-in movie
Shows a war going on somewhere.
The edges of the picture flashing silver.

We run from our homes shouting
Curses at situations in the form of people.
To touch your skin was to bruise it.

We lie on our backs looking
At the sky.  UFO's were seen near
This place.  We all saw at least one.

When I pray, things link
Without reason.  What to say?
What to ask?  Does one even ask?

The hands clasped together to pull
Everything together.  It doesn't work
Most of the time.  Finding stones.

We think they are of great value.
They are stones.  Some have lines
Upon them.  Some are even blue.

I wrap this around myself,
Wear it like a belt.

 Pansies on Stairwell


When I spoke of the night
I was thinking of you the whole time.
There were animals running in the street.
I could hear the traffic sounds.  Hymn-like,
Describing the air in horns and brakes.

I thought that train sounds were singing.
I did not know.  I thought they were music,
Rhythmic and full of dark whistles,
The drumming of a million souls, a yearning.

A blanket of lights covered the city.
They shifted with the hours,
Undulated with the winds, blinked off,
Blinked on, reminded me of your eyes.

I thought it was your hair.
I thought it was your eyes.
I thought it was the stars,
Come down to earth to spin

Their tales once again, of the changing,
Of the way your lips move on mine,
Of your breathing in full midnight,
Of the sleeping, dancing the dreams
Through our bodies, touching our
Green hearts, our god-like souls again.

 Wooden Duck


This one is for the caged hearts.
The crazy ones trapped inside of love
That is unconditional, pacing the floor
Unable to understand the whys of the beloved.
The ones beyond dreams and fantasy
Where the entire field is wild with longing.
Desire in its high boots splashing through the blood
Stream, wanting to touch and embrace but unable
To even move the hands from the sides except to pray.

The ones where morning never comes,
But hangs by threads of flesh slightly out of reach,
Holding all that is precious with the teeth, making
One unable to speak clearly without falling into stupor,
Drunk and enraged by whips and cold chains.
Waiting endlessly for some sign, some warming
Where the breath holds a kiss or a word that says
“It’s okay.  Everything is all right.  Don’t worry.”

Without being a joke or a cruel twisting of the language
Into confusion and a drowning in memory
That removes the beloved even further from the moment.

Let us pray, says the flickering light,
The waking in the middle of the night,
Cold and unrested, listening for footsteps,
Wanting them to come closer, yet fearing
Them still as one would a pack of mad dogs.

 D.R. Wagner, Eva West, Mikey West, Stuart Walthall
at the Max Raabe concert in Davis with the Palast Orchestra
April 2
—Photo by Alison Wonderland, Sacramento


In the concert hall the house
Lights dim as the pianist takes
The stage.  The breath quiets.
The music begins.  Something
By Liszt from his travels; he is in
Italy, an everyday occurrence,
The Angelus, declaring the work
Day ending.  We are transported.  The
Music remembers only a few moments
For us.  We must imagine all else
With sustained notes, shifting phrases,
An understanding that this is not
A program, rather his simple observation
From a privileged room in the Villa d’Este.
We assimilate this music.  Later we are
Unable to recall any one part of it.
It is already the time of supper
In the railroad yard earth.  The hot-
Shot freight trains are like comets.

In the music of Debussy an entire
Cathedral sinks beneath the sea
Until it is no longer visible.  This
Happens at the changing of the tides.
It too is a daily occurrence.  The piano
Music becomes this event for us.  It
Seems as if Debussy found the sounds
While walking along the seashore.
Perhaps he did.  The light slants as
It reveals the architecture beneath the waves.

Time and again Chopin pushes us along
The edge of the evening; the moments when
The visible world gives way to what we are
Able to retain of its presence.  In some
Corners the light quickens for a moment
Before it quits the objects.  In others, a
Kind of glow holds day's end to itself in
An unexpected way.  It feels like kisses
Feel when there are many, continuing
Even when we open our eyes, a dancing.
The window stiles and mullions collect
The last brightest lights just before the melody
Is forced to change.  We are able to hear this
In the repetition offered by the left-hand patterns.
We believe that these visions are real and so.

Bach’s keyboard music shows us colonnades,
Ranks and files, the daylight through sacred
Spaces, announcements.  Beethoven never
Allows us out of his rooms.  We delight in
How sunlight touches each object, how it
Describes every detail and its meaning.

In the late morning we begin to understand
Mozart once again; why he is always with us
Despite time and changes.  The garden looks
Perfect this time of day, the morning glories,
The dahlias forever impatient, alyssum, fragrant,
Unexpected and calling attention to everything
From marigolds to zinnias.  Excursions to all
Places without leaving the yard, Vienna,
Paris, London, Leipzig, Stuttgart, all present.


Here it is night time, almost one o’clock
In the morning.  Electric lights show me
The manner of the keyboard.  I tap upon it
Hoping that music will leap from each touch.
In the other room I am able to hear indistinct
Music rising from the television set.  I imagine I am
Able to compose using each second, each inference
Light offers to me at this late hour.  I know the truth.

 Alleyway in Locke


It’s the edge of the night
On the edge of the town.
Even the moon’s out of sight.
There ain’t no one around.

And that night reaches up
And it curls 'round our soul
And from far ‘cross the slough
Comes a dark, dark as coal.

And it swirls through the air
And it curls around Locke.
And it holds on to the night
Like the hands do a clock.

And it won’t let us go.
And it opens the door.
And the dreams come to power,
And they pour ‘cross the floor.

There is magic around us.
It can call us by name.
And we answer from dreaming
With voices like rain.

Keep your hands on the rudder
And your eye on the road.
Keep your heart in the moonlight
As it flies 'cross your soul.

And it won’t let you go.
It will remember your lives.
It will open your dreams
With a cloud made of knives.

So we spill 'cross the Delta.
So we toss in our sleep.
So we wake in some morning.
All we’ve sown we will reap.

We will reap all the quiet.
We will reap all the lore.
We let history own us.
This place is our core.



Dreams like tar
Refuse to even understand
Themselves; viscous and barely flowing,
I open them with the edge of my knife.

They are sectioned like oranges
Are sectioned, beautiful
Through a semi-transparent skin.
Able to see the juice,
We weigh them in our hands.
We call it the equinox,
The washing of the feet
By Jesus before he suffered.

The paste of oil returns
Leaving dark crescents beneath
Our fingernails as reminders
Of our deliberate actions.

Sometimes I touch you as if
My life depended on it.
You become magic because of this.

I speak … as if the tar were to speak:
“And making of her arm a wing,
She drew the sea about her.”


Today's LittleNip:


He pressed the flat of the sword
Against my neck.

And I moved on the face of the waters.
The words moved against my mouth.

Will you sing the song
Or have you made your lips
Find other words?
“Shadowy fingers on the curtains
At night.”

Somewhere down below,
Things that once were wonderful
Bubble in a kind of night
That is unaccountable
To all who were there.

“What is that we are part of?
And what is that which we are?”



Hell's Rabbit (silkscreen by T. L. Kryss)
Cover of Dorsey/Wagner: 24 Poems from
Hydeout Press, Cleveland, OH
Available from