In the lands roughly
to the north, the men
with silver kites
live with their angry women.
They lay upon the soft
skin of the beaches
and whisper names of
gods long dead to one
No one comes near these places.
They look filled with evil.
Even birds do not speak of it
to their children or of the
ceremonies of blood and dreaming.
We came to these shoes
as strangers, challenging
the bearded natives with
kitchen knives and automobiles
that ate the road as they went.
No one believes, here in the sixth
generation removed, that those
who rode their horses were alive
and cut themselves on sagebrush,
spoke with such light in their
mouths that steams gave up their
cities and once, ten thousand cattle.
At some point he had reached the limit.
He still had his sword.
There was something ordinary about his dreams.
It seemed as if the seasons changed every day.
He dreamed all of the primary colors.
His faith got a loan from the morning.
He promised to repay it in bird songs.
Insomnia began to have a particular diameter.
Twice he saw the original Adam.
He was driving a car.
His body became rhetorical.
He could see dynasties in the faces of strangers.
Suddenly he knew the names of every dog he saw.
He realized how the pyramids were built.
A terrible fear that being would never cease
He realized there was a mistake in
The making of every afternoon.
He could see the wolves inside of every building.
Nostalgia had a boat in the harbor
But it had serious holes in its hull.
There were flags flying over every city
That were the color of skin.
He saw great tapestries celebrating wars
That had yet to happen.
Viking ships could be seen on all the horizons.
There were many clouds, but none of them
Were recognizable in any way.
TALKING TO THE STARS
I was selling fireworks to the stars.
They have no home. They were happy
To see me. They asked about piano music.
They said it had been so long since they
Heard any of it and that last night the moon
Was so silvery and golden that they remembered
How beautiful it could be. I noticed that the stars
All wore rings on their fingers. They told me
It was because they were married to so many memories
And carried them in their flaming hearts.
They told me that the Night had problems
Of its own but never grumbled. That wasn’t
Its job. They laughed when I said it kept
Things hidden. “Just like crows,” they said.
Most of the stars live in trailers.
It makes it easy to go from place to place.
I’ve seen them in lover’s eyes and whirling
Around the head of cartoon characters
And tugging onto the fishing lines of
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod. Poetry
Is loaded with them. They love the attention.
FROM ANOTHER OBSERVATION DECK
The caves moved
their mouths and
he imagined stories
they had to tell him.
Once the elder ones had moved
their leathery forms in and out
of dark veins and pumped themselves
through arteries as though their body
was our body. They drank the cool
evening looking out from fingers and
watched the seasons warp into each other’s
long arms from behind eyes that we call our
own. Carefully, like climbing mountains, he
seated himself in a soft chair and tried reading
a book. The elder ones read for him, words
blurring, and the dark chambers of his body
revolted and spilled down his cheeks as tears.
Oh caves where loving
is an activity of children,
and blind men rove the streets
buying and selling. And quietly, so quietly
he felt he had never heard it, the
long caverns whispered in the wind
and from their throats; from his throat,
there rose a laughter quite unlike himself,
quite like himself.
CROSSING THE RIVER
And still he smiled.
The clouds hung
red then violet,
the blood drifting
through them stretching
the sky inside them.
And still he smiled.
The fish swam into
of his head and waited
unblinking, the water
rushing past above them.
And still he smiled.
A huge bear grew in his mind
and began tearing at the brain,
his eyes clouding over, skull
bursting, the dar fish
caught in the heavy hand of the bear.
THE GUY WHO WENT HOME BEFORE THE PARTY WAS OVER
He said his name to himself
and took a small stick up
from the ground, carefully
touching every part of his
body with it. His body felt
like something he had once
had a dream about. The eyes
of coffin gods turned in their
small radius and leaned their
pillars closer to his mouth.
It will come, darlings. It will
sound like talking to you. It will
wear its hair in perfect braids
and have a whisper like a gun.
"You will reach out and touch
everything you ever owned
and it will be so much straw
in your rotten mind."
Angel of the good in man, send
your packages of blood and dying
home. Send us something
we can learn from. War is such
an old toy, such a stupid trick
to pull on the gods that we are.
“You dumb schmuck. Nobody in
their right mind would run off
at the mouth like that and not
expect a boot heel to match
a spot in their face. What’s
the matter baby, is this train
of thought too much like crying?
Is the sound of people in the
streets too much like being
You are all angels, so don’t
don’t get hung up. Start reaching for
a man here forgot
his lunch bucket
and it had to ride
the bus home alone
with an empty thermos
bottle in its one arm.
Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for this edifying Saturday morning breakfast of poems and pix from him and drawings from his students, Taylor Wheaton and Flor Barillas! "From Another Observation Deck", "The Morning of the Angel", The Guy Who Went Home Before the Party Was Over", and "Crossing the River" were first published in Ampersand, 1969, edited by T.L. Kryss and R. Wolter, and "a man here forgot" was first published in The Wormwood Review.