The mouth of the day.
The father of waters.
The forgotten names.
The calls of seldom-seen birds.
The many voices of fire.
The glance of an angel.
She was drinking the blood
Coming from the palm of his hand.
His horse was white and had
A white saddle that appeared
To be quilted with evenly
Spaced gold buttons on it,
Size of quarters.
If you bothered to look
Toward the background of the scene
You could see tiny white
Butterflies with gold dots
On their wings. They looked like
The horse’s saddle was
Coming to life.
I noticed. I could not help
But notice that she had a net bag
Full of ravens. There were a lot of them.
They jostled against one another
But made no sound.
This was held by a boy wearing
Blue clothing that looked as if
The Limborg brothers had designed it.
I fell in love with the shape
Of his mouth and always hoped
He would have a speaking part.
He never did. His movements
Were furtive and full of little
Hand gestures that seemed
To quiet the birds’ wriggling.
When she rose from her knees
She wiped her mouth with
The back of her hand and fixed
Her eyes on mine for much longer
Than was appropriate.
I had to look away.
I began immediately to
Conjure a rapidly moving
River, full of many rapids and dangerous
Eddies. I was on a light boat
With a young man dressed in brown
Who obviously knew how to
Handle the oars.
“Help me,” he shouted without any panic.
“We have things to do.”
I could not look back.
My clothing was quickly wet.
I do not have any idea
Why blood was coming
From the hand of the man
From which the lady drank
As if it were Spring.
THE CHILDREN OF THE BANDITS
I robbed the children of the bandits
While the bandits were away stealing
Words for their precious rooms.
I robbed all the phrases
For which they cared.
They knew the value of this
Kind of glory and sat
In the wings
To watch it all burn and turn
The sunset a most brilliant orange.
Nothing could contain it,
Not very well.
UNDER THE NOBODY LIGHT
There was a swarm of a family
Camping down the slope on the lake
Shore and the tiny beach.
Someone set up an old-fashioned grill.
It looked like a standing triangle with a grill
Across the top. The charcoal looked like branches
Of trees, black and with their shapes intact.
Who wants hot dogs?
The scene froze under the light.
It stands there today, years later.
Everyone looking out across the lake.
The hot dogs grilling on the Summer.
THE FIELDS AT 5:00 AM
I crane my neck and pretend
I understand the quiet
In the night. The empty
Rooms stretching out toward
Dawn but somehow never catching it
As it turns on its heels,
Changing clothing as it declares
Its surprise at being afraid to open
The packages left in the fields
Of six a.m. and five a.m.
Trained to do so by example,
Crouched over a journal,
Writing furiously to keep it
Always searching for sleep
In roles of broken promises
Never verbalized until it is
Too late to stop the half-
Dreams unloading themselves
To great sighing,
Shoulders bruised from the weight,
From moving through every blessed day,
Reminded constantly that
One must not journey,
One must sleep, one must listen
To how the soul tells one
What the body needs, the
Body laughing, lighting candles,
Forcing books open and leaning
Over the hissing of thought
As it passes by dragons,
Its collection of shadows,
Trees waving in the wind,
Tears without cessation,
Glasses full of the moon.
(first posted in Medusa's Kitchen in 2011)
I look into her eyes
And realize that the snow
Will be coming again soon
And that she will never look
This way again.
He talked about the weather
As if he had made it up, as if he
Actually could do something about it.
THE OPENING OF A FIELD
I do not wish to keep you here.
I’ll be with the angels.
I find them in the poetry despite
Robert Duncan staring back at them.
They are always there and not,
Just beings called up behind the soul
To allow particular answers to reveal
Themselves. Surely you’ve seen it.
The light playing at the door or
A courante by Keith Kirchoff
Where he kisses you full
Upon the mouth.
I find my mind at the edge of my pillow
In the late afternoon. I forgot to nap
Until the sun knocked me out of the kitchen.
I thought I saw a candle glowing
But it was electric and changed color
Even when I sat upright and realized
I was living in the open field once again.
This is all imagination but it wears
My dusty blue jeans and lifts the mist
Above Innisfree and across the Maine
Woods before it. Where did I put my
Consciousness just a little while ago?
A PRIVATE REVERENCE FOR OBJECTS
I always thought someone would notice the ghosts, but no one ever noticed the ghosts. They must have looked too much like the objects in the room.
They were people but, I guess, if one squinted, the child by the end table lamp could be confused with a small vase. I supposed this but it was untrue. Vases didn’t have names unless they had belonged to someone important like Czar Nicholas II. In that case it might be called The Czar Nicholas II vase. This child ghost was called Thom.
His name was pronounced “Tom” but he had left in the “h” because his mother liked to remind him of the spelling. After she died in the car fire she would come here in the evening, looking like a lamp, and tell her little vase about his name.
The dog, who looked somewhat like an ottoman, was named David. He had been killed by a car in front of the house about a year ago. People used to say, “That’s a lovely ottoman,” and I would agree and make a motion for David to sit-stay.
I didn’t cook much, so when Beth Ann, our old housekeeper, had snapped her neck slipping on the narrow stairs at the back of the hall, she occupied a space in the kitchen where there might have been a stove. Beth Ann blinked a lot but people seemed to think that it was just the temperature control on the burner regulating itself automatically. I would make tea at the stove and put it on Lawrence our dear cousin, who fortunately looked much like a table and chairs, convincingly so.
Lois, his sister, who had died with him in that skiing accident in the Alps, became a side board. People thought they looked very European.
Fortunately people did not stay long when they visited, so they didn’t recognize any of them as ghosts.
Sometimes I would take Thom to the grocery store with me and I was always charmed when people complemented me on my vase. When we got home we would tell the others about our adventures. It kept the evening interesting and David would wag his tail in glee.
WORDS TO CONSIDER
Like everything else, words have their whys and wherefores. Some call to us solemnly, arrogantly, giving themselves airs, as if they were destined for great things, and then it turns out that they were nothing more than a breeze too light to even set the sail of a windmill moving, whereas other
ordinary habitual words, the sort you use every day, end up having consequences no one would have dared predict; they weren’t born for that and yet they shook the world.
—Jose Saragamo, from his novel, Cain, 2009
—Medusa, thanking D.R. Wagner for today's fine poems and pix!