Saturday, August 15, 2015

Painting Dreams

Russell's Bulldozer
—Photo by D.R. Wagner
—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA



I used to think I knew
Where a poem might be going,
That I could feel the language
Giving way beneath me
And making it easier to see
Where everything would crash,
If it was going to crash.

Maybe that’s what did it.
Poems don’t usually crash.
You can run your tongue
Around your mouth for hours,
Reading and rereading a good poem.

The landscapes will hold.
The pain will still unlock
Itself from its wordy phrase
And there will still be
A soft light coming
From a window
Or somebody knowing
Something about someone
Else that they never expected.

The river does not dry up.
There are a lot of boats
That can float on it.

Now I am
Sitting in one or another of them.
I don’t know who owns
Them or how they came
To carry me through the poem.

Now I only hope that
The damn thing will stay
Afloat until the end.

I lie down to sleep
And watch it move away
From the shore,
Its port and starboard lights
Saying more than anything
I could ever imagine.

 —Drawing by Dana Ferguson, Davis, CA


I lift the bone to my mouth
To release the spirit
From the unknown.

The father of leaves.
An undiscovered lake
In the universe.
We have our own boat.

At some point we will
Have to borrow a body
For a few days.

The wind, an amplified
Whir of hummingbird wings.

Lights go on down the road.
A visitation by hunting ghosts.
The soft whispers the spirit makes
As it reveals its intentions.

Is is almost August.
The day, at six o’clock
In the evening, has brought
Many packages to use
In the twilight.

The dust across the gravel
Means someone is approaching
From the East.  The birch leaves
Flutter, show the way,
I can hear one or two voices
But all words are unclear.

I make a bet with Ramon that we
Can cross the fields and regain
The river without being seen.
“By whom?” he answers.

We have hundreds of spirit birds
In great packs upon our backs.
We trust they will be quiet as we move
Toward the languid sloughs.

Ramon fixes a series of deadfalls
So no one can follow without danger.
I begin the first words of the song.

"Father of leaves.  Father of leaves,”
I breathe.

 —Drawing by Perry Wong Costa, Davis


He held a boat
In the palm of his hand.

The trenches where
Entire paragraphs were
Shot through with
The wings of hawks.

We were forced to step
Out of the airplane
At ten thousand feet
So that we would never
Be found.  That was a mistake.

There are books about us
Now, and those persons
Who held storms over their faces
So they could not hear a thing
Will soon come to beg
Landscapes of us, places
Where they might be safe
When they must bury
Their memories so as
To appear to have a karma
That deserves a new

They see us now
And think
We are their prayers.



The collection basket
Passes in front of me in church.
It contains an almost
New baby shoe,
A wedding ring,
Three nails—no not nails,
Spikes, to get it right,
A small red foam
Nose once worn by a clown,
Five or six dollar bills,
Some change.

From the back of the church
Screaming starts.
I empty all my own change
Into the purple velvet
Hand basket.

 —Drawing by Yuan Ji, Davis


A beautiful massacre.
Intimate.  It happened only
On one small island of the
Outer Hebrides.

I poked my head out
Of a red log.
They had a chain link fence
To keep the dogs out.

It didn’t matter.

When I looked again,
My skin was being

Not knowing how to dream
We become a carpet
That feels the foot of pride
Upon its neck.

When we are allowed to stand
We unwrap the pearl
And touch our bodies
As if we are more than
Observers of them.

The moment we stand,
Our neck is exposed and a line
Drawn upon it.
“Here is the head
About to fall.”

Caravaggio threw
A plate of artichokes
Into the face of a
Waiter who could
Easily have been ourselves.
(We waited for Fauré
To give us a Pavane
To help us walk home.)

Our wings have been crushed.
I do not recognize you, reader.
Do you know who I am?

We give away all the flowers
And walk into despair
Without understanding anything.
There are children,
Children, many of them,
At the Annunciation.

 —Art by D.R. Wagner



The bed I sleep in every night
Was made by a man of exquisite
Gentleness, full of magic
And a sense of wonder
That I thought must
Be pretty deep.
He could paint dreams.

By the time he died,
Quite young, in his sleep,
Most of him was drunk
Most of the time.
His ex-wife told us
She came to the funeral
Just to be sure
The son of a bitch was dead.


Today’s LittleNip:


The thought never lasted
Long enough to follow.

My leg would start to itch
And by the time I paid
Attention to how uncomfortable
It was, the idea would
Be gone.

Sometimes there was a good poem there.

But most of the time
I would remember
Someone who died
And ask myself if they
Were ever this uncomfortable
Every time they forgot
Something that felt
Really important.


—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner and his UCD students for today's sumptuous feast!

 Squash Blossoms & Morning Glories
—Photo by D.R. Wagner