Saturday, September 19, 2015

Water is the Root

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


I am speaking of the places
Where the rain no longer knows its name.

Its purple hands caress the glass.
I bring handfuls of birds
To the edge of the fire;
We can see the raindrops dance
In the creek nearby, exclaiming.

Now they are bringing flowers to us.
They heap them in great piles
Around us.  They are of many colors.

“Would you like us to translate them?” they ask.

Every room in the house was empty.
This is why we are out here,
Huddled in a ring of flowers,
Surrounded by the dark shapes
Of many birds.  Let us begin.
We make a song that sounds
Like all of the raindrops.
The storm.



The cottonwoods are just hanging
Around on the edge of the high desert,
Looking at the high cut of clouds
Stretching all the way to Winnemucca.

From here I can see the turquoise blue
Truck-wash shed just below a cut of gondolas
Rusted and tired.  They look like they have become
Part of the spur where they are parked.
Some other railroad.  Some other time.

At first the landscape looks burnt
But it is just a lowering sun and that
Kind of shadow Nevada keeps to itself
So no one will have too much to say
When they look across the basin;
The brown range beyond lit up so bright
It doesn’t look real at all.

Low scrub, gray-green-yellow.
Cattle fences, with no idea
Where they are going, pick up
Shreds of plastic and cloth,
Rattle loudly, spirit songs.

The hardest part for anyone
Is figuring out where you are.
A long mountain occasionally
Making a remark that makes sense.


And so I went inward and carried
Handfuls of red stones
That made my hands hurt
Because they were sharp
On their edges.

They clicked and hummed
In my hands and I sang
A song that was once
Sung by Lady Day.

Mostly under my breath
But from time to time
Feeling this whisper grow
Tearing at my throat and I threw
The stones out on the water
And clutched at my throat
Because the tears were hot
And the salt burned terribly.



At least the cattle know what they are doing.
The rest of the land is alkaline white, crusted
Pans in the lowest space between low rises.

There isn’t much to look at if you are not
Eating grass, but the place knows how
To hold on to what your are looking at,
Pulls it close to the heart and tells you
You can love a place like this if you sit
Still enough to know that light owns
Everything and it is true that it is keenest
Near the horizon.  There is room to hold
Huge clouds, dark-capped mountains.
Those special places where the sun is dead-
Flat on white ground and stares right
Into your face so deeply you almost
Lose your body.


Somewhere the book ended.
He could see the girl running
Toward the spring.  She was laughing,
Her voice carried on the last of Summer.

There were hundreds of automobiles.
They seemed to be drifting in a slow-moving
Pack, slow fish in a sea of what used to be
A city.  A beautiful city.  The gardens were on fire.

There was a voice coming through the headset.
It was urgent but controlled.  An idea of order
In its even tones.  Purple lights near the horizon.

She was gone.  He recalled feeling her pulse
Ease itself into her soul and hover above her
Body for what seemed like a long time but was only
The briefest of moments.  The soul could smile,
He thought to himself.  Who would have thought.
The soul could smile.

Without opening his eyes he could imagine
The great flocks of birds rising from the fields
Along the lake shore.  This was much more
Than a migration.  The air itself sounded
Like feathers sliding over the wind in unison.

“Come here.  Rest yourself for awhile.”
The voice was soft and rose from the old
Man’s throat, clear and calm.  “You have
Been traveling for a long time now.”
He opened his arms.  They were a valley
Through which a steam twisted, catching
The sun as it did.  It had a voice like song.


They just picked up Winter
And dumped it all over the earth,
Like it was something they no longer
Wanted a part of, as if seasons
Had no feelings at all.

Some sad bells begin to tinkle.
They must belong to someone
In this blasted place.  Language
Seems to be used like a toy here.

I mean it.  Just try to hold on to anything.
Beautiful or not, it slides through your fingers
And forms red clots on the flowers of the world.
I don’t think you meant to come to this place.

What do you think people love here?
A bird falls from the sky and no one
Seems to notice.  I put my mouth
Close to your ear and whisper
The few beautiful words I have learned.

I think we may have already used
All of the spaces up, to no avail.
The bird wobbles to its feet.
It attempts to take to the sky, then does.


The curved bones of the dreams
Stirring in the evening
While mists too are rising
For their evening,
The wonder of the dance,
Dream of the sea.

Curtained by the spider,
The clattering, splendor
Of the day, hushed,
But still a wondrous thread.

Summer lightning.
A mist of dancers
Dream of the sea,
An island made of pearls,
Fashioned of song.

They are the splashing fountains,
The cherished words
Only water can make,
Understood by few
But heard by the world
As love, its cloak
fluttering as rivers, rills,
As streams and brooks and creeks.

There the journey
Can be seen tumbling
Down from the mountains,
Past the haunts of
All those who know
Breath.  With ways
So strange we may not
Recognize them as those of men
Or as the things we have come
To know upon the earth.

Yet still they are of earth
As dreams are part of earth.
More, as love is to the heart
Of such a song.
They course the night,
Lifting our beds as ships,
Carrying them above
The vales and the canyons,
The swales and the gullies,
And the gentle draws and chines.

For water is the blood
And water is the root
Our words demand
To come to their meaning,
Come to prayer,
Come to tell us of the way
Things were and are
And yet will be.


Today’s LittleNip:

We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.

—Kurt Vonnegut