Saturday, November 14, 2015

Ghosts Before Breakfast

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

                  for Joseph Beuys

It is
Right here.
All of it.

I swore it looked like a room.
That which endures beyond
Our vanishing, except there was
An ongoing war,
A flow of faces
That is like walking
On a human wave
Tangled in barbed wire.

Ate a dream by mistake.
I hope you will remain delighted.
The hydrangeas are clearing their throats.

I am a poor poet, bound by wind and water.
There was a window so high I could see the morning.
There were ghosts before breakfast.

I may as well explain my work to a dead hare.
Even now I can feel the gold leaf crack
Around the corners of my mouth.
I will gather you in my arms.


Pick up your money and get out of here.
Can’t stand your heat anymore.
My mouth’s full of blood, makes it hard
To speak.  I keep my heart in here.

I can’t wait until tomorrow.
Like Jesus Christ it never comes.
I’m still standing by the edge
Right where the stage ends.

I can’t draw a gun.  I can’t even
Draw close to any open door.
I slammed into the wall much too hard
Way too many times before.

“I make my place in the mystery.
I am the branch surely fallen
From the rootless tree.”

I have traveled much too far.
I barely have my skin anymore.
I’ve seen the bodies drop.  I’ve asked
For permission to stand up.

What do you say, my brother?
What do you say, my sister?
I keep playing all the music
I am able to play and my hands
Bleed like yours do when they
Cannot touch one another.

Help me through these words
That make your voices.
I have no kingdom.
I am a single wing.

You are the bird.


The intensity of the moment
Drives the poem.
Voices of the water.
Half-heard conversations.
The job, to recognize
The mystery.  Who speaks?

Why are so many voices
Caught in each thing,
When sleep can
Touch our bodies
And our blood talks to us?

We are the field.

When I wave to you,
Wave back to me.
The seasons seem

Like a good idea.

(after reading Robert Duncan's ideas of 'the field' as a location for poetry)


The house was only that big
Because of his collection.
Acres and acres of protected

He collected shipwrecks.
Not models or photographs
But entire ships, even
The rocks they had
Crashed upon.  Tableaux.

A huge field tied
To the little flea
Of human history.

Tiny blots of light
Somewhere in the midst
Of the sea.  Lamp
Swinging in the captain’s quarters.

The ocean opens its mouth
To speak.
The greatest of museums.
Famous ships that had
Been used by time
To have stories for
Those starved by the world.

In the final room
A wall of dim light
Circled the room.

“Here is where it happened.”
Lights and the sound
Of waves crashing
Against the shoreline.

Just as it does now,

As you are reading this.


“Our woal life is a idear we dint think of
nor we don’t know what it is.  What a way to live.”
                                  —Riddley Walker

The eye lights blinked out.
The fire still reflected on them.

Larrin had caught a spear in him
Just before we got there and was
Mostly gone when we came to his place.

He saw them in the black wood and
He threw a rock at them to scare
Them, but they didn’t scare.
They stopped and one of them threw
The spear.  It went right through
Him and he was mostly dead before
He hit the ground, except for his eyes.

Just outside the door
Two men were whispering together.
“This wouldn’t have happened
If there was a wing.
This was a disappearing and nothing
Alive could twist the blood
And put it back into a man.

“Something out there is feeding on us,
Making a soup of the homeless
And the whores and the bones
Of the poor.”

We began to listen to the stars.
They were like beating hearts.
It was somehow wondrous as
Our heads began to talk and we spoke
Of fiery kingdoms and things of
Wonder we could not comprehend.

The sky moved so slowly above us
It seemed that it had forgotten
Something, something gentle that
Could no longer be gentle,
That made the hands bleed
When touched by our perfection.

We watched the wind form
Around us, pushing us as the night
Does a branch.

The spear had been cleaned
And was intent on resuming its life
As a tree.  Oh where shall
We go now?  Where shall we go?

We sat down at the table.
We too were clean.
We too had a place in the mystery.

The woods bristled with the shells,
Thick as ignorance, cracking
As we huddled near that door.

We could smell the sea.
The ancient islands.  We could
See the luminous heads
Begin to rise above the trees.

We cannot stay here any longer.
Leave his body with the children.
They will lift it with their white
And pale little hands.

Give it to the rain.
Give it to whatever holds the world

It is quiet here for a moment.
There is no longer any room for us.
Oh love, turn your star on,
Just for a moment.
The secret will be in its radiance.


It was a deep and thick-browed sleep
That came upon me full of halls and doorways,
Some of flame and some of stone and some
From which the scent of heaven wafted
Upon no breeze at all, but a pregnant stillness
In that air found alone in dreaming and carved
In certain chambers of the heart.  The lonesome speech
Known to fall from the mouth of ancient bells,
Tripping one and keeping one from finding
Any way back from the soft and guarded arms
Sleep surrounds us with; it boards its indeterminable
Train and makes for mountains darker still than midnight.

Here is the dwelling place of spirits long forgotten
On this earth.  Spirits whose speech is of a tongue
No longer heard upon our world and scarcely remembered
In any land.  It is hinted with a cadence known to fairy,
Heard when troops of them dwelt up an airy mountain,
Down a rushing glen.  It was a voice of wings that carried
The blue away from the sky and pushed the sun to clouds
That it might hang its lyric on the walls of our souls,
Admonishing us to be still and await a kind of rapture
One might hear only in the presence of mystery.

I have walked there and will walk there again
For I have deep business with the shades and fleeting
Beings that dwell there.  I am come to them to find
Those words which are seldom heard in any poetry
Or song, in any prayer or any curse that might
Be given to those who read these words or speak
To one another of the wonders of the dreamlife.

I learn within those rooms and behind those silent
Doorways of the many rooms and enchantments
That live beneath closed eyes, and breathe that other
Breath that rushes from our lungs when we are
No longer present in this old and fitful world.
I would carry this to you that we may share it
As a feast so seldom given to each other
That one might call it madness or others
Call it truth.

(first posted on Medusa’s Kitchen Dec. 6, 2014)


Today’s LittleNip:

The goal of composition is not to reach conclusion but to keep our exposure to what we do not know.

—Robert Duncan


—Medusa, with our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s hearty breakfast, and a note that D.R.’s poem, “Waiting in the Courtyard”, appears with two other of his poems in the current issue of the Canadian online journal,
Ygdrasil (

—Photo by Glenda Drew