Saturday, April 23, 2016

Shearing Through the Night

D. R. and Daughters (Altered Photo)
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


We were unable to revive him.

No one is supposed to be that color

Except perhaps a lobster, blue, yellow,

White, orange and black in the same body.

His skin looked like ancient Roman glass.

There was an oily sheen that reflected

Light like motor oil mixed with water.

His mouth was broken.  We supposed

He had said something that did not fit in it.

It looks like he was starting to smile

But everything collapsed before it got there.

His car was still shaking.  It kept it up

For about three hours but here was no wind.

And it wasn’t running.  It did not make any noise.

You are not supposed to know any of this.

There was no identification on his body.

By the time the police got there, all that was left

Was the car.

If anyone asks you about this, act like you

Don’t know anything and claim that

You were just reading a poem.  Everyone

Will believe you and leave you alone. 

 Russell's Truck


Stairs that go nowhere

No matter how long you climb them.

Against the back wall, can after

Can of lightning, mostly dented.

The labels read, Flower Girl Lightning.

Alive, yet not Alive.

Years ago they had kept harvested

Ice in this room.  Most of the Summer 

It was cool and damp, with little light.

The cutting tools remained in stacks 

Along the walls, gray and dark,

Piles of sharp teeth pointing in 

All directions.

We had made a promise to be here.

It was a way to collect memories 

That could be had in few other ways.
“You should try it,” they had said.

“Nobody has died yet.”  But that

Was a lie.  There were galvanized

Pails full of keys near the door.

In the compound yard, in what 

Used to be corrals, great piles

Of boots and shoes reached higher

Than a two-story building.  There

Were hundreds of them.  Gray and silent

Children roamed over them, collecting

Laces, plying them into great ropes

Used to bind the abandoned 

Ocean liners to the rotting docks.

“Can you believe people still manage 

To live here?”  Ramon asked politely.

“No,” I answered.  “Why do they do so?”

“There is no place else anywhere 

Even remotely like this place.”


So thick it spilled over

The gorge lip, filling

The streets with a dense white

Wall, stealing every sound

The night chanced to create.

A blank stillness

Devouring streets, buildings,
Houses, light itself.

There was nothing else

In the world, only fog.

Baxter and I stepped outside

His home just to see,

Just to hear this kind of voice.

Then we walked in opposite

Directions for a short time,

Turned and ran toward each other,

Arms outstretched, flying past

Each other like thick phantoms

Visible only for an instant.

We did this two or three times.

Each time a surprise,

An event, as we passed

Each other in this peculiar dark.

For years we carved this event

Separately.  Still it remained

The same in both our recollections.

Such is fog.

It holds moments

As singular things,

A permeable loud

Resting upon the ground

For a time gathering

Events and lives to itself.

Dispersing again without a trace.

Except these notes remembering.

Except the friendship recalled,

Our lives somehow linked

Because of it, arms outstretched,

Shearing through the night.

                with a line by Melissa Studdard

Of course it was a great pile,

Battlements and turrets and half-

Turrets.  Collapsed staircases.

Hundreds of rooms, most of them quite small.

One could spread one’s arms and touch the nether

Walls.  Small windows allowed quicksilver light

Into the rooms.  All color faded.  “Have you 

Learned anything by being here?  A prayer perhaps?”

I saw a small lawn with rows of cages, each

With a cloud of a different color within. 

“I keep these for the various seasons,”

The vampire had said in the same tone

With which he had explained the moats

Filled with stars in nets heaped far below

The water.  “These are from the temples,”

He had said, laughing softly to himself.

Occasionally he would explain

That he needed to touch me.

But I would hand him a rock

And he would be placated for awhile.

Turning it over and over in his hands,

Studying its shape as he held it 

At arms’ length.

“You have a most interesting spine,”

He announced to me as we climbed 

Toward the halls where he kept the whirlwinds.

“Yes,” I said, “it allows me to fly or sail if I must.”

He fumbled with his keys, trying

To find those that fit the dry, yet festered

Wood he used to build the doors to those rooms.

“It took me years to find the correct wood to keep 

These things here.  They love black leaves,

You know,” he added, as he slid the bones

Of the bolts aside and we watched them 

Flash in great rooms lit by constant lightning


“Will you always live here?” I asked.

“I come here to pray and to recall the taste

Of lips.  I have no time to think or eat properly

Or to rest.  I keep beehives around the castle.

The sound soothes me, as do the rooms 

With the great waterfalls.  Come, I will show

You these rooms.  Have you a taste for blood?”

 Gardens Before the Rain, Locke


I saw her in the field

And then, a park,

And then, beside the sea.

Fresh as fire, rising like the waves,

All lodgings for the heart.

And I, unable to explain,

Undone before the dawn,

Raised the moment with

A silence, broke it with a song.

She wore the story cloak.

She cut the houses of the wind.

She bent the willow to the ground.

She leapt upon the clouds.

She was not here to soothe

Or to smooth the garments of the sun.

The day explained itself to her

Before the morning had begun.

I drew her to my core

But never touched her more.

I was in love’s own thrall.

All of heaven was a floor.

The path along to the cliff edge.

What do you believe sir?

What is the coat you wore?

See over on the mountain,

The night and the morning

Are walking hand in hand.

When the day was made,

Huddled up in haze,

The weather slept within

Each one us, such a small

Season it was.


I understand that I am trespassing

Where your heart takes transit to comfort

Yourself during the last parts of the day.

I only did it because I must.  I have no moment 

Where I can walk through the house drawing the curtains

Against the coming of the night and shaking the fires

Gently to pull a little more light from them for a few hours.

I too miss the embrace that the wind can give the changing

I too must know the softness some words can have, filtered

Through a walk along the sloughs beside the darking oaks.

I hear the creak of the masts in the bending of their great

But mostly, I came here to walk with you, knowing that your

Have been here and that the hosts of lovers who moved through

These exact words found solace here for a quick moment,

The smell of your skin, the touch of the leaves like your lover.


Thank you, D.R. Wagner, for today’s fine poems and pix, and we’re sending you our high hopes that your health issues are resolving. D.R. and other Lockians are looking forward to today’s posthumous book release at the Moon Café Gallery in Locke, 2pm, featuring Patricia Hickerson’s new book,  Outcry, from R.L Crow Publications, edited by Cynthia Linville.

In the “nobody ever tells me anything” department, I’ve been advertising the Billy Collins/Aimee Mann Calperformance this Sunday at UCB; turns out they’ll also be presenting their music, poetry and a conversation about the creative process at UC Davis on Monday at 8pm at the Mondavi Center. See


Today’s LittleNip:


—D.R. Wagner           
             for Steven Smith

I was in this wading room

Setting the changes

Except the wading was

More like waiting

Just a few small waves

Carrying messages

From friends

Maybe written 

In color so we could

Read through the bottle

About how we got here.



—Anonymous Photo
April is National Poetry Month!
Celebrate today by heading off to Locke for
Pat Hickerson's book release, or to Placerville for
Poetic License read-around, 2pm, Placerville Sr. Center,
937 Spring St. (suggested topic: "corner"). 

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.