Saturday, May 14, 2016

Call It Truth

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


The lion guided me

To a vast sea of black water.

Nothing was visible clearly.  Just

Before the dawn, a great serpent

Rose from the sea and came to me.

“There are so many children,

Charming serpent.  I know you

Know the names of them all.

Tell me their secret names

That for you, I may come calling.”



Then bright rings fell to the ground.

And I believed in the serene and beautiful.

All that is love, so far beyond our understanding.

And he brought me both moons.

They were the same moon but this

Time there were two of them.

A little kingdom of the heart sprang up.

There was a majesty to it all,

A beautiful heart beating within the body.

The lion moved close beside me

And I was able to recall all of the birds

And see bright shrouds float above the dark sea.

How can anything look this beautiful?

We began to talk to the winds.

They knew of everywhere we spoke.

They told us they could carry thoughts

And gave us all lanterns to light

The edge of that sea, to see that

Serpent as a real thing.

Perhaps this time you will 

Believe me.  See, the children

Are all going back into the forest.

Put this in your heart.

Nothing can harm it there.

I will give you a basket

And tell you I love you.

And you will please take this one

Chance and see the joy these kinds

Of things can bring.  We lift toward

The morning.  The serpent begins to sing.

It is irresistible, the loveliest of sounds.

(first posted on Medusa’s Kitchen in 2013)

 Ancient Dai Dance


The moon was traveling.

It had a bag of stones.

It could travel fast, 

Cross many cities in less

Than an hour.  Faster
Than a fish might swim,

Even large fish.



I am the border.

The stars cannot cross

The breath that

Winds cannot breathe,

Or the touch that fish
May not wish to.

I am the prayer that

Brings dreams to their knees

Left like a hollow

In moonlight

Or the call of grief 

In any night.

I will sound the deep

Chambers where blood
Is the question

And flesh too is a border
That cannot be breached.

I tear at my body as 

Bold advertisement

To smile at demons who

Breathe air I breathe

And see charms of the cuts

That are made near

The heart’s core

Reveal a prison

From which we may not

Be relieved.

For I am inflamed

With the odors of begging

And all that I say

Is that is believed.

Try the sweet ropes of snakes

Or the power of the kiss.

I will hold your soul

To my bosom

And you may not resist.



I was trying to get
This poem finished
Before you got here
But you never came

 Firemen and Cats


You drink the lavender water from my cup.
I understand lavender as the drape
With which it blesses us, calling us gods,
Touching our bodies as it does so.
Giant rings come out of my mouth.
Do you know anything about them?
As they float away, I can see landscapes
Too beautiful to go searching for words
To describe them.  It is like being seventeen again.
There is lavender in my imagination
But it has been almost twenty years since
I’ve told anyone about it.  Let me look
At your hands.  I can only recall them with my heart.
I am happy you have nothing to say to me.
I am glad you touch my cheek the way you do.
These are not memories.  Until tonight you were
Nothing more than something I heard played
Upon a piano and knew implicitly.  We should
Get dressed and go down the stairs to be with
The others.  We will learn to speak on the way
To the table.  I will bow to you.  You will bow as well.

  Rooftop, Emeryville, CA


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 in 2013)


Our many thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poetry, LittleNip and photos, and congrats to him and his family on the wedding of his daughter! For more about the ancient Dai dance, see or go to

Today’s LittleNip:

Everything can be crossed.  Of course it has to end.  There's a river of water deep under the Mist River, yes?  And that water runs somewhere.  All the other rivers, all the lakes—they all drain somewhere.  There's a water ocean under the Mist River and I wonder whether the mist ends somewhere out there.  If it spreads out and vanishes and you find you are floating on water...

—Kij Johnson,
The Man Who Bridged the Mist



 Today the poetry world sadly marks the passing
of American poet Michael Harper. 

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.