Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Language of the Flames

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

                                          —K. Rexroth

The cold is long and neat.
It touches our fingertips, our toes,
The edges of our ears, our nose.

And in the harbor the ice breaker
Ships moan and close upon
Huge sheets of ice, leaving a narrow
Path from one end of the lake
To another and yes, we must go
The distance.

We have never been here
This late in the season.
We sit on the pier end
Drinking vodka for warmth and spitting
Into the lake’s crinkly mirror.

“The water is full of stars,”
You say, “But we cannot
See them because of the ice.”
The ice reflects your lighting
A cigarette for an unblemished

I begin to empty the early
Evening from my coat pockets,
Tossing them onto the pier.

“Not so fast,” you say.  “We are
Still looking for peace, after all.”

 Packard, Locke


I don’t remember stepping
Into the well, but Ramon
Had said, “You are not taught
What to do.  Be grateful for the moon.

"There is more than one
Way to be the lie but not
The liar.
Can you describe the pain?”

I walk through treetops
Like a fog, a cold flame
Inhabited by thoughts
Mountain ranges used to have
When they saw the coming
Of deep erosion.  The formation
Of great canyons.  The crevice
Deepens as it spreads like thighs,
Purple against the flesh
That thanks the sleeping body
For its desperate rooms.

I have maps, darling.
I will take you with me.
The gods teach us to help us
Find the perfect trochaic tetrameter.

“On the shores of Gitche Gumee.
Of the shining big sea waters.
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O'er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.”

 Curve, Locke


This blade comes to us
Strapped to the saddle
Of a most beautiful young roan
That could speak words like a man.

“What have you done, that you
Should call me to come to
You like a kite fallen from
The sky?   Even the moon has
Heard your crying.”

“Time is a mask,” it said.
“I can only offer you a blade
That can be handled by a dreamer
Who has inexhaustible understanding,
Who can recognize the language
Of the flames of a burning boat.

“Did you ever think of death?
Even at sunset?  Look at your
Cities.  Mausoleums.

“My reins are serpents.
Come close if you fear nothing,
But do so while you touch the
Alchemy of perfect dreaming.”

 Stuart Planning Chinese Demo Garden, Locke


I held a lantern up to
The roaring of the night sky.

On the horizons, the towers
In flames.  The scudding
Clouds astonished by the roiling
Treetops.  I turn down
The stars to stand in the shadow
Of the tiny doorstep, inches from
The rain.  I am able to touch
The bloodstream.  Here, where
The men, the women, the children,
The endless parade of animals
Are streams of temples.

I ask the lightning for you
To come to me from the great
Sleep.  I am answered by loss.
The perfumed razor of mortality
Cutting slices of time away
From me as if I have said nothing.

Chinese Demo Garden, Locke


The poet
walking away
From the poem.

A stillness
Like no other.
The mouth moving

Still speaking
For wonder.

In echo

 Cabbage, Locke


I know nothing.
Fate is so far beyond
Our understanding.

Like harp music in the moments
Before sleep contains messages that
Cannot speak to the waking body,
Contains typographical cathedrals
That, finally, are only stanzas
Or shelves in a darkened library
Dedicated to the embrace
Of Eve or that of a volcano
Able to dissolve empires.

I dream your mouth on mine.
Our bodies entwined beyond
Nightmare, surrendered to each
Other just as eternity reveals
Itself to our pitiful understanding.

Empires dissolving in flame.
Trees speaking to us in language
We understand perfectly
As they too are enveloped
By the cleansing fire.


Today’s LittleNip:


Frog choruses.
A lute improvising.

We take as much pleasure
In music as we take in watching
A sleeping animal.

We are all the cross.
I remain the poet,
Holding handfuls of nails.


—Medusa, thanking D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poetry and photos!

 The Kenneth Rexroth quote which begins today’s post 
is from his “August 22, 1939”, written on the anniversary 
of the death of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. 
For this and other Rexroth poems, celebrate poetry today by
going to Or…

…for more about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his 
“The Song of Hiawatha” (D.R.’s second poem), see

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.