The boys played the fire game all night.
They would crowd in close to the fire,
Catching their hair on fire and then trying
To beat the fire out before it ran down
Their back and became blue flames
Of electrical energy which sprayed
From their bodies. They were quite
Good at the game and kept it up for hours.
I noticed the game attracted tigers.
They thought it was holy and that it
Soothed anguish for them. I can still
See the blood on their teeth as they circled
‘Round and ‘round the boys, making soft noises
And taking the form of dreams. They would
Try to catch the blue flames that endured
Around their circle for hours and then vanished.
I don’t sleep much with you in my blood.
I wish to hold you close to me, sleep
With my arm around you, listen to your breathing.
All eight dharmapals stand guard around me.
They tell me that I am a temple and that I
Am making songs that sound like temple
Bells. Eventually, you will come to me.
The evening reflects the dawn in its special
Mirrors. All kinds of things endure beyond
Our own lives that never knew we existed.
A CHANGING OF THE GUARD
Your heart in all its splendor.
Your soul magnifies the perfection
Given to it by the children of the angels.
Mayhem departing by train,
Bound for fire in the high mountains
Where few know its name, can identify
The curious clothing it wears on its way
To destruction, a dissolution of purgatory.
What do we eat that calls John of the Cross
Through time atop Mount Carmel? What allows
Us to speak in all these tongues and still be
Understood completely and then not at all?
A wild lament, the friction of the moon across
The starry sky assembled for the touch of your
Hand, your heart without boundaries beating
Out the spinning of the planets. A song that
Is the dawn and day and evening and then night.
Oh my love, I look into your eyes and I no longer
Know the vale of bitter tears that is this earth.
I draw my sword and spin before the gates
Of your dear heart. None shall defile such
A place as this. No evil comes to us.
I am the guard.
I am caught in the darkness
Near light but still unable to see
Where it is I am. The blear of night
Stumbling close by my footsteps.
If I put my hand on the wall, I know
I am near light but there is no light.
The illuminated globe of the world glows
Just beyond the door, should there be a door,
And, of course, we always hope for a door.
I saw you standing at the back of the room.
We had just finished playing the song about
The dawn during the snowstorm and how
The sun had moved through the falling snow.
Everything became a kind of gold that we did not
Know how to describe, so we made the music
Within it. There was one bird, he had a damaged
Wing and flew in circles around us making a wonderful
Sound. The lyrics were based on those circles.
I found my hands upon your shoulders.
I thought I was still in the music. Golden
Lights flew along the edges of my vision
Inside my eyes, yet still high above it.
I walked all the way to the end of the road
Where the waterfall began. It was nearly
Twilight and the waterfall was a lilac and hyacinth,
The color of heartbreak or someone you love
Walking away and you knowing you will not
Be seeing them again. I suppose there is
A music there but it is stolen by cellos and keyboards.
Given to a corner where we notice the quality
Of the light, the people crossing the room,
The way their conversation had its own agenda
And there we were, together once again, waiting
As we are now. I lean close. Listening to your breathing.
17 BLACK SWANS
for Kathy Kieth
We found the bones
In a perfect circle.
Each had been painted black
With red ends. In the center,
A small pile of bright red sand.
Sometimes in the morning
The mist rising toward dawn,
The lake looked choreographed
With great black shapes floating
In the air.
They began to disappear
For no apparent reason.
It is said they can tell
Where the wet will last the longest.
Kathy called them The Stations
Of The Cross. “But there are
Only fourteen stations,” someone
Said. “Yes, I know,” she answered.
They look like prayers floating
With their wings held fluffed and high.
Prayers sealed with red wax.
When I remember the Autumn
I was in the kitchen looking
Out the window at the lake.
The sun was going down
Across the red and gold trees.
Black swans, exactly seventeen of them.
The heart abandons
The shadows for the sun.
Swans coming into the sunlight
Trying to surprise it as they did.
I dragged a chair down
To the lake of an afternoon and sat
Reading William Butler Yeats.
When I looked up, all of the swans
Had gathered close to where I was.
They made no sound as if waiting for something.
During a thunderstorm one Summer
Day, a lightning strike very near to me
Made them seem bright red
With black beaks
For half a breath, inhaling.
When I asked how dark
It was outside, you said,
“As dark as the black swans.”
“Do you have any idea
Why there are fewer and fewer
Each year?” I ask.
“They know about places we don’t.”
I showed my daughter
The constellation Cygnus, the Swan.
“Except for the stars it is a black swan,”
I had a dream I was going
To see a famous wizard.
I was traveling in a small
Chariot-like vehicle, bright red.
It was being pulled across the sky
By seventeen black swans.
The day totally blank
And just before sunset
Seventeen black swans
Landing on the lake.
I had just pulled into the drive
And could see the lake clearly.
The swans made a perfect line,
One behind the other.
“Cobs and pens. That’s what they
Are properly called,” she said.
“Pens? Like what I write with?” I asked.
“Yes, exactly. What else would they be?”
Black swans in the snow on the edge
Of the lake. Their red beaks.
LEANING OVER TOO FAR
I had a brook in the corner of the room.
It was guarded by a swan who
Sang a heart song in medieval German.
The song was of a destroying sea.
It was scored, as Borges said,
With “the ash of which oblivion is made”.
And here the poem comes to I love you.
It has bad habits and longing
That causes fires that seem
To hover just above the waters.
I find it hard to put my arm
Around your waist. I feel as if
I am a verger when I would
Be a lover. I am looking finally
At what I suppose to be your soul,
Yet might be sharp shadows
That may reflect time, but may be
Just me with my hands
In my pockets, falling in love
With something that has nothing
To do with me at all.
I take that place
Beneath the moon
Where I actually walk into
The room with the brook,
Invite you in, touch your hair.
You understand more than I do,
But that will not stand in my way.
The fireflies have come to the windows.
I press my lips against the pane.
My body fills with light.
The universe moves through me.
for Annie Menebroker
The fairy of the heart.
The fairy of memories.
The fairy of autumn nights.
The fairy of the end of childhood.
The fairy guarding the feet of travelers.
The fairy who can speak the spells of olden times.
The fairy who can know when love is true.
The fairy of the evening summer grass.
The fairy of the fireflies.
The fairy of secret places.
The fairy who is seen but once.
The fairy who watches sleep descend.
The fairy of the Spring dances.
The fairy of long friendships.
The fairy who chases loneliness.
The fairy who appoints the stars.
The fairy who reveals what was hidden.
The fairy who can see lost things.
The fairy who protects the smallest breezes.
The frost fairy.
The fairy of winter windows.
The fairy who protects enchantment.
The fairy of distant music.
The fairy at the doors of dreaming.
The fairy called "delight of the newborn."
The fairy who attends the songbirds.
The fairy who can weave with music.
The fairy of the garments of the seasons.
The fairy lit by moonlight alone.
The fairy of the storm.
The fairy from the bows of ships.
The fairy of the starlit meadows.
The fairy of the grace in language.
Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s most fine poetry and photos. Sadly, his brother Bobby passed away this week. Regarding this week's work, D.R. mentions that Annie Menebroker often requested at poetry events that he read his poem, “Some Fairies”, which appeared in Where the Stars Are Kept from Rattlesnake Press. As for “17 Swans”, I live by a lake which has black swans; occasionally we have snowfall, and the white landscape makes a stark contrast between black swans and white snow. Thank you, D.R., for the wonderful poem and the immortalization of our lovely swans.
Don’t forget that today is the deadline for Voices of Lincoln Poetry Contest; go to lincolnca.gov/Home/Components/News/News/36/2267?backlist=%2fcity-hall%2fdepartments-divisions%2flibrary for details.
July fills up fast.
Sunflowers notice ‘way too much.
Midsummer crowds in.
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