There were hundreds of people on the bridge.
This wasn't something we could prepare for.
I felt I couldn't get back, that the road was broken,
Part of the sky caught in a double-long spring trap
And I was traveling that sky, careening back and forth
Between wisdom and insanity, afraid to say
What I meant, afraid of sounding stupid,
Filling a vacancy in my soul that made noise
Like a tornado. I was a debris field.
This is no way to make a poem.
This is no way to understand emotion.
This is barely a way to communicate.
I have taken leave of all events.
Nothing is conclusive anymore.
I can only perform specific acts such as these.
I walk through the garden and admire
The balustrades, the vicissitudes of the labyrinth.
I will haunt the memories of others
Without their suspecting it.
I try to imagine myself as the wheel, the rose.
I believe I can hear souls departing,
Things of no importance, objects from the pockets
Of time that have deserted all but the most ancient
Of histories. My voice is heaped upon
These things which do not have a name.
I stir in my dream,
Believing I have influenced
Every clock. I desert myself
And watch from a red hill.
THE SHAPE OF THE COIN IN ITS HISTORY
She said: “There wasn’t supposed to be a room here.”
And he agreed, opening the door onto rows of houses
In streets of every color, pouring what remained of the memories
The dead could no longer access into the roadways where
Great animals and hungry ghosts flocked to find what they thought
They were looking for. Every house faced away from the world.
He said: “ I am an eyeball rolling away from a body, blue then mud.
Blue then mud over and over, into a lake of fire fueled with unused
Words, forests of them, given to those seasons we had to discard
When we were required to have only four.” And someone imagines
They are the words to a song and begins to sing them. There are
Deafening explosions every time a mouth is opened. “See, the hills
Are still green.” A four-inch hose full of a pink substance begins
To spray over everything until all loses form and begins bubbling.
She said: “Redeem us.” But here were too many children who
Had no idea what she was talking about and began picking at
Her clothing until it was gone and her red skin hissed and bubbled.
Entire populations relocated, hoping for a better weather.
He said: “The clocks have squandered everything. There is no
Botany left.” We tried again and again to return him to a waking state.
He looked up at us and we could see him in the dream. He was drowning
But still using as many bullets as he could command to rid himself
Of his forebearers, as if they were corridors in a fragile palace.
Full of images, all for sale and warlike to the touch, as sentence
Diagrams fight against their respective places gazing longingly
At adjectives used for mausoleums, full of ancient faces,
Full upon the sea, gobbling their adventures without a tear.
She said: “We cannot continue this way,” and exiled herself
With some forgotten king who only existed in a bit of Antic
Muse, unable to decide if she were happy or not happy.
She listened to the conversations of women walking the plains,
Smelling of good food and constant mornings as if they had
Never known anything else. She became unable to perceive dusk.
What we shall not know is their blindness five hundred years
From now, lifting from the garden, no longer children and barely
Glimpsed by anyone who could narrate more than the principles
Of madness, its firmaments and angels so intimate and musical
No one is able to notice them. A hand holding a fine and fragile globe.
THE CLOTHING OF THE SOULS
It was Ramon who told me the lights had come
Out of the forest. I did not believe him. The lights
Never came out of the forest. Most people didn’t
Even know they were there in the first place.
Are you sure? I asked him, but I knew he was
Telling the truth. He never said anything
That wasn’t true.
We had seen the lights in the forest when
We were teenagers. Far past Mullandy’s
Old farm, out where there weren’t trails
Any longer, where we knew the larger
Animals lived, we had first seen them.
There was a crystal quality about them.
They refracted light and often seemed
To hover about four feet off the ground.
They were usually seen in dense groups.
They moved quickly and seemed to sense
When someone was looking at them.
It was impossible to follow them.
They moved in the night air as through
A labyrinth, twisting, forming colored
Chains of light that flitted and dodged
Before one. It was like we were not
Supposed to see them, ever.
Twice we had seen them make swirling
Circles and we knew we had heard a music
Coming from them but not truly from them, from our
Heads, which filled with this music when they swirled.
We had watched them for years but never learned
Much about them. We knew they could change
Colors at will and that they had some kind of communication
About them. They never came closer than the meadows
And even then it was rare for them to do so.
Now they were in the streets of our town
Like exclamations about the shapes night
Could take. They would surround certain
People and swirl around them slowly at first,
Then with a ferocity that should have frightened
The people, but apparently they could not see
These lights. They were our domain only.
This continued for about three weeks,
Well toward the full moon. We noticed
The larger animals had come closer
To the town as well. Then just as suddenly
As it had started, it stopped.
We have been gifted by some great power,
Ramon said. Now when we look at others
We can see the clothing of their souls.
We can see how their souls are moving
In this universe. All that coming and going
Is only the language of the stars. Wear
Your soul as if it were a bracelet made of diadems.
Give it to all you meet on this crazy planet.
This light will appear to us as what we call
The stars. We will recognize others who
Can see this way. They will name the stars.
We will be able to pronounce these names for them.
THE BLACK WATCH
I felt like I’d been holding my breath
A long time. Glaciers sigh against
The mountain sides, ease their milky
Tears down the gullies and dark
Canyons to where there is some
Kind of silence, some understanding.
Red ants deliver their promises
To the earth. They too are radiant
Beings even as the golden lion is radiant.
The heavens are always near enough
To touch, even below the earth.
Their red songs, the red dirt, their
Own idea of dark not so different
From our own. Oh but they could
Speak to us in words we understood.
The Angelus rings across the fields.
Let us hurry toward the fence.
We will want to be there as sun
Does its performance of the end of day.
Dreams won’t do you any good here.
Be it done unto me according to thy word.
A MILLION SILENCES
From the window we could see
The wind skitter across the yard,
Over the pond, intent on making
A Winter of itself before it lost
What it knew of the world,
Becoming a glass the spirit
Could only move across.
Never a majesty again, only a part
Fitted like a lilac or forsythia,
A long and twisting smoke.
Could it be that silences are fitted
To our cells as the seasons are
To our souls?
We are not without feeling.
We are object only to the idea of silences.
This was the setting when silence
Became the chords, where it is
Always late and all is going to sleep.
The light comes from within that sea
Where silence is permanent.
We recognize those silences,
Thousands of them, millions of them.
They shall never be stronger
Than they are now. We feel
Their nobility as they flood
Into the sea of our imagination.
They will become water again.
The window will remain glass.
The Winter will still delight
In showing us its teeth.
From the edges of the room
Silence covers us once again.
It becomes deep as if we were
Finally without our breath
And covered with earth.
What is the brightest star of all tonight?
My hands have turned an electric blue.
They pulse like a room full of children
Learning something interesting about
How light gets inside of things.
We show them the photographs we
Have made of the soul.
They tell us they look like the Grand Canyon,
Niagara Falls, Mount Everest, Elmo,
A great dragon and a lovely walk along
A river that is made of something
Good to drink.
We do not have eyes like this any longer.
The windows explode before a shower
Of automated gunfire. Two of the shots
Shatter a painting of a man fishing
Bosch-like in an asshole. We have no
Idea how we got here. I offer you
A few lines of what was to be a lovely
Poem and we get the shit shot out of us
Before we can misuse a preposition.
Someone has sent for dogs, real dogs.
They will arrive just after we reach the gate
At the end of this thing and get back outside
To see what it is the stars are doing now.
Close your eyes. Make another painting,
Something good to drink. Gate.
BREAKING TEMPO / AND WITH YOUR SPIRIT
There is a slight rise just at the edge
Of the wood where the trees seemed
To have decided they would go no farther
Than this. A rise pushing up with
Visible boulders and short grass.
When I used to go there, it seemed
Very important to get right to the brow
Of the place. There one was even with
The tops of the trees and could look down
To the ice-edged creek that named the place.
The Baxter Run, the people called it.
Baxter had had a farm not too far
From the rise and the stream was a quick
One, moving over rock, heading for the lake
With a couple of deep holes
Where dark fish dwelt, sun fish,
Perch, crappie and bullheads. Raccoons,
Foxes and raptor birds liked to come here.
I decided to come here for the same
Reason these creatures did,
To know the place.
A place to put my heart and to know it
In my blood and feel it in my bones.
A place where, no matter who came there,
They could never find it as I had.
In the silver of summer, if it were quiet,
I could hear the lake water lapping
Just at the edge of sound.
A place where I could image old Baxter
Getting up from his kitchen table, lighting
A cigarette, putting on his coat and boots
And making his way to the barn
Where the few head of cattle he kept
Waited for him. Their lowing in the night
Air just above the waves.
He too would walk by the Run.
He too would see the same water
Curl around the edge of the farm,
Past the cabbage field and into
The hardwoods to the rise.
Some evenings I could hear him talking to the cattle,
His voice deep and resonant, a caring.
Then I was the fox and the raccoon,
Then I was the darkened wing headed
Into the woods to find where the night was safe.
Now I wake from deep sleep
In a bed on the other end of evening
And I am on that rise above Baxter’s run.
I wish for a moon. I get one.
If I want to see the water rushing
Just beneath the thin ice, I am able
To do so. If I wish this place
To become forever, it does so and I become
The place, the rain, the snow,
The wildflowers of Summer,
The insect orchestra.
The tendrils of each day break
And there will never be anything
Greater than this peace.
Many thanks to D.R. Wagner for sending us poetry and photos so soon after his surgery last Tuesday! May his recovery be speedy indeed! Today’s poems are from his A Punctuated Equilibrium, which was e-published by Yggdrasil: A Journal of the Poetic Arts, in Feb. 2016. (See users.synapse.net/kgerken/Y-1602.pdf)
Being sick feels like you’re wearing someone else’s glasses.
a Second Sat. Art Reception at Sac. Poetry Center
tonight for artist Michael Kelly-DeWitt.
Wrong! The reception will be next week.
—Heck, this isn't even Second Sat. yet...!
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