—Poems by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
The kettle finds the fire. It always does.
There are thick conversations swirling
Around it. Steam is breath, the evening
Is cool, cool as the edges of dreams are
Cool, twisting as they do through our veins.
We have nothing to confirm the way
The day changed since the dark that
Ate into the earth at three hours after
Noon, moved its nails and spear points
To the top of the hill. Just a clamoring
That rises and falls and sometimes seems
Close to weeping, sometimes close to singing.
We realize that we are supposed
To know how all of this happened.
We make our way down the center aisle,
Procession around to the back, through green
Wooden doors to a dark room nearly devoid
Of furniture and more so of speech.
Here we begin to wait in silence. The candle flame
Plays along the walls in an ancient fashion.
We are well equipped for all of this.
We choose places to sit on the floor,
Listen to someone tell tales well into the dark night.
IN THE TIME BEFORE THE MOON
In the time before the moon
There were men who are now
Not men as we know them.
They could walk beneath the sea
And they had fangs in the palms
Of their hands that could retract
Or rise to pierce the flesh of others.
Water too was different then,
And came apart so easily
That breathing was possible
Anywhere one walked
On land or in water.
The great ship that carried night
From place to place every night
Did so with men who held poles
Topped with stars of fire at their ends.
They would thrust them upward
Through the water from below
The ship, where they would blaze
With colored fires and spin
High above the greatest
Of the ocean waves.
There was no doubt about anything.
All things tasted of grapes and honey.
This place had rooms for eternity
To occupy as it needed them.
This did not seem exceptional
To anyone until we found the moon
In one of eternity’s rooms.
It was involved with time.
They touched one another.
Suddenly we knew the precise weight
Of the moon and everything changed.
All of water thickened and no longer
Could men walk below the seas.
We found sleep inside yet another room.
The night abandoned its beautiful ship
To surround the moon in the sky.
All we have left are these storms,
The huge memories of stars still exclaiming.
MUMMY IN THE MOUNTAINS
We finally found you.
Three hundred years later,
Crouched in a hole.
Still upright and looking
Prepared to stay where
You were for another
Century or two.
You had obviously been
On your way to somewhere
Special. Your clothing
Looked cared for and
You were wearing shoes
That hadn’t much wear.
We could almost hear
Your stories of the bitterness
Winter could bring and
The streams of the sun baking
The cliff edge where you
Were found in an attitude
That reminded us of one
Who listens to bees
As they ply the Summer.
You found yourself here
Ready to talk to death,
Yet not in a hurry to leave
This mountain pass.
Why even today, when we
Removed you to the museum,
We could hear the very way
Birds made the same call you heard.
Found the exact pose
You needed to remain
Like this for over three hundred years.
GARDEN EDGE, LOCKE
At the end of the gardens, a pomegranate tree
Still holds tightly to its fruit. Red balls hanging
Above the fence, the garden guarding just-planted
Cold-weather crops. A lemon tree stands close by.
At the other end of the fence, a fig tree finished
With its fruit for the season begins to work on
Its Winter dress, a display of branches anxious
To please any passing wind with its leaves.
A woman with a bucket searches for the last
Figs around the tree. The wind flutters her scarf,
Unleashes a few more leaves.
The sky is a brilliant blue. It too cleaned up
For the new cotton of cumulus clouds. The
Sun, a late Autumn clear light. Our own star.
I watch from my window, read a poem about sheep.
That gold at the first morning of knowing you.
I did not know I was falling in love
With you. There was no way I could have known.
“Perhaps it is not worth it to define
Something we feel instinctively.” …Borges.
Fishes of gold in rivers of sand.
Poetry is an eternal process.
You were wearing a blue-and-white
Dress and stayed at the back of
The room. I saw you and said hello
Even though I was nowhere near you.
It was like I shouted it but I had
Said nothing. You looked at me
Once or twice and you left before the
Reading was over, but it was already too
Late. I knew I was in love with you.
You understand more than I do.
But it will not stand in the 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.
I never speak of angels
Lest they abandon both
The high places and the pins
And leave the notes they are
In music and the words they
Are in poems and the caps
Of waves they are upon the ocean
And the leaves of all the trees
That are their bodies or the wings
Of birds or those of bees and all
The other insects and the beasts
That walk and crawl and burrow
Here upon the earth. Lest they
Forget to cluster round the highest
Throne and find delight in all that
Is created within their realms
And full upon our own.
I never speak of angels.
Rather, I will sing them with
My speech and play them with
My songs and music and dream
Them in all the places on and off
The earth. Oh let them reign as
All creation reigns and dazzle us
With all the things they are here
Upon our sorry spinning earth.
Take us in their fiery arms and
Bear us to the highest when
We leave our fleshy bodies
And our dust becomes the
Universe again and we become
These selfsame angels singing there.
The inhalation of the wave
Before it breaks upon the shore
With its white hissing and explosions.
Against the rocks and the
Dense hives of sand
Writing in wetness and damp,
Between the sentences
Traced together by time
And dreck, a scurrying
Of tiny crabs.
I am broken by the ocean.
“Alles, Nahe werde fern,”…Goethe.
“Everything near becomes distant.”
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine Saturday brunch!
Celebrate our differences—
both inside and outside of poetry!
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