Saturday, November 26, 2016

It Might Be Blood

Quince in Flower
—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA


And somehow you can’t be afraid
Of anything.  If you are going
To open your mouth to talk about
Love, there can be no part of it,
Or of your body, that doesn’t remove
All of its garments and reach out naked
Toward embrace or get hit with the back
Of a hand, or met with words that once
Had meaning other than what one might
Have ever imagined.  And what is your safe word?
It can’t have anything to do with what might
Be done to that body or what your body
Might be doing to the body of someone else.

There is a terror as the foot slips
From the edge of the curb, the sidewalk
Wet, the grass too slick, and you pitch
Forward or backward and it feels good
Or it doesn’t feel good and your mouth
Begins to bleed no matter how it feels.

Your fingernails dig into the back of your lover
And the marks look like words.
And the words sound like dogs barking.
You can feel your head pitch
Back and slam into the sidewalk.
Concussion.  Maybe.  The entire idea
Of love may even see you living your
Life unable to walk correctly again.

But you can’t stop the love.
So you speak of the weather
Or something you felt just before
Your head smashed into the concrete,
Just before the blood broke through
Your skin and you forgot what it was
You were saying.  All you can taste
Is that taste that might be blood,
Or might be wet grass.  Your ears
Fill with so many sounds you must
Struggle just to hear the words,
Just to know what you want the words
To mean.

You are actually saying them to someone,
And more than you might want religion
Or sex or someone making you feel
Like you just learned how to invent
Your body, you realize that all there is
Are these words you’ve managed to hold.

They are like a streetlight,
Like a morning, like a mouth
Moving on your body,
Like your darkest fantasy has just
Been able to afford its own car
And it stops and sees you
Wet and sprawled on the edge
Of the street.  And it opens the door
Of the car and looks at you lying there,
So full of desire, all of your being
Struggling to hold these words
Close in your bloody mouth,
Your damaged head.

And it says, “Get in the car now!
You know what you want!
Get in the fucking car now!"

 Wild Plum Tree Cut


We came down from the North.
The rain was driving.  For three days
We were unable to see the trails
We were using, hoping we had chosen
Correctly and that the water
Would stop or slow.

On Tuesday there was a break in the clouds
That lasted over an hour, and we found
Ourselves much higher above the valley
Than we had thought we were.
We could see farther valleys and even some
Distances where the clouds had let go
Of a few hundred feet of the mountains.

They had a glowing mist about them
Before they disappeared into the clouds again.

We were told this geography was typical
Of these deep emotions we were
Experiencing.  We had to
Connect with our families.

“Your heart looks much like
This place,” we had been told
Before we left.  “And traveling is most
Difficult once you reach the
Last range of mountains.”

We were barely to the mountains
And traveling was already most difficult.


It was already late in the afternoon
When the rain began again, harder
This time, the clouds insisting on
Staying close to the ground.

In some far distance we could hear
What sounded like bursts of gunfire,
Followed by dull explosions that were
Definitely not thunderclaps.

We took the route across the valley
And began our ascent as darkness
Was rearranging the landscape
For night.  Somewhere higher up, we
Noticed lights that appeared, disappeared,
Appeared again through the blowing rain.

We decided to make for the lights.
Perhaps we could reach them in
A few hours if we did not stop to rest.

We would find our families again.
We had vowed to do so.
We would be guided by our own breathing,
Our breathing and a perfect understanding
That our geography would remain true
For us, whatever the task might be.  

 A Bevy of Locke Cats in Front of Mrs. Chan's Home


“There’s a terrible risk here,”
I told my friend Baxter
As we sat, drinking wine and smoking
Cigarettes on a Saturday evening many years ago.

“What’s that?” he said, draining his glass
Of Vin de Tavola.

“We could grow old,” I replied.
“Well, at least you’re right, for once,”
He replied.  “Let’s go outside to the
Front porch and have another cigarette.

“We will talk about pain.  Maybe
That will help.”

“I hope so.  I really do,”
I replied, watching the streetlight
Come on, flashing and complaining
About the charge pushing through the wires.

“I hope so.  I really do.”

 Iris In My Kitchen

            after Kipling

Broken I was and beyond repair
(I never could understand).
I’d stand in the rain and think it was fair
(I knew I was wrong but I just couldn’t care)
But still I stood and still I stared
(I never could understand).

I stepped on my dreams, or so it seems
I tried to keep them all clear
But there was never a dawn that could draw me on
(Now I can feel and I tried hard to feel)
And I struggled, but named it fear.

I was loved or thought may be I might
(I never could understand)
Still I leaned into the fight
Broke my spirit to capture the light
(And the light it was never that bright)
(I never could understand).

Oh the things I would do to make this seem true
Were never enough, much too bland
And now I can feel, as I am able to feel
(But please understand that I barely can feel)
Yet it still seemed all much too grand.

I’m broken apart, like it matters at all
(I never could understand).
And I’ve tripped on the verge and I crawl
(But it doesn’t seem real, just small)
Still I grew, but was broken, was never so tall
(I never could understand).

And now in the twilight I beg for a bright light
And it cuts like a curse from a height.

And I’ll never know how it caught me and so
(My soul has gone from me, faith, I never will know)
And I never will understand.

 Calla Lilies (Photo Manipulation)


Music in a basket, taken to make a room
And then a dwelling and then a palace.
It has proven itself to be no
Architecture for living.  There is no
Inside.  The rooms are beautiful
But without doors.  There is only
Sound at the end of an arm or a
Stepping across a threshold trying
To direct the forward motion of the whole

We live in the crescendos and
Diminuendos.  Legato to the
Edge of the cliffside
To see the view and there,
To once again discover the
Woven basket,
Capable of any season,
Full of song and placed beside
The clearest water of a Spring.



These flowers burn my hands
As they are delivered to me.
I must have gone out at some
Point to gather something like them.
But they became too many bouquets,
Too many different ideas of what
Time allowed me to find.  I am
Sure it was for time’s amusement,
Just as it finds so many literatures
To poke at as one might a jellyfish,
With a stick, between tides.

This, then, is between tides.
I will be patient with it all
And carefully map out the
Labyrinths, make deliberate choices,
Find a mysterious object half-buried
In the sand, carefully lift it, turn
It over, only to discover a perfect mirror. 

 Duck Decoys in Locke


He always seemed to walk through
Things, never around them, as if the night
Were a huge tangle of objects
Moving like a glacier beneath his stride.

And he would crash through
The surface with each step and
Plunge out of sight, reappearing
With the same crashing of steps.

Furthermore, he seemed headed
Nowhere.  Our job was to watch
Him.  After all, he was our guide.
The old ones called him “our prayer”

And bowed to him when he would
Arrive late to the caves, cut,
Bleeding more often than not
And always mumbling about
Something he had seen in his journey.

We hardly ever spoke to him
Except to ask common questions:
Would you like more soup?
Are you bringing wire with you tonight?

Except for myself.  I had decided
To talk to him as if he were
Not our prayer, but rather a kind of drunk
Wanderer whose job was smashing
Underbrush beneath his feet.

“What is perfect?”  I asked him.
“A lamp atop a three-drawer dresser,”
He answered.  “There are silhouettes
Of deer, squirrels, rabbits, foxes,
Birds and the forest in its lamp
Shade.  It is perfect,” he said.
“It is also only four inches tall.”

He wept and I could feel
The music of a piano musing
Well after midnight come through
His words.  “What am I feeling?”
I asked, alarmed at this.

“You’ve never been inside a poem
Like this before, have you?”

His eyes were suddenly the only
Light in the room.

“Touch the walls here very carefully,
My friend.  This thing just ends
And there is no bottom.
Watch what happens when
The words run out.” 

 Through the Drawing Studio Window, UC Davis


His face gave nothing away,
Maybe a couple of small wrens
Hanging upside down from the fine
Branches of a birch tree in Winter,
Dining on seeds, but that was about it.

At any moment you may be given
To understand something that
Will push darkness aside and
Allow all to stand on the upper deck,
Totally stopping the infinite,

Plundering it for even more ideas.
Wandering deeper and deeper
Into the labyrinth, hands in
Pockets, whistling a South American
Tune, expecting nothing, watching
The great power of the waves.

We went inside, put some water
On the stove for tea, a perfect moment.


Today’s LittleNip:
Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.



—Medusa, with thanks (and happy birthday this week!) to D.R. Wagner for his fine poetry and photos today, and a note that D.R. will be reading tomorrow (Sunday) from his new book,
Love Poems (Cold River Press) in Walnut Grove at The Tong Fine Art Gallery, 14136 River Rd., 2pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

Victoria Dalkey, Annie Menebroker
McClatchy Library, Sacramento
—Photo by D.R. Wagner 

Celebrate poetry, and the friends it brings us!

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.