—Visuals provided by D.R. Wagner
Promise me that you will tell
No one about this poem.
That only you and I will know
Of it and hear its sounding.
Promise me that you will read
It every day, no matter what.
No one must know how huge
The stars are
Or how bright their light
Is as it falls across the
Trees along the edge of the dark
Water. No one, repeat, no one
Must find their way through
These hallways or discover
The beautiful rooms breathing
With exquisite music
And the changing of the tides.
Here we shall know each
Other, the taste of our
Dreams, the reeds of our
Hearts before the wind.
Promise me we can always
Find our way here, through
These words and images
To where there is only
This poem, promise me.
Tell me how I look.
Tell me if I’m a car wreck.
Tell me if I’ve paid the price.
Tell me if you hear this.
Tell me if this whole thing is wrong.
Tell me if we’ve made up our minds.
Tell me if we’re only dreaming.
Tell me if we’re out of doors.
Tell me if we’re making love.
Tell me if the plane is going down.
Tell me if we’re drowning.
Tell me if we’re really doing it.
Tell me if there is blood.
Tell me if you can smell this.
Tell me if it is night.
Tell me if we are frozen solid.
Tell me if we are not moving.
Tell me what our half-life is.
Tell me where to put this.
Tell me if this heat is our bodies.
Tell me where the exit is.
Tell me if we are high.
Tell me where the spaces are.
Tell me if we are boys or girls.
Tell me if the lights are on.
Tell me if you believe we can stop it.
Tell me if this is religion.
Tell me if we are traveling.
Tell me we’ve lost our way.
Tell me if it is morning.
Tell me if you speak any language at all.
Tell me if we’ve been poisoned.
Tell me if this is all blurred.
Tell me if this is for here or to go.
Tell me if we are kissing.
Tell me if we are lightning.
Tell me if the pressure is too much.
Tell me if I’ve been lying.
This is as pure as anything.
This is a cloud.
This is not a machine.
Let’s do this again as soon as possible.
A vision of horror
Did I happen to mention
It was raining?
I begin to disintegrate
In water. A fragrant
Star watching me closely.
Warriors seeking secret
Banks of clay on the river’s
Edge to eat, so their shit
Will have no odor.
Rubbing the bodies of small
Insects into their skin
To become invulnerable.
Looking as if they were
Covered in blood.
Shooting streams of it
From the corners of their eyes.
Battles fought in complete
Silence. Bodies turning
Pure white with powder
When they fall to their deaths.
Parts of songs sung
To stop the breath
Of their opponents
For hours at a time,
Gradually spread and start
Sweating like evangelists
As their stomach spew
From their mouths
Painlessly and glassy
In greens and bright yellows.
Did I happen to mention
It was raining?
Great vertical holes
Open in clear air,
Spilling calving glaciers
Of ice at hurricane force,
With a blackness not seen
Since the visions
Of Hieronymous Bosch,
Before them flattening
Everything before them.
An ecstasy of elephant
Madness pounds labyrinths
Into the soul, breaking
Its perfect doors,
Undoing even true love’s knots.
Flocks of murmuring steel
Birds tear through the streets,
Ripping bodies and buildings alike
Into paper butterflies, faces for wings.
Legions of saints staring
In silence as the candles
Melt in the heavens
To choruses of barking dogs.
Seas of flies boiling
Before them in a madding
Hum. Great ships built
Of eyes crashing through
Nightmares to find
Us in our beds,
Afraid to move.
I heard that my heart was broken
And decided to go down to have a look
At it and see what that was like.
Apparently a number of other people
Heard the same thing, and as I walked
I had a small group around me,
Some of whom I knew, some of whom
I did not. I stopped when I got to the bridge.
I could hear a popping that sounded
Like popcorn hitting a steel lid. It grew
In volume, then drifted away.
I could hear some crows squabbling
In the deeper woods, then squirrels
Began something, moving through the trees.
From the bridge I could see
The ocean. There were gray shapeless
Objects, vessels, on it, near the horizon.
As the light failed, the gray vessels began
To glow like fireflies, flashing and blinking
Frantically. After awhile these too fizzled.
Those who were with me gradually
Drifted below the bridge, where
They built campfires and sat
Talking in small groups. The wind
Began to pick up and chill the entire area.
I turned to walk back to my home.
An owl passed close by to me. I could
Feel the air from his silent flapping
Brush my face. The crickets started.
I began to feel the wind and pulled
My jacket closer about me.
Everything began to look hollow, like
Looking through a tunnel. I wondered
If I found out anything. The air, and then
The sky, began to look greasy.
The stars began to slip, then to collide.
HORSES AT THE EDGE OF THE SEA
The horizon is far away, a sullen
Fog, a brooding and endless gray.
Begrudging the evening light,
Holding it for minutes then allowing
A spot of sun, red light on waves. It dapples
The hides of the horses, then quickly
Excuses itself and wanders up the sand cliffs and gets lost
In the canyon leading to the water.
There is a stillness to all this.
The sound of air in and out
Of horse nostrils. A shiver
Across the back, small pawing
On the sand.
Somewhere a bird knows something
About all of this and makes its special noise.
Eyes roll toward the sound then back
To the edge of the water.
The horses are seemingly doing nothing.
They have come down here for the evening, as
We do, without expectations or purposes
Beyond just being there at that moment.
We watch them grow darker in the fading
Light until they are shadow forms against
A sea moving back and forth on the edge.
Now there is land. Now there is water.
Now there is light. Now there are horses.
Now there is nothing to see.
VISITING THE SEASON
Now the Winter hauls its fierce
Force in inhalations
Up to the front of the line.
We wait to see it as a thing
That wants to touch the earth,
As the season tries to avoid all
Metaphors and begins
Insisting that it knows everything
And will not cooperate in any of the planned
Choirs intended to mark the short
Days. It immediately collides with water,
Freezes the toes off of someone named
In a newspaper, who lost their shoes
While in the white eye of the mountains.
“Mine!” says the Winter, surprising itself
With its cry bordering on a tumbling
Toward a cliff edge or a mountain,
Barely able to hold itself in
Long enough to display its immeasurable
Power, and it resorts to snow.
Eventually snow hides everything in
Its white being, ripping the trees
Down, covered with ice, automobiles
Sliding all over the road like trombones
Not understanding the score. It seems
To be living but it is not.
Finally it flickers in children’s fairy books
With white body, white hair, white
Arms and legs, turns almost blue
Under the moon and refuses to describe
Anything but bare trees and animal tracks.
Go without wind
Ye birdless wings
And gather the heart of my lover,
For I’m too long alone
In a world without song
And the cruel night is long
‘Ere it’s over.
The rain swells the river
Ye birdless wings,
So now it’s too far to cross over.
Sweet wings do my will,
While the night winds lie still,
That she may know
My heart’s longing.
Brush softly her lips
Ye birdless wings,
So she may know
Who comes calling.
Bear her sweet light
Through the scarves of the night,
That she lie by my side
Come the morning.
SHE REMINDS THE ANGELS WITH HER LAUGH
She reminds the angels with her laugh
That there is sunlight on the waves
Of this spinning blue ball we live upon.
Those who sing before the throne
Will find her eyes to hold a greater song
Than those which hold the stars
In their twinkling places high above
The blanket of the deepest night.
The horses of the wind compete
To toss her hair about her shoulders,
For it is more beautiful than their manes,
And they would fain to bow before her.
And her breath upon my lips before we kiss
Makes the flowers stumble in their perfect
Circumstance and the bees in the honeyed
Hive fly to her as I fly to her sweetest touch.
Oh all these things she is indeed
For it is her heart that calls the seasons
To their glorious tasks as it calls to me
To dance the language in her praise.
A PRINT SHOWING US ALL FORGETTING
It has been twilight for so long
The birds have abandoned the sky
And mutter their small songs
Like question marks carved in water.
At times I hate to think
That this is all dreaming.
But it is soft and drowsy,
A kind of story within which
The sound of a fly landing
On an apple can be heard
Behind the golden rhythm
Of voices heavy with even more
Stories sliding toward eternity.
We decide maybe it is a harp
That sounds this way and runs
Its tongue across the music
The frog chorus makes.
The soothing of great anguish,
When we begged favors of this moment.
The entire earth
Seeming to be
Our very own breathing.
Fill the mouth with gems so no one will notice.
Clap hands when the sea bursts above wakeful dreams.
Tear the yesterdays from the wounds lifted by the wind.
I will catch your heart in my hands and rejoice
In the quarrels of the eyes with the waking world.
What song is this? The melon still locked inside the seed.
The quince has barely made its announcement, and already
Spring crouches in the ends of the branches, a surprise
For the children already caught in the swollen plum buds.
Already, the mornings are hazy through the early hours,
Colors of California February insisting upon a thousand
Greens, urging the trees to recall how the year might go.
When I was a child, I bet every dream against the new day.
I still laugh to watch Winter stumble over a run of warm days.
We wait for the moon to return. Watch the smaller flocks of birds
Still hurry across the town to find kind company before the rains
Return, drunk on the quarrels of the winds busy at their flying weather.
Here, there is always the edge of the sea, the banks of the river,
The confused decisions of currents through the sloughs.
How precious each day becomes beneath birdsong and alfalfa
Reaching as quickly as it might to rouse itself toward a lingering
Light, now left past five o’clock, clouds for hair, the sun, a secret child.
It is still cold enough in the dark to build a fire in the garden,
If only to stand about it and discuss what crops might be
The chosen ones in the beds not yet broken for seed.
We cook a soup from what grows near the fenceposts.
Sweet and bitter, soft with floating temples of green.
Even a cricket notices the loneliness of spindrift
Easing the heart away from cold and colder nights.
We choose the journey, then the journey chooses us.
VENUS UNBRAIDING HER HAIR
She can catch a soul
As the sea foam curls
Into the wave and licks
The soft curve of the water,
Surrounds anything that might
Be language—a reflection
On the wave tops from a single lamp,
Kept lit to show the ship’s wheel
Where to grip the dream.
—Medusa, with thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and pix! D.R. will read with Alice Anderson next Thurs. (11/17) at Poetry in Davis at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st St., Davis, 8pm.
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