—Artwork Provided by D.R. Wagner
We were invited to the trial
But somehow the children got confused
Or were unable to handle any information
That came from the world outside
Their heads. We were sorry for them.
The entire field became transparent.
There were guardians dressed in Chinese
Suits and carrying huge swords.
They probably wouldn’t have hurt
Anyone, but there was no way to be sure.
Headlights flooded the sides of the road
Near the bridge. Even this far back
We could hear the tires squealing and
See the blue smoke. The sound of metal
Crunching sounded like someone eating.
Reflections began popping back and forth
From the shields carried by the servants.
They had their own concerns and we were
Just as dreamers to them. Whatever
We did, whatever we decided, would
Seem as nothing to them. They gave
Us jobs to keep us busy. The children
Sat and watched us as if they could learn something.
We didn’t realize the rage of the river
Until we climbed to the high bank.
Looking down we saw the rapids
Going on and on as far as the eye could see.
Why this insistence to hurry back to the sea?
A nightmare where one holds on with fingertips
To what is left of one’s mind while still
Being able to see shadows as belonging
To all other things but not to oneself.
A direction in the middle of the air.
An atrocious fabrication compounded
By perception and remembrances,
Not necessarily coming from ourselves.
Evening was very near. Even from this height
One could hear the great waterfall leaning
Over the edge of its precipice, cursing
With its language of horror and splendor.
Crashing into the rocks far below.
The river was the only way to proceed.
All else was endless plains, rainstorms
Boiling in the distance, purple clouds,
Lightning and the calls of frightened birds.
Every step we took elicited more questions.
Our memory became crystal, then dust and years.
Which is life? Which is dream? Which is death?
And the crows flew.
There were ten or twelve,
But one came back toward me
And I became afraid.
But it circled me slowly
And made me still.
Then, landing on my shoulder
While I quivered in fear,
Spoke in a crow voice
We saw your face below the ice,
Looking at us as we gathered
For the night. And then you
Walked across the frozen
Field and we saw you
As star light, but closer,
And knew you could hear
Us talking of masks
And flaming ropes
And the precise qualities
Of the wind this drear
Evening and wondered why
You chose to come to us now?
Are you a portent?
What have you seen?
I have known you all my life,
I said, and have found
It unbearable that you crows
Still feel I am less a bird,
Perhaps a madness, to you.
For I am trees and weather
And feathers and spine.
But now I am not
Alarmed, no, not at all.
I do gaze up at you
From below the ice
And now unfold as leaves
To you and your clan.
And in the morning
I will be gone again,
Lying in my bed, waking
Gazing across the winter gardens,
Listening to you talk. But I
Shall no longer know the
Language of the crows.
Yes, this is so, he said, and lifted
His wings and became
The night once more.
THE OTHER RELIGION
for Robert L. Wagner
Forty-four coats of Coronado Red,
Rubbing each coat out in-between.
Smoother than lipstick and butter
To look at, gleam in the night when
The garage door is popped open.
The air is a cloud of lacquer spray.
There must be no wind. Nothing
But air gonna touch this car. My,
My, my, how it shine. Only thing
Better is a Fender guitar lying in
Its case. Only thing sweeter is
Everyone just standing around
Waiting on Summer midnight,
Smoking cigarettes and looking
Deep into the paint, seeing their
Lives in there, reflecting back.
So many of them could never get
Over how it was, being there,
How it felt, how everything looked.
So that stayed. For more than thirty
Years they continued to talk, to smoke,
To paint the cars, work on them, transform
Them so that they matched a single moment.
Come with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear.
The streets of Aberdeen are full of water.
The Wolf Moon eating the hills all through the night.
I see you when I look to the North. I remember
The lavender you sent me when you wore lamb’s wool
And leopard fur. I could feel the sting of the weather
Even then. I said, “What do you think of this?”
A thick sunset crackling like a fishing boat
Full of the silver of fish bodies. Use your own
Body to do to me again what the light does to my lips
Tonight. Harvesting words out of the East
That cause illustrious dreaming on a night such as this.
The flood waters spread out so wide. Do not use
Your thoughts. Do you know how much I love you?
You are my misfortune, an inexhaustible flesh that reaches
The limit of what I can understand, fragments of angels
Not made of time as we are, instant after instant.
I disappear into the small hands of the rain that I had
Heard tell of. Darkness closes in. It wears goodbye
Like a cloudy mirror, constantly jumping off myths
Of ourselves, stories we have become even as we
Become the fish in the boats, the hollow of the Wolf Moon,
The torn wings off fairies barely able to contain light.
Come with me now. We will shake the mountain.
We will climb one into another again and again,
So what is the good in talking about it any longer?
Mirrors pulling the sky over us, helping us to a season of infinity,
Or, if we are really lucky, toward something we can call morning.
We will wait for the moon tonight.
It is not only the moon. It is full
And we can see it through the rain.
It is not like you are a child.
I will put the moon in my mouth
And we can stay in bed. I will
Pass it into your mouth when we kiss.
I will tell you a story of a warrior I knew.
He used a rabbit skin to make a beard.
We lost him in the famous snows
That winter. When we found his body
In the Spring he was in full armor
And looked more fearful than a trap
Set to catch a tiger that terrible Winter.
I am going to continue North.
Meet me under the trees
And you can use my heart
As a pillow all the while I am gone.
I meant to say something
But I kept thinking of your eyes
And what your neck must
Feel like if I found the right
Place to place my lips upon
It so you could recognize
What I was doing was kissing you.
I could have thought of the puritanical sky
But you would not have
Recognized any sky.
I had to imagine our tongues
Intertwining and fields and streams
Coming to tell you that
I was loving you.
That all these words
Were not fireflies.
Many thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and visuals. About today’s poems, D.R. writes that “Bill Roberts is currently reading my manuscript for Towards Love and has committed to publishing the chapbook at Bottle of Smoke Press. It should appear sometime this year.” Today’s poems are from that manuscript.
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