AT BREAKNECK SPEED
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.
THE THROES OF DESPAIR
(for Alvaro Mutis)
The town lay dying on the edge
Of the river flowing black, flowing dark brown,
Shining as the widow spiders do, teardrop
Abdomen, reflecting red as its hourglass.
People were begging door to door.
In a back room someone was shouting
Orders but no one seemed to care.
It was like a dog barking against
The street, a lethal eruption with no one
To notice it. These streets know infection
All too well. A stage lit up.
“You boys aren’t going anywhere soon,”
A voice said. It was saturated
With a ferocious conviction that
Didn’t seem to be directed at us at all.
We let it float by, a companion who
Had forgotten our names, dissipating his
Passion in bad ideas and somehow feeling
We must be responsible for all his doubts,
Perplexities and dull memories.
We excused ourselves and went outside.
“I can’t stand the noise the living
Make,” said Lev. Three gray birds
With brilliant ruby patches on their
Wings shot past us as we disembarked.
“We call them clock birds because
They tick when they are eating the
Purple fruit that grows high on the
Trees. Keep your eyes on them. You
Could learn something if you’d care to.”
After a while, this all begins to look
The same. I’ll wait for you at
The end of these words and we
Can travel a bit further together.
I’ll be going away from the sea for
Awhile. You might enjoy the journey.
The jungle is so different and there
We will be unable to have an agenda.
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
Capable of any season,
Full of song and placed beside
The clearest water of a Spring.
Bring the traces of the evening
To the edge of the page
To light the words.
The insects that can make noise do so.
The air is electric buzzing and stridulations.
I am able to understand
The frogs and the crickets.
They know their songs well.
I forget the words to mine.
“What did you say, brother?”
It was a poem.
It burned its way out
Of my mouth.
She bewildered the angels.
Here was a heaven made
She sang songs about dogs
Who knew each other but had
No idea they dwelt in different songs.
Drifting stars, always forgetting
To tell each other such important information.
I called myself to be here, addressing her
From deep in a place from which no one
Could make me move.
I thought I had hidden myself.
How could I know I was a book?
That I was being read at night
Under someone’s covers.
The words flickering under a flashlight.
If this is a language
Then I will speak
Of love and of war and
Of silly things and poverty
And wealth and luck
And dreams, of animals
That fly but are not real,
Of children born with
Perfect wings that we
May never see but still
Know they are there
And lips that kiss your lips
And trusted strong belief
That, even though these
Be pure words, you
Will know them there.
Carried in from the car,
Feigning sleep, just to be carried.
Almost too old for any of this.
The pure moment of it all.
Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s poems and photos! D.R. will be reading tomorrow at 1pm with Patrick Grizzell in Placerville at Poetry at the Mine, to be held at Love Birds Coffee & Tea Co., 2021 Smith Flat Rd. (off Hwy 50). And today at 4:30pm, Laura Rosenthal and Sue Daly will be reading at Sacramento Voices, Sac. Poetry Center. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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