NOTES FROM A JOURNAL
Trails led out of her eyes.
People were walking on them.
A few of the people we thought we
The moon, crooked behind
One man handles fire
With his bare hands.
He lifts it and puts it
Sells it to ladies
Walking down the strand.
There was a blue cherub
With purple wings
Who never quite made it
Into a song.
We waited as he tried and gave
Him our guides, so we may as well
Take him along.
He can ride in the carts that carry
The hearts, that bundle the darts
For the trade.
He can spot where the bridges
Have all fallen down. He will
Tell us of what they were made.
We stopped for the night beside
A stream of water just as the last
Light was climbing up the trees
To make its jump into night.
As it grew darker, the stream grew
Brighter and brighter and we could
See almost as well as in daylight.
The stream seemed to enjoy our being there.
No one had ever come this far into
The forest. In the morning the stream
Gave us fish, dappled like sunlight,
Sweet of flesh and eager to join
Us in making our bodies work.
When we reached far Marlee
We released many of the birds
We had brought with us from Gothurg.
They flew ahead of us, forming
The shapes of many creatures
As they did so. The people of Marlee
Could see us coming for miles,
As if a cathedral were walking
Toward them, singing the while,
Telling the tales of our journey
In stories that are still told today.
Two giants, squatting, eating flowers.
In the next moment they had become trees.
A SPRING NIGHT IN LOCKE, CA
The Chinese ghosts are on the streets tonight.
There is just enough dampness in the air to hold
Them in sight for a few seconds. They are talking.
Their faces flash perfect features in the cold
Light from the few street lamps. They sit on the wood
Benches along Main Street, stare from the second
Story windows of the old buildings, leaning toward
Each other. They are gray as old flannel cloth is gray.
They know each others’ names but will not speak.
A wisp of smoke rises from a long clay pipe.
The breeze plays it for a few moments. Only a cat
Notices it as it disappears.
I hear the clink of teacups and whispers in Cantonese
From behind doors, along the alleys. It seems no one
Alive may occupy these moments. The town swirls
Through itself a moment longer, then disappears
In the blaze of car headlights coming down
Off the levee. The ghosts evaporating before them.
A PLACE FOR THE MOON
This path leads along the shore-
Line for about a mile, then ducks
Beneath some wind-shaped pines
Into a cove where the moon may
Always be seen as it assembles
Its lines and hoists itself
To the night sky.
Years ago many people would gather
Here to watch these preparations,
But now this place is mostly forgotten.
Those who came here have died
Or have gotten themselves far, far away,
No longer thinking of this place.
I came here with gifts for the moon,
But it will not receive me and prepares
Its rigging, mixes its huge variety of lights
And sits down for a few minutes
Before it is time to lift above the tree line.
I watch it practice becoming huge, then
Diminishing to the much smaller size
It uses to reign as lord over the night.
It flips though its phases, tucking itself
In here and there, using the shadows
To its greatest advantage to remain
As beautiful as possible. It is
An amazing display and takes place
In that regal silence the moon demands.
After awhile, I am joined by a few
Others who know of this place.
They come for inspiration and to restart
A sense of wonder lost to themselves
In their commerce with the world.
For centuries this place has been
Such. I have seen the winds here,
Flocks of owls and creatures who
Build the night. Last to arrive
Are the dreamers in their gauzy
Garments, truly stardust and breathing,
Smoothly and deeply.
The moon begins its ascent.
The night settles into itself perfectly.
WHERE I LIVE
At the top of the stairs
I can look from windows to the West
And to the South.
From my bedroom
I can look to the East
Across the gardens
Into the oaks and meadows
And to the South, to the edge
Of town past the house James
Lives in and past Russell’s wood shop,
The Chinese demonstration garden.
Farther to the South, the last houses
On Levee Street and the swale toward
The homes of the migrant workers
Who make the orchards and vineyards
Work. Sometimes I hear their dogs.
Sometimes I hear their music.
My living room looks out to the West
Through timber bamboo, also across
The gardens. There are door openings
On the other three walls, my front door,
My kitchen, my bath, my office, my bedroom
And my closet. Only four of them have doors.
My kitchen and my bedroom have
My office looks to the East.
I can cross the entire space in a few steps.
It does a good job of containing me, despite
My collection and accretions of my life.
I’ll go to bed knowing this tiny world
Is safe here in these words written in the
Lifting the edges of the quilt
A rush of warm air suddenly
Owns the room. It is sweet
But heavy with sleep.
The room gradually assembles.
Everything in its proper spot or not.
What comes to walk these rooms
At night hasn’t a name. We do not
Know that it is there.
Sometimes, when we wake,
Say, in the middle of the night
There is a scraping against
The object in the room, as if
Some dark thing was trying to get
Back into them or get out of them.
“It’s the way dreams work,” says Ramon.
“They never know where they are supposed
To be. I’ve had cuts on my body some mornings.
I could almost catch them slinking away,
Dropping things into my mind as they left.”
I thought it a violation, if they were, indeed,
Dreams. They had rules to follow. They
Did not have to behave that way. They
Did not have to converse with nightmares.
There are ways to come and go.
They shouldn’t have taken the job
If they were going to cut or scrape
Their way in and out of our lives.
I resolved to report them as soon
As I was awake enough to do so.
I dreamed that all the books
Were under the thinnest sheet of water.
I was the one who cared for the last
Of these dead places where the words
Were gathered, and that they remained
Secret, although visible.
One could see the spirits swirl
Within the books. Memory had
Become dust by these writers
Long ago. They were the summoning.
Water touching the shapes of the letters,
Moving over words barely used any longer.
It was a wonder to stand with them,
Even as a guard. A few steps and another
Voice climbed to touch the sheet. The water
Sang murder and breathing, the secrets of fire,
Letters read into mirror, the most momentary
Of waves, the slip of light across the wake
Some great ship made. Fair Troy and the hidden
Rooms of canyons, open-mouthed for more dead.
The poet who counted the fireflies of a single
Afternoon gazing into the heart of the forest.
All so delicate and tenuous as the moment
The hand moved to make these things words.
I awoke. The last one dreaming. The books
Had been returned to their shelves.
I was thirsty for water. All of today the water
Tasted of words. Every fragment, each swallow,
Another universe, another word gazing back
Through the thinnest film of water on my eyeball.
ABUSE OF POWER
Genghis Khan and his brother John
Got into it one day.
Kahn pulled a knife and stabbed John’s wife,
Then tried to run away.
But John was quick, he grabbed a stick
And hit Kahn in the head.
“Try that one more time, he said,
And you will wind up dead.”
Our many thanks to D.R. Wagner for sending us his dreams and gifts to the moon today. D.R. will be performing music with Stuart Waltham at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento tonight, 8pm.
Also tonight, The Soft Offs will be holding their “moetry” fundraiser for Sac. Poetry Center at 25th & R Sts., Sacramento, 7:30pm. Before the evening’s happenings, you can head up to Placerville for the monthly Poetic License read-around at the Placerville Sr. Center, 2pm. The suggested topic for this month is “hand basket”, but other subjects also welcome. 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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