Saturday, December 10, 2011

Light Enough To Read By

Shell Mirror
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

From heath-land to plain to escarpment,
broken reed at water’s edge, we’ve
searched for the bridging point, a way
across. Past summer, the air’s still
full of wasps, yellow swarms like tiny
ticking clocks too fast to count how time
passes into fall. We find their
paper-nests empty, deserted as winter.

I keep a paper-journey, journal
of passage place to place, always later.
Green rooms of grain-fields scythed.
Click-tick of rats in stubble, dry music
that repeats in dream. Night
watches, fires seen as far as the horizon,
swarming distant light. Life is always
a flight risk, time indigenous

as a rodent’s tooth. A king in exile
seeks home, memory, his mind. And so
we wander. How does this end?
Shadows drain color from landscape
on the other side. In time,
the page I write is paper consumed
to pulp. Tomorrow
we might find the bridging point.


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Sliced peaches
in the homemade oatmeal
an aunt sings a lullaby
to a trio of kittens
snuggled next to the half-warmed stove.

Mom is bathing baby
in the kitchen sink
he loves it nonetheless

and Father smiles
heads back to the other world
knowing the peace
of leaving the living
after several years
of wandering and wondering
they are happy somewhat and safe
sanctifying his sacrifice.


—Shawn Aveningo, Rescue

wait up. Did you forget
my steps are smaller than yours?
Maybe I could dance
on your feet again….you can keep
time for us both….I promise.
I’ll follow your lead.

Look, I can fly. I borrowed
these wings of steal to soar
toward you as fast as I can.
Funny thing though…
I’ve already reached you.
I watched you light up the horizon,
felt your embrace as sure
as the morning mist.

I’m getting dizzy. I keep turning
around and around and around
expecting to see you. I think I’ll close
my eyes for a bit, let the world
keep spinning while I visit
you in my dreams.

I miss you.
Even though I know
you’re right here
and always will be.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

Just as I reached the top of the stair
The house seemed to dissolve around
Me and a great wind began to shake
My clothes and push me toward the
Emptiness there, showering me with good
Wishes and visions of a perfect world come down.

We have waited by the side of the river
For three days now and still no one
Has come this way. By day we can see
The black smoke from the fires along
The horizon. The old ones tell us not
To worry, that things have looked worse
Than this before, but they are repeating
Stories they have heard since their youth.

Today, near the deep water thousands
Have gathered to hear the poets again.
Who in hell do they think they are?
The words flare up briefly, we are warm
For a few moments and then the guns
Start again. When they speak at night
The tracer bullets seem to know exactly
Where they are and sting them like flies.

This is but one account of the great wind.
It already contains too much information
And begs us to listen, to share the vision,
To hold the soul like a scrap of something
Precious, something that has to do with
Truth and what really is beautiful and how
Soft the stars appear this perfect night.

We fall to our knees and then become prone.
Inches above our heads the lead is flying
Through the air able to speak only one
Language and one word. We crawl forward.
Nothing will stop us now. We remain undaunted.


—D.R. Wagner

“When she opened her mouth thousands
Upon thousands of wasps flowed out
Of it, filling the air with their yellow
Music and whirl. Her voice followed,
A big dog barking into
A large garbage can. We feared
Even our being there but we must not
Leave without this said...”

I want to tell you about the night.
I want to tell you about the spotted
Horses we rode into the grainy red-black
Twilight that leaks into the place.

I wish to talk about the fires
Seen on the horizon, almost white,
Surrounded by the writhing forms
The queen of ghosts elicits from dark air.

But vision will have none of this.
No single tale, no sweet mouth kissed,
No tales of other visions, tales of fear.
No stopping without a farm house near,
Deep in the darkening of the year.

I can only watch them disappear.
The striking of their hooves upon the plain.

I can only clear a space to tell
That the cold was filled with
Hoards of wasps, crippled by the cold,
Falling from the sky, like snow, still somehow

Intent upon their paper-making
Journey, struck down and so, surprised

That Winter was full upon them.
Their paper nests, smashed and pulped,
Combed and calendared and formed
Again into a single page made only
To hold ink, a foment of words
Tumbled upon them after the lady spoke.


One Minute Before Sunset
—Photo by D.R. Wagner

—D.R. Wagner

The late afternoon sun
Coming in low across the birch
Trees and the liquidambars
Making their yellows and reds,
An adagio of sorts, as if it burned
What little warmth left in the day
Into our eyes allowing us to wonder
At the quick change toward early
Dark to hazed fog balanced in its night,

Had found itself locked in the high
Bedroom two floors above the bread-
Smell kitchen, unable to leave the room.

Perhaps the room thought it was an ornament
That belonged to it alone or that
It was a dance, some unknown overture
That needed to be confined within
The room with its bed and dresser,
Its white linen curtains and bed
Clothing, but it held on
Well into the late hours when I,
Going to bed, noticed it trying to
Escape through the smallest of spaces
Between the door and the floor.

I entered the room and in the quick
Moments before it fled, I saw
The dread it carried for the coming
Months of Winter, even as it spread
Itself across the furniture and begged
The light to release it. Reflections
In the small mirror, cutting the edge
Of the photograph of the young couple
Taken during the Second World War,
Clipping the curve of the pillows.
Roving up the edge of the partially
Opened closet, furious to leave
The room and end the day.

It flowed around and over me,
Flashing against the bannister,
Catching the mullions of the windows,
Spilling the night back into the room,
Making ghosts of all within, its
Glow firing itself in my memory
That such a thing were even possible.

I stood for a long moment watching
The change flood the room
From what was truly impossible
But had actually happened before
My eyes.

This was a gift not freely
Given by any day and I began
To recognize that childhood had
Returned with a moment’s magic
Before I was once again old
In what I knew and believed
To be true.


—D.R. Wagner

We were standing on the edge of what
We would call the universe. We
Were not frightened or alarmed in any way.

We could walk up to the great
Holes and gaze further into the nothingness
Days produce in their coming and
Going when unmarked by the touches
Time loves to give to everyone,

Naming each of us for his own, taking
At will, allowing endless digressions
To others that they may never be
Found for millennia, Vivaldi and
His store of manuscripts lost for so
Long as to make his music newer than
His age could ever do for him.

So we stood and we shall stand
And there will be an evolution that
Will change the universe with moving
And it shall be open, an encounter
When there is nothing left but
The soul with its shining garments
Insisting that we listen, not to the words,
Not to their dreams, not to their
Detailed pictures, but a repetition
Life instills, always on the edge
Of what we desire or love the most,
To stand with us on that
Sure edge, going deeper and ever
Deeper into the cupped hands.

We try to make light
Enough to read by before the whole
Thing catches fire again and closes
Every universe, one after another, out
Farther away than everything would appear now.


Today's LittleNip: 

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls.

—George Carlin



Don't forget the Davis Anthology reading tonight; see for Trina Drotar's preview.

—Photo by D.R. Wagner