—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
And here, a landscape dragged
Out into the middle of the room,
Still forced to dwell below the following
Clouds, the treasures of the snow
Or seeing the treasures of the hail.
From this place we can easily hear
The folk tunes, the village band,
Stripped to the bone. A gray music.
We dwell in this room, small instruments
In the service of huge ideas capable
Of driving one mad, heaped up
In the far distances, slowed down
So we might have a look at them.
It is here the phrases are tested.
Strands of speech broken off,
Picked up again. Still we are
Unable to describe the emotions
Implied by the light shifting through
The afternoon in which we find
Ourselves totally captured.
We look to the distances.
They would seem to cause less trouble,
For we can see them come closer
As we progress. Andante Moderato.
A heavy atmosphere, the light
Breaking apart as in Rembrandt’s
Etching of the Crucifixion.
Almost lost in a convergence of lines;
The figure upon the cross, unable
To gesture except with its arms
Outstretched and pinned
To a tree, an apocalypse
In strict time. Watch the higher ground.
Note the perfect stillness of
The villages, horse-drawn carts
On their streets. We image
We are able to hear the conversations
But I was describing the day, wasn’t I?
And your hands were on your lap
And you were twirling a yellow
Wildflower between your thumb
And your index finger. And you
Were watching the male cardinal
Hop from one branch to another,
Wiping his beak each time he did so.
And you weren’t really thinking they
Would come in great cars and stop
Across the street, jump out, run to the
House and pull him out screaming while
They tried to quiet him. The large man
With no hair said, “There, there. It
Will be better very soon,” then pushed
Him down into the car and they
That girl from three houses down the block
Was laughing. Her window was open and
The light curtains with the red and yellow
And blue polka dots on it was moving with
The breeze, in and out of the window frame.
And that kid’s dog, the yellow one with
The cute face who always walked as if
He had somewhere to go, trotted past
And looked at me talking to you very briefly.
And you laughed and helloed and called
Him by name.
Mister Benson came outside and carefully
Attached his American Flag to his homemade pole
And hoisted it to the top, right below
The brass ball that had always looked
Just a bit too small for the scale
Of the pole, and walked back inside.
And I could feel you listen to me.
And I realized I knew exactly
What the date was and how I would
Always remember it, despite not one
Exciting thing having ever happened
All that morning and all of the
Afternoon, right until you came by
And asked me how I was enjoying
The fine weather we were having.
Darkness personified itself and stood, slightly opaque,
waving a paper in front of my face. I reached for it but
my footing was gone. The gravel rolled under my feet
and I rushed toward darkness and lost my balance,
darkness yawning ahead of me, a scum of words
blistering from its mouth. I felt for the smallest moment
I would never move again. The airport lights in the
distance, I reached the overhang and jumped into its mouth.
It smiled, whispered my name, showed me its dimples,
told me it loved me.
They were crowded over in a corner
With pestilence, famine, deceit, war,
Treachery, terror and its relatives,
But they had nothing to do with anything
Like these horrors.
They were misdirected seasons:
Spring with its flowers and growth.
Summer with its soft breezes,
Bees and days of sunshine.
The Autumn of harvest and symphonies
Of color, of brisk winds and
The lighting of hearth fires.
And Winter, carrying snow and red
Cheeks, blizzard and landscapes
Full of trees turned white
As if dressed for a dance.
They had been directed here to be adopted
By these demons waiting
In the shadowed halls.
These darknesses would invade each
Of them and hide within their
Veils until it was much
Too late to be noticed.
Reaching out through the maze,
Days collected around them,
They would raise their own dark songs,
Flooding through all of nature
Tornados, hurricanes, wild fires,
Earthquakes, the accidents of
Any single day, standing in line
Waiting for the moment when
Their name might be called.
Erupting as easily as a thought,
Climbing through every season
Eager as children to be recognized.
A VACANT LOT
The yellow plains.
The open hand.
The thistle with its bulbous head.
The chill in the morning air.
The breathing of a bird.
The lacewing tired at the end of summer,
Its long antennae still moving slowly.
The moth fallen on the surface of the pond.
The lowing of the cattle as they find
The barn in the evening.
The star caught in the branches of a tree.
The night creek invisible but for its sound.
The cricket chorus further than the imagination.
The circling of the black and brown dog
Before it lays down for the evening.
The scratch of a match across the striker.
The cone of lantern light holding
Such a huge darkness at bay.
The rising of the moon.
The closing of the rabbit’s eye.
The silent flight of the owl.
The bending of the night to embrace the earth.
The music lost forever in
The cape of the night breezes.
The heart listening as if life
Itself depended upon its hearing
There were coyotes around the edge
Of the trees. They appeared to be
Of many colors.
Charred stars visiting the frontal lobes,
Carrying offerings that were never
Supposed to be these dogs, but were afraid
To take a human body, yet wanting
To remain close to us. We shielded
Ourselves against the night with a piled
Fire as our center.
I don’t suppose much of this will make
Sense to many people. It sounds like
A story without a point, an empty
Room but for the fire at its center.
Still, this is important somehow.
Here I will hold your hand
For this time and we will watch
Those elusive spirits climb the trees,
Flickering as they do so,
We turn our faces to the floor.
The words of dreaming pouring over our
Poor bodies, begging us to make ourselves
Quiet, listen to the coyotes,
Realize they have become
Embedded in the words.
—E.M. Forster, A Room With a View