Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Power Is This?

—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke


The ocean drowsing,
Waves, as flowers upon the land.
The voices have returned
And here the bamboo rushes
To the brimming morning,
Sweetness in its mouth
Such as the birds claim
In their songs as they cling
To the swift bamboo,
Eager to find a majestic height
To touch the intimate parts
The bee has fumbled and exhausts.

This must be a music, this May,
This haze of wild greens,
Quick into the leaves and blooms of squash,
Cucumbers, the decoration
Corn puts upon the world.
The fire of the radish.

The woods exclaiming once again,
Opening each May day, open to show
A cheerfulness the earth may
Busy itself with, teasing water
As it busies itself with making
A perfection nestled between
April’s contrary ways and the long
And languid limbs of June.
Serene unto itself, a perfect May.

 Century Plant

‪   ‬
‪The Nightwatch arms itself.‬
‪It will gild my dreams tonight.‬
‪   ‬
‪It will distill wonder‬
‪As I fall to the other side‬
‪Of the mirror, captured‬
‪Within the wall of sleep.‬
‪Gazing at another waking life,‬
‪Peopled by talking waterfalls,‬
‪Demons whose words bubble‬
‪Up from blood-filled mouths.‬
‪   ‬
‪Here angels are of substance‬,
‪And the moon, a bonfire‬
‪Above what may be a sea‬
‪Full of stars, treasured‬
‪By the depths and only knowable‬
‪From here.  A featureless‬
‪Loneliness my daylight body‬
‪Has become, dealing shadows‬
‪To bend another morning‬
‪In this colored oblivion.‬
‪   ‬
‪In the early hours, when‬
‪I have lost my way again,‬
‪I will seek the lanterns‬
‪Swaying before the Nightwatch‬
‪And following them back,‬
‪Happy to find myself waking‬
‪In my own bed, in a body‬
‪I recognize and recall instantly.

Lilies, Walnut Grove

‪   ‬
‪I tried not to imagine color.‬
‪There was a sound of children playing.‬
‪I could hear horses somewhere.‬
‪   ‬
‪I remember when they broke the neck‬
‪Of the thief who stole the moon.‬
‪People seemed happy for a time‬
‪As if they had really accomplished something.‬
‪   ‬
‪I, too, shook the trees and pretended‬
‪That I was the wind, for they were blind‬
‪And I was bitter that there was ‬
‪So little music and that the world grew dark‬
‪Every night and that there were wolves‬
‪Who roamed in this dark and that sometimes‬
‪They looked like men and I could see the hunters‬
‪With their torches looking to cut the tongues‬
‪Out of their heads so no one would say anything‬
‪Like "What now?" or "It's raining" when crying‬
‪Began.  They may have been blind but they ‬
‪Could hear the guns and the howling all around.‬
‪   ‬
‪I tried not to imagine flowers any longer‬
‪But flowers had no regard for my thoughts.‬
‪I went down to the river and watched the water.‬
‪It was so pure.  It reflected the night fires.‬
‪I had hoped I wouldn't have to see this,‬
‪But it was so beautiful in the river, fire ‬
‪In the water, the stars dancing, the moon‬
‪Fully recovered.  The wind on the river‬
‪Surface.  For a moment I forgot that men kill.‬
‪   ‬
‪Color returned to everything.  God in his ‬
‪Huge bed, the deer coming down to drink‬
‪At the river.  The eyes of the wolves upon them.‬

Heavenly Bamboo

‪   ‬
‪The plains seem to come out of nothing.‬
‪We had been in rolling hills all day,‬
‪Then, just before evening was getting serious‬
‪About everything, passing through a block of weather‬
‪We were at the plains.‬
‪   ‬
‪The evening went on forever.‬
‪It had no need of us.‬
‪We were as dandelion seeds‬
‪To the air, horses and all.‬
‪"One, one, one," I sang, mostly‬
‪To myself, for I was in love with‬
‪This work of breathing‬
‪There, outside, able to say "God"‬
‪And have it mean something‬
‪That sent shivers through me‬
‪Like the lanterns of Winter‬
‪And the lighted stars easy‬
‪In their home.‬
‪   ‬
‪Oh to never be blind to these things.‬
‪Room after room of them.‬
‪   ‬
‪We made a simple camp and told‬
‪Stories to one another as if he were‬
‪Really human.‬

 Roof of Mike's House, Locke

‪   ‬
‪   ‬
‪It was a black we were‬
‪Supposed to know the name of.‬
‪   ‬
‪The keen eye of the hawk‬
‪Could trace the footprints of a mouse‬
‪Across the heart and dive to make‬
‪It part of his own body.‬
‪   ‬
‪That night we slept on shell casings.‬
‪There were so many that we were warm‬
‪Most of the night.  I watched‬
‪The sky.  I could read messages‬
‪There.  They told me to bring‬
‪You tidings that the night ‬
‪Would return as a gift to us.‬
‪   ‬
‪In the morning, sporadic machine‬ gun
‪Fire.  A pure white‬
‪Door near the west camp‬
‪Shot full of holes.  They knew‬
‪Our names and could say them if asked.‬
‪They never knew that we were there.‬



We were silvery with sleep.

I found myself about to pause
But my bones continued to shake.
People are crying.  I can hear them.
Below the great wing
A tiny hummingbird voice
Full of rain and sadness.

I do not know what to do
But try to talk about how beautiful
We are as we watch the distance
Of our lives headed for the next

What power is this?

What calls us to remain,
Our veins full of blood,
Our eyes still telling of this?
Oh wonder.

I too wonder how often
You turn to these words
And do not see a funny man
In a brown hat
Bowing to you, turning
To the sun.

 Great Root
‪   ‬
‪      ‬
‪   ‬
‪We cannot name the power‬
‪But we can ask its name.‬
‪We can open every doorway‬
‪And not one of them is the same,‬
‪We may climb the icy mountains,‬
‪Hear the dead winds howl‬,
‪But if we let the water answer‬
‪We will receive the power's call.‬
‪   ‬
‪The trees, they speak with silences.‬
‪All fire has a name.‬
‪The lightning opens all of space,‬
‪Nothing remains the same.‬
‪The roads are filled with loneliness‬
‪No matter where we go.‬
‪But if we let the water answer‬
‪We will feel the power flow.‬
‪   ‬
‪Feel the power flow.‬
‪Feel the power flow.‬
‪When we let the water answer‬
‪We will feel the power flow.‬

 Enhanced Photo: Rapids


I number the world, within which
I dwell and number again
Those who would know your name.
And I cloak myself in pure silver
And play the sweet harp again
Till the seas themselves fold over me.

And I was below the hill,
Close enough to your dear heart
To reach across the sill
Between the other world and mine
And have, then, the purest water
And drink the finest wine.

And here is how we play the game,
For pleasure has its rules
And the waves go slumping
Toward the sun
And make all of us pure fools.

For why should songs come this way?
Or make such songs as these?
Or play that they
Have reins on all the harmonies,
On health, on peace and poison
In colors, too, we’re told.

So, I’ll pull us all by bootstraps
Up from this honeyed sea
And even if you dream my words
You’ll find your spirit free.

And I’ll doff my hat and bow to you.
I make chords that sound like clouds
And fill the spaces between the words
With magic, laughter, riches,
So that you may sing these songs out loud
And carry your hand across the threshold
And touch that sweet world there.

Outside the Herb Shop, Locke


There were Why and What of Meaning
Joined by the tongue that worked
Inside the other's mouth and conjured
Words that one might well imagine
But would be incapable of speech.
And the sword of the other tongue
Would give them sound and dance
Them from his mouth.

Needless to say, confusion reigned
For Why What of Meaning
Had the finest of clothing,
Beautiful chariots and legion
Upon legion of both wise and foolish
Keepers of the gates of speech.
But to themselves all was as
A curse that closed all doors.

We must then find a way to make
A language behave, as it needs
To do its job of lifting our hearts,
Dispelling curses and opening
The prisms of misunderstanding
To the perfection only light allows.

And it was water, water, water,
That undid their swords, their tongues
And paraded itself to and fro
Before the likes of hope and fear,
Of betrayal and of salvation.

They came to call it poetry and here
We still find it on the page, its own
Court, and beautiful, its certainty.
And beautiful, its sweet deceptions.


Today's LittleNip:


What do we know of stillness
Spread like butter on the bodies
Of the dead?  The black
clouds of flies discuss it
With unnerving limpidity.


—Medusa, with a note that D.R. Wagner will be reading at the John Natsoulas Gallery this coming Thursday, June 5. That's 521 First St., Davis, 8pm.


Friday, May 30, 2014

Fire In Her Eyes

Maya Angelou

—Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size  
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,  
The stride of my step,  
The curl of my lips.  
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,  
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,  
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.  
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.  
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,  
And the flash of my teeth,  
The swing in my waist,  
And the joy in my feet.  
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered  
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,  
They say they still can’t see.  
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,  
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.  
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.  
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,  
The bend of my hair,  
the palm of my hand,  
The need for my care.  
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.


—Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

—Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.


—Maya Angelou

The free bird leaps

on the back of the wind

and floats downstream

till the current ends

and dips his wings

in the orange sun rays

and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks

down his narrow cage

can seldom see through

his bars of rage

his wings are clipped and

his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings

with fearful trill

of the things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom


The free bird thinks of another breeze

and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees

and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn

and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams

his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream

his wings are clipped and his feet are tied

so he opens his throat to sing


The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.


Today's LittleNip:

—Maya Angelou

Give me your hand

Make room for me

to lead and follow


beyond this rage of poetry.

Let others have

the privacy of

touching words

and love of loss

of love.

For me

Give me your hand.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dreaming of Currents

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento

   At the first cup, man drinks wine
   at the second, wine drinks wine
   at the third, wine drinks man.
           —Japanese Proverb

The first glass,
I think of all I must do,
the poem I intend to write,
the meter I cannot memorize.

The second glass,
how red the red! Sparks
when held to the sun,
santé de Christo.
A slight spill resembles
the west coast of Africa.

The third,
I could copy Chaucer

and his gift of the French lyric.
A spot coagulates purple,
resembles the lost continent of Mu.

Postscript: I review my illegible notes
splashed with the brown stain
of forgotten countries.


—Jeanine Stevens

     (after "The Poet", a painting by Pablo Picasso)  

                                 Platelets shift,
grind against a flat world, this poem
drawn in quadrants, points refracting,
jagged cells, trapezoids
mined deep as from musty boxes
in long forgotten clearing houses.
She looks in other closets, armoires,
hidden words behind panels papered
in black toile, scrapes deep
crevices, taps a bit of shale, wonders
if every poem has another shelf-life?
Words, like delicate mica, dislodge
with pick, shatter: an uneasy puzzle
a therapist might direct a patient
to rearrange: eyes, nose,
mouth in right order,
or like a marionette stretched too far,
the unarticulated skeleton: arms,
legs, head, snapping back
to edges that don’t match. The poet
walks the escarpment, crushed
granite cracks underfoot. High above
the valley floor, she notices
a slit in the burned out rock shelter,
fragrant pollen dormant
for decades, sprouting new growth.


—Jeanine Stevens

   (after Simone de Beauvoir)

I set the afternoon aside,
fountain pen and journal on the glossy table.
I scatter a few scribbled words,
the breeze grows swift, disturbs edges.
My focus, intent on the blast of white,
remains a shadow. I grow dizzy.
Vertigo makes me stop
and wonder how many years this will take?
I read newspapers.
The bowl of carved wood fruit,
a gift, seems ridiculous—the Venetian mirror
over the fireplace, smudged and
needs a polish. My brain
fills with passion, but I need my
heart: a talisman, simple, foreign
and lovely to calm and re-order my life.

My last book caused a ruckus,
a friend stopped reading,
had a fit, and ripped off the cover.
“Camus, in a few morose sentences
accused me of making
the French male look ridiculous.”

I drink tea, take walks, have a perm,
amused by my own starts and stumbles.
I stop in front of a modern stationers.
Perhaps an antique nib
to slow me down? My grasp
has become weary, my writing sloppy.
In the window a new item—
ballpoint. I find the marine blue
comforting, the barrel smooth
and cool in my feverish hand. I hurry
to my flat and move on to the monologue.

 Falls Tree
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Jeanine Stevens

In October, writing a bear poem,
I think about my own hibernation.

Wild apples fallen deep
in abandoned fields give off cider.

Squirrels chew and scatter
maple’s ivory seeds.

The she-bear nestles in, carries
sperm that don’t impregnate

but temporarily float
in wintering fluids

a rich ovum bath, so cubs
appear after the spring thaw.

I look forward to January
my bed piled with books,

resisting fog and cold,
the kernel planted—the husk firm.


—Jeanine Stevens

    (after A Few Phrases of Anais Nin’s
    and Some Words by Arthur Rimbaud)

Two months search for a small flat to write,
to dream, turned up futile.
I had basic needs: a green park
and boulongerie close by.
A small ad in the bookshop,
Houseboat on the Seine, old but water safe.
I’d admired dwellers along the banks.
Would it be too noisy? Could I pay attention?
A friend on a Fullbright obtained a fine loft
with grand skylight for his art, yet
was unable to paint in the best conditions.
Moving in with my books, Underwood, diaries,
fresh ink, new candles and India print comforter,
this would be the perfect atelier.
I remained docked; ribboned blue, green,
and black water dominated. The sky with globes
of ivory and silent clouds competed
with the river for my attention.
There was always the waif of fish in the air.
A cat took up residence on the steps.
Prone to inner ear problems, I was hopeful
the occasional pitch and roll wouldn’t bother me.
Settling in, the thump against the quay
often echoed by a musician a few boats away,
mandolin in sync, plunk-a-plunk—a comfort.
Time was elsewhere, my pen dipped
in water-borne thoughts. Noon sun in wedges
of gold and aquamarine, became multicolored fish,
tiny gills heaved with ideas, puckered lips rimmed wet.
Afternoons were a delight, cigarettes next
to a fluffy red geranium in a cracked pot.
At sunset in a rose gold mist,
other shapes dipped from smaller craft.
The citron moon webbed sulphur, evensong,
a voyage within. I forgot my calendar,
went on land for a paper and the latest trash magazine,
replenished the larder with artisan lettuce and fruit.
One night late I re-read Rimbaud, dream
of currents, panting seas, blue deliriums…lost boat
in a hair of coves. Half awake, my comforter
floats, the mandala design unravels,
snakelike, squid, lolling head and black jelled eyes.

I walk tilted to the upper deck—
here, notebooks sit empty.
I find modest lodgings near a wide promenade,
wintering trees and pond,
passive toy boats inspiring.
A few blocks away,
a café serves creamy tomato bisque.


Today's LittleNip:

My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.

—Maya Angelou


—Medusa, noting the passing of Maya Angelou this week; for details see

Three Lilies
—Photo by Katy Brown

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Spring Lamb's Heartbeat & Flying Pigs

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

Granddaughter is in FFA, raised a pig
To show at the county fair.
Yorkshire: white, with
Sweet little eyes, great lashes,
And a charming smile.
Named him Oscar, after
Her great-great grandfather.

I’m not too sure how I’d feel
About that, but great granddad
Is ninety-two, a retired miner
From Southern Illinois, where
It is a great honor to have
Anything above ground and
Breathing named for you.

So he was happy with it.  And
Until last Sunday, auction day,
The pig was happy with it;
Jordan was happy with it.


—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Once at crossroads
of growing up
her mind
and confidence
got lost in fog
lifetimes later
once she tells herself
she is a survivor
she becomes a seed
a flower
the sky.


—Claire J. Baker

The moon flowers
into full bloom
We cradle hands
for mystical light
We have waited years
for such a night

splendor slips
into cupped hands
like a prayer
we were born to

(first pub. in

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The sheep are waiting for their shearer.
Winter coats, rich with dried dung and field-
duff, will slip off in cloudy piles. My sheep
have scant memory of last year’s rites
of spring. I doubt they would will their wool
to spindle and shuttle. They’re forever hungry;
watching me through woven stock-wire
as I shear away clover intertwining mint and
lavender, oregano. My fingers unravel the tough
runners. So much green to hold the earth
together. All by itself, clover wishes to weave—
no, invade—the whole solar garden. It’s
hard as sheep to keep within bounds. But
sweet. What shall I do with so much bounty?
Fling a handful over the fence, in a spring-
lamb’s heartbeat it’s gone.   


—Taylor Graham

Still it goes on, like the sad music
of humanity; but it’s our sheep. They’ve
survived the coyotes’ lamb-of-the-month club,
and the horned owl whose talons leave
no evidence, just sheer disappearance and
everlasting conjecture. This morning
our sheep reached the final objective of their
spring portfolio. They’ve been shorn.
Now they wander from shade to shadow
as if blind or in a daze, navigating without
sextant; hiding from the sky; bleating the beggar-
song of creatures too poor for tatters.
Even their hooves were clipped, as if to mark
their passage over thin ice. But at sundown
they’ll come to my call for a bucket
of garden greens, half a flake of hay, their
nightly lockup. Will they dream Coyote
the great shearer? or tomorrow—
unlike their human keepers—
will they have forgotten everything?

—Taylor Graham

This morning a mouse lay beside the Universal
Dictionary in the dusty room of books.
Quite dead, the mouse. Stiff as a spine of the
Encyclopedia of Natural History. On the back
steps swept by night-wind, I found a rat not quite
dispatched by the neighbor’s tabby. What
happened to the dark-eyed junco, the alligator
lizard? What coyote killed but didn’t eat
the lamb? Bare cartilage. Heartbreak of each
creature, and hunger that nothing can fill.
On which dusty shelf might we find The Idea
of God, the Secret of Knowing, the Household
Manual for removing stinks, stains, and this
all-pervading mortal dust? Take down
the latest volume of The Passed Ones, inscribe
each name; give it a place in the dark
of the moon. Inkwell of deepest blue. Is there
no word for death in the Night’s language?

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

Pulling at my broken wings
she’s got me back to heaven,
this poet of surprising words,
painted, whispered phrases—
she and I remembering
the nights and days of falling off
the squawking perch… the
writing desk… falling off,
falling off.


—Carol Louise Moon

Fireflies line up along her path.
She comes in flow of a golden moon
which rises high above a mirror-lake.
Circles form like dawning mists, like the
greening fern she finds along the way. 
High time she finds this thing—no elusive
promises this time.

Evening comes, she finds herself
a long way off from home—no mirror
there—nor here a shadow mirror.

Hollyhocks rise high in rows along
the meadow fence.  Elusive in the drying
grass are butterflies which fly in close
enough to touch.  One comes and lights
among the mirrored patterns of her dress.

A long way in the distant cool
a solitary hawk:  sky wings mirrored…  


Today's LittleNip:

—Allegra Silberstein, Davis

Let us live upon the earth
near the holy place we walk.
I am neighbor to this spot,
a secret way of knowing:
you touch me so perfectly
my bones begin to dissolve.  

Soul could be this kiss, this flame.

(A 49er poem based on words from
D.R. Wagner’s poems on Saturday, May 25, 2014)