—Poems and Photos by D.R. Wagner, Locke, CA
TREES THINKING AND TALKING.
WE WATCHED THEM AS THEY BEGAN
TO TORTURE THE TREES.
There was no way they could get them
To say anything. It was raining.
The trees kept thinking about time.
It had a broken sound like the rain
When it hit the windows.
They would only talk about the seasons.
Just outside the window
One could see paper lanterns
Glowing to the distance
But they do not lead to any heaven.
We could see smoke begin to rise
From the far side of the forest.
I thought I could smell the smoke
But I was often wrong
About things like that.
Trees burn. They remember.
They always remember.
Now listen to the frogs.
They know. They really know.
They see the light fade.
Nothing moves in the night.
I can’t explain any of this.
It is too difficult to sort out
These feelings with the trees
Being tortured as they are.
In our hearts the trees reveal
How they love us.
They pump oxygen into the atmosphere.
They know the difference
Between light and dark.
“We will live,” they say.
The big trucks are coming closer
To us now. We can see the bodies
Stacked upon them.
for E.R. Baxter
The altitudes have gone past tension.
We are required to know just how
High we are, what names the dead
Animals by the side of the road
May be identified by, what has happened
To the amphibians that the Spring
Isn’t as full; the vernal pools
With their pale eyes reflecting
The cool morning, the wakening
Rustle of the season, all green and up.
So we stand and watch the buzzards
Ride the thermals, circling 'round
And 'round, and we learn to listen
To our breathing as we do so.
We can meet here as often as we are able
But let us speak to one another
About these changes, remind one another
Just how temporary it all is.
Or, if I am unable to see you here again,
I’ll be sure to text you, maybe that
Will be our attempt at presence
As Spring replies with confounding necessities.
Night Coming (Student Drawing)
We don’t have the room
So we keep climbing the stairs.
We are well above the houses.
We can see the meadows and now
Over the hills to the edges of the cities.
Still we climb. We don’t have the room.
Books are left behind. They cannot
Run behind us, but feed us well enough.
I was able to see you last night
In your home next to Lake Ontario.
I was climbing till the clouds obscured
The way and I was made to sleep.
We don’t have the room
So we keep climbing the stairs.
Here the past is ahead of us always,
The future farther above, leaving clues,
Filling crates with ideas, so there is
No room. We climb higher.
There is no end in sight.
Something had stalled the mouth
Of the creek so the water slowed
Where we sat on the bank fishing.
There was little chance we could catch
Anything, but that was not the idea.
The idea was our being there
And it being Summer for awhile.
The trees were at peace.
We were believing in poetry
And music at that moment.
They made promises to us that
We might probably believe were true.
The day was graying over in small
Exclamations. Frogs making splashes
Now and then. You found a feather
And stuck it upright, as close to the water
As possible. “So the fish might see
It and perhaps enjoy it,” you said.
There were reports that one country
Was killing people from another country.
Nothing too unusual for such a day.
Perhaps they wanted to sell something.
I looked into your eyes as you watched.
How could such a lovely
Reside there. Dances could
Have been going on in them
The way they sparkled.
Are you getting tired yet?
Maybe we should check
For directions. This seems
Far away, like childhood
Or daydreaming in March.
We never really wanted to know
Anyway. Far away a car door slammed,
A dog barked as if it had something
Of importance to say. We knew
Things would never be like this
Again. Still, you smiled at me
And I smiled at you. This
Thought remains fascinating, like wondering
What might be found at the top
Of that hill.
Jack's Walk, Bolinas
TALKING TO FISH
They do not know what water is.
They think the world is dancing
Constantly. Songs are ecstasy as they
Enter their bodies completely. They do
Not need ears to hear them.
We seldom see them in trees,
But there they are, thousands of them,
Decorations of the Amazon jungle
In flood. Leaves are the souls
Of fish, sculptures of fish
Never previously seen. Here
In the high jungle they become gems,
Tales of the elders. Fish.
We used to walk along the edges of the smaller lakes in the summer. The crappie and small perch would rise in the evening and jump at flies or gulp bugs that fell into the water. They would make concentric circles on the surface of the water, soft splashes in the twilight. It was a language. We had no idea what the fish were saying, but they were saying it. Maybe it was about the heat or the rain coming the next day or what they had seen beneath the surface. All those years later without a word, yet so much of blood and its salt, reeds and thin lines trolled through the water, the quiet that came from eyes that never close, from pressure on lateral lines, from talking on and on to fish.
THE BIRDS THAT EAT IDEAS
(Ptaki Ktore Jedza Pomysty)
The shearwaters stay just above
The tops of waves. The air pushes
Their bodies upward, inches from
All the ideas of air and water.
Bodies of fire exclaim.
A ball of shining made of ivory,
Made of wood, made of the beaks
Of ten thousand shearwaters.
A scroll unfurls itself, full of allegations
About who gave what gift to whom,
A silver mine, a pillow full of love
Being wound around sharpened pins forever.
Surely there is a way to keep
These ideas safe. They glow
Like old friendships slowly
Being dismantled by birds,
Birds feeding on the soft music
Of believing in things like songs
And the idea that animals can fly.
Sedum in Bloom
FUCKING AROUND WITH THE MUSE
She wore a green-and-white blouse,
Had a halo like a saint
And it too was green and white
But it glowed like magic paint.
‘Come here,’ she said
‘Let’s go to bed.’
It put me in a swoon.
‘I’ll take you up.
I’ll take you down.
You will shine just like the moon.’
‘Who are you,’ I asked, I asked.
I caught my breath.
She laughed and took my hand.
‘Come on inside,’ she said.
‘I’m here to hear the band.’
‘What kind of thing are you?’ I asked.
‘How come you glow?’
‘You talk too much,’
She said to me. ‘Shut up!’
She cooled me with her fan.
‘I’m your muse, you fool.
I want your tool.
I want you to understand
That sometimes you must go with me.
Don’t be that fool,
Or I’ll turn your words to sand.’
I went with her.
It got me here.
I didn’t give a damn.
‘I’m yours,’ I said,
‘Until I’m dead.
Make me into a man.’
‘You are a man,’ she loudly cried.
'Stop fucking with my gifts.
When I call, you come, you hear?
I’ll help you write the myth.’
She kissed my lips, my fingertips.
She sucked upon my pen.
I guess I’d do that anytime.
She called, ‘Just do it then.’
We never would have believed they had weapons
As powerful as the ones we encountered,
Rational thought removed from incredible
Distances, the idea that history was a voice of reason,
A kind of clarity and certainty that we need go no further.
Passion offers us a seat, claiming it is turning
Us loose, that we have forgotten the easiest
Part. The pastel-colored clouds are ordered
Into position. They wait in line near the horizon.
We discuss if it is visions we are having, elevated,
Degraded, mansions we were never supposed
To occupy, let alone live in. Every age has its own
Idea of the genuine. We avoid it at all costs.
These figures keep returning. They hold out
Their hands to us. They offer us gifts that
We are unable to accept. They seem depraved,
Do not serve the good of the many. Absent love.
Alfredo's House, Locke
Silence is herded
Where dear queens ever think
Of how the fish shines,
How the knives know their
Red duties and what men do
To make them so.
We know it isn’t tomorrow yet.
It isn’t time for a pathway to open,
For that sickness that is such a
Special creature to draw close,
Speak of wondrous light and
The long coats waking brings
To this silvery estate.
So silent. I braid her hair,
Decide to call all of this ‘sleeping’
So we won’t puzzle over the closed
Eyes and supine bodies, or the
Cities burned to the ground,
For that matter. We persist
In naming lands we do not know,
What produces good action,
What this white wind might mean to us all.
They are standing on the edge
Of the stair, gazing at the jewel
That is the dawn unfolding, neither
Afraid nor apprehensive. The day
Will cascade upon them, then through
Them, wiping its silly smile across
All that lies before it. A blessing
Of a kind, but without the quiet
Voice that calls the powers to itself,
Dispersing again in a million
Amens. They drift before
The wave crashes, before the fire
In the fireplace really takes hold,
Declaring the memory of trees
To the damp air, before the clanging
Bells that threaten to topple
Childhood, clear water and singing
Into a collective murmuring of illusions.
Still they stand before it, eager to be
Enveloped. This is the world, for heaven's
Sake. What choice is left at this point?
We kiss it full upon the mouth,
The surface of the eye floating
Scars and image alike, a gray morning
Suddenly relieving itself of the clouds
And exclaiming at the green presents.
Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through any one that suits you.
Houseboats on the Slough