Saturday, December 26, 2015

Bells of the Morning

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


The song breaks open,

Spills on the floor,

Looking for something

That will become the bells

Of the morning, your smile,

Or water making magic

As it falls from a great height.

I still long to see you

On the mountain path,

The fire opening up the night

To where your eyes glow

Once again against the lines

Strings make when they are played.

The footsteps move so quickly

Away.  These are not the winds.

They are notes of crystal and

Moments flabbergasted to even

Be here, caught in the voice,

More than music, more than song.


“It is,” I said

And the blue pines

Aimed straight to heaven,

Wordless and powerful

As thrones.

I could walk in the shadows

And feel the ranging threads

On the backs of the tapestries.

These seem to be things but

Are not things at all,

Just as paint is not painting

Or clouds the story 

Of the sky.

I crouch close to the fire

Somewhere in this night

And find myself looking

Across all of history

With its missing pieces.

Even the planets spinning

Stupidly as I toss more

Wood on the fire

To more clearly hear

The cough of the loon

Through night’s doors,

Each door with its Autumn,

Winter, and nervous Spring

Humming away, working in

These darks to convince me

Of prayer, when every step

Makes an error and tacks

Itself to my life.

“It’s your mirror,” it says,

Splashing water before me.

“Make of it what you will.”

I leave to fish, thinking 

Things such as fish

Could feed me better

Or at least suffice until

The rising of the moon.


She filled the evening

With a quiet song that

Made me put my head

Against the earth and close

My eyes as if I were very much

In love and very much alone

At the same time.

Soon other voices joined hers

And the sky grew darker.

I could hear kalimbas being

Played far away.  They sounded

Like birds might sound when they

Realize they are dancing.



I meant to say something

Completely different

But I kept thinking of your eyes

And what your neck must

Feel like if I found the right

Place to place my lips upon

It, so you could recognize

What I was doing was kissing you.

I could have thought of the puritanical sky

But you would not have 

Recognized any sky.

I had to imagine our tongues

Intertwining and fields and streams

Coming to tell you that

I was loving you.

That all these words

Were not fireflies.


A thick quietness of heart

Like a mouth burned

By curses and chased

From a country where no music

Came and only thick

Smoke rose to cloud the sun

And bring dark mischief 

That still cannot be named.

Such horror fell

That comes from clouds

Standing still over

A country composed of islands,

Struggling to keep its blood

Within a body split

By seas loud as 

Herds of stampeding horses.

Its shores thirsting to wash themselves

Of such blood and old curses

That make even the trees weep.

There shall be no sound

Like this again on earth,

For it is a sound born

Of hero kings and dragons,

Of such loves that 

Even doom cannot close

Words down upon them

And where the breath of birds

Be made as hurricanes

As we fall beneath

The screaming of the hawks.



She, at the end of mercy

Had heard a song

And it came to have 

A meaning.

A vacant loss surrounded

By a silence that could

Not move closer to my lips.

It would not have words.

Rather, it would be a membrane

That keeps the guts

In their place while 

We walk the planet,

Then touches us, insisting

That we must answer some

Kind of call.

Tonight, the rain continues

Softly, opening the earth.

Thus disappears the words
Syllable by syllable,

Vowel by vowel,

Consonant by consonant,

Until, standing near

Midnight at my open door,

I can hear the coyotes

Explaining such mercy

To their hungry cubs.


And the crows flew.

There were ten or twelve,

But one came back toward me

And I became afraid.

But it circled me slowly

And made me still.

Then, landing on my shoulder

While I quivered in fear,

Spoke in a crow voice

We saw your face below the ice,

Looking at us as we gathered

For the night.  And then you

Walked across the frozen

Field and we saw you

As starlight, but closer,

And knew you could hear 

Us talking of masks

And flaming ropes

And the precise qualities

Of the wind this drear

Evening, and wondered why

You chose to come to us now?

Are you a portent?

What have you seen?

I have known you all my life,

I said, and have found

It unbearable that you crows

Still feel I am less a bird,

Perhaps a madness, to you.

For I am trees and weather

And feathers and spine.

But now I am not 

Alarmed, no, not at all.

I do gaze up at you

From below the ice

And now unfold as leaves

To you and your clan.

And in the morning

I will be gone again.

Lying in my bed, waking,

Gazing across the winter gardens,

Listening to you talk.  But I

Shall no longer know the 

Language of the crows.

Yes, this is so, he said, and lifted

His wings and became

The night once more.


Today’s LittleNip:


“It’s just a moment,

Isn’t it?” she said,

As the child she held

So close to her breast

Stopped breathing.

The night looked exactly

The same.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for a sumptuous breakfast at today's beginning of Kwanzaa, which runs through Jan. 1. See for more about this yearly celebration of family, community and culture. And be sure to head over to GOS” Art Gallery today at 2pm (1825 Del Paso Blvd. in Sac.) for Straight Out ScribesSenior Readers Speak, featuring Dr. David Covin.