Saturday, January 16, 2016

Grace is Our Swan

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


…The way the lights felt on our

Bodies when they came on...

‘Way beyond anything we had

Ever felt before.

I could see the dancers

On your skin.  They had intricate

Moves and handled shadows

Like they were memories or those

Thoughts we have just before

Going to sleep, when we can’t

Tell if anything is real or not.

We were told to come back later

When things weren’t so busy, when

The streets had quieted down,

When we could actually hear what

Was being said clearly.

This would never seem to be

The case.  The populations were

Exploding.  Before we reached the high

Gate there were twice as many people

Clamoring to get inside.  They all said

They had been there before, that they

Lived here, that when the lights

Came on it hushed most of us.

There was something we could know

From this, a deep understanding.

The teachers lined up against the walls

Grabbing at our arms, imploring us

To stay at least until midnight.

We had horses.  

We mounted them

And rode toward the mountains.

Later we would talk about the entire

City as if it were only an entertainment.

From the moraine of the glacier

We could see that the lights were

Still blazing away.  We had our

Own midnight with bread and a glass

Filled with the wine they make

Here.  Then we climbed even higher

So morning would not recognize

Us when it stumbled across

The whole scene in its pre-dawn blear.


He had found it almost by accident

At the place where the sand began to give 

Way to the jungle, the place where the mangroves

Stopped walking and the nighttime voices were

Those of crabs carefully taking the bodies of lesser

Creatures apart piece by piece and moving them

Claw to claw to sectioned mouth, a soft scratching.

Nothing had touched the arm of dreaming.

It moved freely at its elbow and its fine fingers

Could still trace all roads as they moved between

The houses of the stars and waved to every moon.

He knew he could not keep it for long, but he knew

He could keep it to feel the power in the dreaming.

He could find his lovers anywhere and they would 

Once again be his lovers.  And his children.  They too

He might walk with once again and say their names

As he had when they were small, telling them the stories

Once again of their grandparents and great-grandparents.

He could open their eyes to pets long gone from the earth,

Touching their lips with the fingers of the arm of dreaming

To hear them say the names once again.  His body, filled

With what once had been his life force, spirited through

The arm of dreaming and he touched all of his body

With its moving fingers and ability to allow him to fly,

To bring fire from dark corners and find the words to

Long-forgotten songs once again.

For hours he clung to the arm of dreaming and it stroked

His body as if it were his own arm and flew the labyrinths 

Of what was once time and mirrors but now was his once

Again as he settled into the moon-filled sand and began

The dance.  From high above his body he could look

Down upon the arm of dreaming until he had risen 

So far above the tiny island of sleep, over the vastness

The ocean owned, and touched the hem of the heavens

So gently and firmly it could easily have been his own life.


I’m not putting this anywhere.
I don’t even know how it got here.

I was walking near dawn, the light

Became fascinating and I bent to look

Deeper into the draw near the edge of camp.

There they were, welling up on a column,

Angels, two or three.  The light was so bright

It was hard to tell.  And the music.  I fell

To my knees.  Wondering if I was praying

Or was merely alarmed.  At any rate, I was

Taken, completely.  I was not anywhere.

I have always lived in fear.  That you would

Not love me, that I would never measure up

That what I believed in was without value

In this world.  I walked tight to the ground,

Not wanting to imagine anything for fear

Of manifesting it to myself or, worse, to the world.

I took this path around the camp to the water

Supply so I would not be seen, and now these

Angels, a shaft of them whirling before me.

Everyone has seen the light leap before me.

There was no longer any hiding.  I shall learn

To speak aloud, to express wonder to all,

To call out the name of the lord to the darkness,

To be lead by this pillar all the days of my life.

I wish to speak to you.  Do not deny me.

I am the one who comes to you totally without agenda.



I felt like I’d been holding my breath

A long time.  Glaciers sigh against

The mountainsides, ease their milky

Tears down the gullies and dark

Canyons to where there is some

Kind of silence, some understanding.

Red ants deliver their promises

To the earth.  They too are radiant

Beings, even as the golden lion is radiant.

The heavens are always near enough

To touch, even below the earth.

Their red songs, the red dirt, their

Own idea of dark not so different

From our own.  Oh but they could

Speak to us in words we understood.

The Angelus rings across the fields.

Let us hurry toward the fence.

We will want to be there as sun

Does its performance of the end of day.

Dreams won’t do you any good here.

Be it done unto me according to thy word.


Even if it is just the cast of light

Across the blue pencil and the whirrl
The quartz heater makes as the room

Warms, I still feel the edges the words

Make as they move across my mouth

To find themselves safe, once again,

Inside of words that are still able to hold

My heart so gently I can feel the night 

Halting, just outside the walls of this room.

There was an idea there.  There still is an idea

There.  The breath moves it through this one

To hold at least the flame of a wooden match

Against the window as I look past the Winter

Garden, the dense shadows of a waning moon.

I say your name once again and it is many names.

It is the songs waiting inside the instrument waiting

To be played, waiting to be sung once again.

Wait.  Wait.  The sun will be here in a few hours.

Sit near to me and we can talk of how we finally

Came to be in this room together, still knowing

Nothing.  Still listening, still turning the tuning pegs

To get the perfect sound to come though all we touch.


This is all blurred.

It is hard to see the tiny

Houses but you can hear

The love pouring out of them.

I CAN see that light.

I CAN hear that heart singing.

I know these trees.  The stars

Dress them at night and ride

Their dazzling horses down

To astonish us with enchantment.

Oh this is marvelous even

If we can’t see clearly.

The golden mouth of the day

Touches us and strums our nerves.

To live every day like this,

The shapes, the colors, the

Imperishable sadness when

Someone asks you what you want

Out of all this.  No matter.



Not afraid of anything,

Holes in the world, countries

Whose names are unpronounceable,

The scores of insects in the apartment

That flee when the lights come on

Along the edges of the room.

Not afraid of the rain that never stops,

The old man in 304 with his stamp

Collection and the way he talks to

His bottle of wine, sipping, sipping.

That gun that presses so close

Upon the flesh.

A better design will fix that

As we prepare for the dark words,

The claws tightening, the stench

Of whatever that is that is burning

On the street corners.

Oh this is only a bad debt

Opened up like a gutted teddy bear

Or a fish waiting to be dinner.

There are a lot of places we could go 

Where none of this has happened.

The birds say so, the birds and the pale

Faces surprised at a sunflower.

We’re safe as stars here, darling,

Safe as safe, the blue skies, the blue

Water.  Go ahead, fall asleep.

Forgive the tarnish and the cold.

All is forgiven.  The yellow queens

Walk the land handing out Spring,

Watching, guarding, praising,

Coming in like love away from silences.

Nobody will know what has been said,

What the hell, we live here, not

Afraid.  Compassion is our signature.

Grace is our swan and the river,

Enchanted by our wondrous songs.


Today’s LittleNip:


You said this blue sky was imperishable

But now it is gone and there is frost on

The edges of the pond every morning.

All these thoughts I had of you have gone

Away suddenly.  There is nothing left to think.

I can only look out across the valley now.

I’ll sing a little song to myself, one

That you used to enjoy.  It is about

The sound the oars make when they

Scrape the gravel in the shallow water.

Maybe that sound will stop my sighing.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine Saturday breakfast! Some of these poems will appear in his new book, Finding Our Lives Full of People, which he will be publishing with Tom Kryss. The first part of the book just came out as a featured section in the new issue of the literary magazine, Abraxas (#49). 

Poets everywhere will be saddened to hear that local poet Francisco X. Alarcón has passed away. For more about Francisco, see or You and your poetry will be missed, Francisco.


 Vintage Photo of Niagara Falls During Winter (1903)