Saturday, January 02, 2016

Riding the Back of Night

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


The room of tiny thorns

Decorated with the Skater’s Waltz.

I own comets, many of them.

All the news was already

Old by the time it found

The edge of my bed.

I didn’t mind.

Do you think I live here?  There is no

Shortage of songs, but they 

Ride by as if they had

No clothing.  Just a fear

Of trees.

I cannot stand

It when they begin to speak.
It is nearly impossible 

To imagine the future,

It doesn’t even wear decent shoes.



I saw the van through the window.
There was a waltz in the corner
Not understanding what it
Was supposed to do.

“Just music,” you said.

Looking at a sailing ship
From the end of the pier
As if it were revelation
And not just a couple of shots
At two kids on the sidewalk
On a Saturday night,
Walking home, splattering
Them all over the street
With beautiful swirls
Of colored lights in
The middle of downtown Oakland.


What eats of sin

That we must give it money

And stand away

From its ritual

At a body dismayed

By nights too long

To be considered fair

To the traipsing of the soul

Across the dry air

Of any altar made of bones

And gnashing teeth

That tries to declare

Itself a voice,

A quiet murder

Nursed by time

That we can only watch

Or stand beside

As it undoes our

Very hearts,

Moon upon precious moon

Or tide by precious tide.


Everything I could imagine

Was your body full of Northern Lights.

And songs angels would make up

On the spot as we walked

Across all of their heavens,

Owning dreams for which we could

Not find a single word that would fit

Our own hollow bones, our own gaunt countries

Filled with these glorious winds. 

Look at them.

Lay your body across mine

Right now.  See what I

Am talking about 

In this crazy voice.



There was no wind

At all that night.

"The snow is very loud,”

She said.

I looked out the window.

Each snowflake was as big

As a wagon wheel.


She began to keep her tears

In a red box next to her bed.

By then she could no longer
Relate to most of those who

Truly loved her.
She thought

They were violins and

Questioned the way they

Made sentences to gain information.

On Christmas we took turns

Showing her images of different

Cacti and spiked plants.

She was able to identify each

One, although none of them

Were native to our climate.

“They are part of a story,” 

She said, and would make

Figures by moving her hands

In a particular way.

The great bear.

The blind potter.

The maker of edge tools.

The polisher of fine silver.

The one who prayed the rosary.

The trails caused by hawks.

The second bride of the Czar.

The ‘I love you’ smile

Used only by birds.

The loa of the secret furnace.

The snow described by the dulcimer.


The brown smile.

I have gifts to bring to you.

Can you understand

Anything that I am saying?

Noel.  Noel.  Noel.

She spoke with naked tongue as if

Wishing it were a welted dream

And rode the back of night

And loosed the dreaming

Heart from its slaying

At the gates of dawn.

Finding herself all undone,

She begins to spit the spirit

Horses of the soul

Into cascades built

Of a fear that

Would never lessen,

Or the wind itself

Unwind, against the beating

Of the heart to build 

A language spoken by

Old stones and cast

Upon the plains.  Histories

Naked as a lesson

From some other

Bitter bible, hammered

Like a horseshoe from

An ancient iron

And nailed against

The heat of some

Great horse meant

To carry us to war

And then away from war,

Our backs bloody

With the lash that

Drives us to an understanding

Mute to both a victory

Or defeat, to spread our

Sorry reasons for life

Upon this vale of tears.

The moment of our lives, 

A dull bell that

Only clatters its

Ringing neither understood

Nor ever quite undone.

A song so full of words

That it remains unsung.


Today’s LittleNip:


“There is no stopping this one,”

Her father said.

He sat on the hammock

For hours at a time

Gently rocking her,

Talking about a chicken

That was bigger than 

The world.