Saturday, July 30, 2016

As Fire and Salt

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


I have the sole treasure.
It is greater than solitude.
It is pierced with music.
It has nothing to do with the moon.
It exalts as only the soul can exalt.
It magnifies both the twilight and the dawn.
It has a memory greater than that of trees.
It is more welcome than water to the thirsty.
It is as vain as death and commands all its courtesies.

I offer it to you as Abraham would offer it.
It is the book and the reader of the book.
It is the blind directing us to the light.
It does not recognize dreams as dreams.
It does not recognize you as yourself
But embraces you nevertheless.

It strokes the skin of pleasure,
Believing it is saving the world.
But does so without justification.
It returns to us as day and night return.
It opens a library of endless streets.

It marries the sea to decipher it.
And holds vigil before all mirrors.
It wearies of eternity and waits
At other crossroads, weaving beyond language.
It becomes lost irreparably, spilling from our hands
As fire and salt, as all who have loved us.

 Bitter Melon
Chinese Demonstration Garden, Locke
Cultivated by D.R. Wagner and Stuart Walthall


We have swans.  It is soon
After midnight.  They are restless,
Rustling their huge white wings
In the moonlight.  The stars are doing
Things we do not expect, like pebbles
Blowing against a bell.

Fireflies trail in the sky.  They spill
Across the night like noise but
Do not carry sound for their dances.
We can barely see the mountains.
We decide to build our own fire.

The swans begin making patterns
In their swimming.  I begin to hope
For rain.  You said you would return
During the rains.  It has been much too
Long.  A sadness sits on the edge
Of the pool where the swans keep
Their secrets.  The city lights bounce
In the water’s reflection.  There are
Rock shadows across my hands.
I can pick tears from my cheeks.

I will tell myself this is some kind
Of photograph, a mouth that can
No longer speak like the farewells
The tempest allows us as it passes
Through our bloodstream attracting
Flock after flock of these white swans. 



The whole house was a room.
It had walls but there were never doors.
Someone was singing in Gaelic,
Dan Nar Narbh, with a dry stringed instrument
Walking behind the lyric, helping the words
To mean.  I could see people moving inside
The place through the windows.  The glass
Looked like skin that had just begun to grow
Back after a terrible injury to the body, not quite
Transparent, but enough so that one could see
The blood moving just below the surface.

Lights in the dark.  When she spoke she
Sounded like the Twelfth century.  No one
Spoke like that today.  It sounded like
Clay and handfuls of salt except for the lament
And the Alleluia she repeated every so often.
Others mumbled it under their breath.
They were armed with decorated knives.

We had a request when we came here.
The women understood perfectly our need
For paper but the men feared we might
Bring spirits down if we made any marks
On the stuff.  They would not meet our eyes.

We placed ladders straight up in an open
Field and began to climb them.  The ones
Who reached the top disappeared from view
Completely.  They asked if we were angels.
We were not.  We explained we spoke
Using clouds and could make Duan Chroi Losi,
A little song to the heart.  They understood the Gaelic.

We began to ring the hand and finger bells.
The birds came to the edge of the clearing
To listen to us.  The house seemed to pulse
As if it were a place one could actually live in.

We waited until it was all dark around us.
Then we rained, slowly at first but finally
A long cold downpour that lasted for days.
By the time the sun returned we had left
That country.  It is said we can be found
In particular tales that have nothing to do
With our purpose.  None have been translated
From the Gaelic, but they are often sung.

 Hulu Gwa (gourd)


Strings dance in the air.  There is a blur
In the heart.  It is as if the night had a skull
And eyes to see approaching ships.

A book of engravings, lost in a room,
In a great house.  It carries on conversations
With the dead.  We become witnesses
Without knowing why anything other
Than dreams would have such a language
Attached to it.  We resolve to make dust of it.

Still, I will stop to listen to a few more birds
Caught here in this universe where strings
Twist and interlace, seemingly without purpose.
I will consider all enigmas, all wandering spirits,
Without purpose except to put us on the very edge
Of some mythology that prompts us to speak
In hells such as this, looking for an intricate
Fire, left to be used by nightingales.

This will be an exultation of memory,
The fault of words not used previously
By the dark, never heard by Keats, a liquid
Song, straining to be heard, then a breeze,
Then, strain as we may, nothing.



The rider locked on the carousel.
The inability to show motion
While the whole of the day
Remains overcast and gray.

Night not so much coming
As it is attached to the moments
With an adhesive tape
Not found in the imagination at all.

The voices come together like parentheses
Gathered into a bag along with peppers,
Cauliflower, containers of tofu,
Cat food and paper products
Separated from each other
In yet smaller bags, chapters
Of a novel, the folds are screens
Set up to divide a room
Or perform a service that proclaims
The imagination while showing us
Images of the old Battersea Bridge,
Architectural drawings, collections
Of West Indian bird skins and hundreds
Of picture postcards decoupaged
To pretend a language of exploration.

We find ourselves opening and closing
Our mouths, obstructing what
Might be seen clearly
As a collection of jars and wheelbarrows,
West-running brooks and songs
Of the self.  Changes of melody
Attaching themselves to any object
They may choose, hoping the song
Will still be understood
After the parties have fled the room.

 D.R. Wagner and John Dorsey
July, 2016


A murmur of birds.
They are taking down the stars one by one.
Like coins they tumble into the lake, forgotten,
Unforgotten.  Unburdening themselves
From an incalculable mythology.

Erasing symbols, nurturing and needless
As sirens are to nightingales,
As drunk is to the moon.

I wait by the water.  Little by little
I begin to no longer recognize myself,
Except as tigers and tigers and tigers
Searching the streets where forever has been lost
Irreparably.  Things become transparent.
People slip away or escape
Deep into the waters of the bay.

They have forgotten their form.
They have forgotten what sparse language they owned.
They have forgotten the weight of consciousness,
The unrelenting memory, the petite charm of the garden,
The mirrored pool below the fountain,
So secret and necessary.

The flowers, silent now.  The stars beneath the water,
Wavering, now vermilion, now yellow.
I recall the vague dreams of children,
Sights along the road.

I decide this must be a journey.
I dive into the water to be with the stars.
I will wash this dust from me
And begin another universe.


Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine work, despite his illness. He writes: "I have been in the ER twice this week and will undergo surgery on Tuesday with a rather long recovery (6-7 weeks). They have to rebuild my urethra. I'll be at UC Davis Med Center in Sacramento. This last week has been mostly extreme pain and lots of blood. I am sending you work from A Punctuated Equilibrium that was published earlier this year online in Canada. Some of these appeared in the Kitchen. This will have to do, as I have not been well enough to write much… I should be back within a month or so." We'll be thinking about you, D.R.!


Today’s LittleNip:

I hung the moon on various
branches of the pine




(a little urethra humor for D.R.)

Celebrate poetry today by heading over to the 
Three Penny Emporium in Sac., 7:30pm, for 
the theatrical release of Gene Avery’s Death by Deer Rifle
or by driving down to Pacifica to help Katy Brown 
and Sandy Thomas read and celebrate Katy’s birthday at 
Florey’s Book Co., 7:30pm. Scroll down to the blue box 
(under the green box at the right) for info about these and other 
 upcoming readings in our area—and note that other events
 may be added at the last minute.

Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back
to Medusa.