In the easy light just before evening,
He discovered a flaw in the fabric.
A small bit that did not look at all
Like magic and made only the smallest
Sound when picked up and held close
To the ear, pressed to the heart.
A mistake? The hands of the dead
Reaching out, still trying to communicate.
An insect-like music heard mostly just
Before leaving the waking realm.
“Sounds like car tires squealing
Around a corner and sliding into a gravel
Pan.” I got up off my knees and looked
Over the sea cliffs out to the flickering
Lights in the harbor. I didn’t recall
Ever being here before. Ramon
pushed a light caliber weapon
Into my hand. “Don’t use this unless
There is no other option.”
For decades now there has been no option
That warranted use of any kind of violence.
I pulled myself upright and threw a rope
Over the edge toward the water.
The sailors could see me coming over
The edge. They knew their own and lifted
Their arms in that greeting we use when
We realize all may be lost but then again.
Giant wolves ease back into the forest.
I remember what it was like when I was a child.
Everything contrived so the story will fit
Together as perfectly as a kiss.
She sliipped behind the billboard,
Leaked into the next yard and leapt
Up the most perfect of mountains.
Impossible to know what it would bring.
We were shown some images of what
We might encounter once we get here, but
This was pure terror. The weather
Coupled with ill will and the meanness of others.
We probably should have taken the lower
Road but we couldn’t have seen who might
Be following us as we made the pass,
The one called Aspen, because the light
Quaked when in its service. It was difficult.
It was so hard not to just give oneself to tears.
When I’m this far into the landscape
It is hard to find any means of communication
That will help us find a way though to the coast.
“Hurry please. We must be over the pass,
Halfway down the pass within the next few hours.
We have no right to be here.”
This was intended
As a kind of gift to cheer our hearts.
I’m having trouble locating the heart right now.
LONG NIGHT ROAD
Long night road out
from Tulsa and my
bike stops dead
its headlights dying
into the endless white
line and no moon.
the highway eats
my senses : from 50 miles
away long diesel sounds
like forgotten buffalo
thunders rumble out
and also die long before
any idea of morning
Pushing my bike into
Milfay all night
gas and eat light
drawing me on for hours ahead,
the 100-year-old attendant
and ugly daughter
fixing my generator
after hamburgers; a Navajo
Van Line truck wheels
in its dusty blue-eyed
Indian pointing in to Texas.
The sun is long in coming.
Hours later the buffalo
diesel finds me
and passes, its stacks
the last fires of
these midnight plains.
(first pub. in The Willie, 1967)
Ramblin’ boy has come into town
On a day sticky with early Autumn.
Walking in heat of five o’clock,
Talking to himself like he was on
The phone with someone.
Holding a piece of wood about the size
Of a tablet device, looking at it
Like it had a screen.
He was gray, gray, gray with blue
Jeans that were gray and a white
Shirt that was gray.
Everywhere he walked, everything
Was gray. Even his brown hair
Was dusty, a faded black and white
We wouldn’t leave and kept
Appearing in people’s houses
“To mess with them.”
“What do you want?,” he would say.
“I’m exploring everything. I’m making
A string. I can get you drugs.
I don’t have to go anywhere.
You can’t make me go away.
I’m not afraid of any police.
Ain’t nobody here going to call
No police on me. I’m not doing
Anything to anybody.” And he would poke
His piece of board with his gray
Fingers and talk to it or make
Photographs with it that were
Only in his imagination.
“Why doesn’t anybody help me
Do stuff?” he would say.
And most people couldn’t see
Him. He would fade into their
Consciousness, always talking
And getting into everyone’s personal
Space and say he was writing
About everything, typing on his piece
Of board. He had gray eyes,
Smirked from the middle of groups
Walking down the alleys, making everything
Gray and as sticky as the day,
Pulling cricket songs
Out of the night.
“Where is everybody going?” he would say
Or be just across the street
Every time you looked, telling
He wasn’t afraid of no cops.
Nobody was going to call the cops.
He could get you what you wanted.
Nobody would see him.
Nobody could really hear him.
“I’m like your imagination,” he would say.
And someone who had a yellow face
Would walk near him and they
Would be gray too and walk away.
“I’m doing stuff,” he would say.
Floating there day after day.
People not knowing why they were angry.
Or why there was so much dust
In the air or they would wonder
Why they didn’t care about things
They usually cared about and how
Come things looked so gray?
Ramblin’ boy without a name,
Boiling up all sticky as the day,
Poking his wooden board and walking
All over town.
“I’m doing stuff,” he would say.
“What do you want? I can get
It for you, anything. I’m making
Things. I am not going away.
Just try to lose me.
I ain’t going away.
I ain’t even got a name.”
And in the telling
And retelling, something
Had been lost.
Part of the light
Was missing, part
Of the smile
The worn furniture
Of the imagination.
The discarded pelts
Dreams can carry
Close to the skin
As a parasite.
They told me the sun
Wanted to see me this morning.
I was up early, was all dressed
When it rose above the gardens.
All day, it shone and was pure
Magic and such a gift. Thanks
For the request. I hope you will
Be back with us tomorrow.
Our thanks to D.R. Wagner for today’s fine poems and visuals! About his work, he writes: "The American composer, John Salacan, has just published Summerdrift, a chamber suite for piano, cello and clarinet. It uses lines from six of my poems from my book, 97 poems. The pieces are instrumental, just the single line drives the piece. Some of John's work can be seen on Facebook. Hoping to have it performed soon."
Two poetry choices today/tonight for your poetry pleasure: Poetry in Placerville presents Diane Funston and John Bell plus open mic at Love Birds Coffee and Tea Co. on Broadway in Placerville, 1-3pm. Then at 8pm, musician Victor Krummenacher and poets Cynthia Linville, frank andrick and Rachel Leibrock will be featured at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more 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