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D.R. Wagner

The poet and artist D.R. Wagner died on the Winter Solstice 2023. I just got word from his neighbor in Locke on the Sacramento delta. I cried and cried when I got the news. D.R. was my good friend and a constant in my life from 1980 until I moved from Sacramento to Berkeley in 1995, after which I saw him occasionally over the years until 2010. From then on he sent me announcements of his newest books of poems, and I would send him word of my new books and albums of songs.

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In 2009 I self-published my novel Under the Table Books and Marcia and I went on a road trip from Mendocino to the San Juan Islands and back giving performances of our music along with readings from my books. We read in friends’ living rooms, libraries, and bookstores, our final performance taking place in Time Tested Books in Sacramento.

For this ultimate performance I prevailed on my three favorite Sacramento poets – Ann Menebroker, Quinton Duval, and D.R. Wagner – to read their poems that appear in Under the Table Books, a novel of stories set in a fantastical anarchist bookstore. The finale of the novel is my favorite D.R. Wagner poem The Milky Way, which I will append at the end of this remembrance of D.R. That evening when all three of those marvelous poets read their poems to enhance the evening was an apex moment in my life.

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I met D.R. shortly after I moved to Sacramento in 1980. Because of the recent success of my novel Inside Moves, the Sacramento Poetry Center asked me to read with another writer to benefit the poetry center, which I did. Quinton Duval hosted the gathering after the reading, and that is when D.R. and I first collided.

We liked each other immediately and not long after I was asked to join D.R., Bari Kennedy, and Pat Grizzell for what would become the annual Sacramento Kerouac reading. D.R. and I enjoyed performing together so much we decided to put together a two-man show combining poetry, stories, music, projections of D.R.’s fantastical petit point creations, and various combinations thereof. We eventually performed as a duo seven times, and always had a great revelatory time together much to the delight of our audiences.

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D.R. was the most prolific poet I’ve ever known. I’ve only read a tiny fraction of the poems he wrote in his life, yet I’ve read several hundred of his poems. I have many favorites stored on my computer for easy call up. The moment I begin to read one of his poems he is here with me, an ebullient spirit glad to be sharing what arose from his mysterious artesian source.

His petit point creations are in many private collections and art museums, and one of them is the cover art for my novel Night Train in which a fictional version of D.R. appears.

 D.R. was a true cat, and by that I mean every word he wrote and every stitch he stitched came straight from his heart and soul.

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The Milky Way by D.R. Wagner

We live in a spiral arm of a spinning

Field of stars. We whirl around, a carnival

Ride, full of birds, loves, emotions, endless

Varieties of things unfolding in seasons;

Full of bells and an endless weaving of hearts.

These connections ride upon our consciousness,

Demanding constant performance from us.

Each of us, most royal and majestic as night,

Vile, vindictive and spoiled even before we speak;

Sorrow and joy, the way we sound our name.

We endure all of this, our lips kissing each moment,

Crushed, elated, misunderstood, praised for things

We do as part of ourselves, damned for these same things.

There is no road, there is no plan. Only love

Survives. Everything is forgiven, finally.

Understanding limps behind the parade,

Always late, always burdened with qualifications,

Always abandoning every opinion and argument,

Leaving each of us our place only, describing

This place, the swirling arms, the myriad ways

We twist ourselves to achieve

This weaving, this carnival of love.

fin

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