Gordon Wagner


1915 - December 4, 1987
A major figure in contemporary American Art, Gordon Wagner was born in Californnia and lived most of his life in the Redondo Beach area. He was a painter, master craftsman, assemblagist, teacher and poet. Since 1949 he has been exhibited in more than 100 exhibitions in museums and galleries, such as the L. A. County Museum, Pasadena Art Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, and many others. Gordon's work is represented in more than 450 private and public collections in the United State, Mexico and Europe. Several major works are on display in Redond Beach at
Insomniac South Cyber Cafe & Gallery

These Poems are dedicated to Gordon's wife:

Virginia Wagner



Memories of the Future


REDONDO BEACH

Fatima was my love at six.
I remember Redondo Beach
was full of

trains
sailing ships
piers
seamen from all parts of the world
hotels full of
important people
and a world full of
turning
torturous devices.
Dance halls, Loof's Huppodrome
the giant dipper
a wonderful crazy house
with
two midgets selling tickets
screaming at their two year old son
who stood three inches taller than both of them
in his nightbown.
I found the piece of tin one day
a beautiful picture of a girl
was on the back side.
I took it home
and nailed it above my bed
I asked my mother to read it
and she said
"FATIMA"

FATIMA IN THE PENNY ARCADE

When I was 12 and '29
I wore a conductor's change belt on my belt
when my eyes were not focused on Fatima
I made change in the penny arcade.
Fatima wwsmy love
Fatima was so sad
she was so beautiful
especially in the late afternoon
when a ray of sunlight
filtered through a crack in the roof.
She was surrounded by ugly machines
strength testers, shocking machines
usually men pushing and pulling to show off
girls giggling when they rang
the he-man bell
Old men cranking the flicking picture machine
while the rest of the family
worked at the Erie Digger Claw Monster.
The good prizes were glued down
that was part of my job.
The whole family would stand in complete shock
when they realized they had spent five dollars
worth of nickles
and
only received
fifty chocolate peanuts
in exchange.
I would look at Fatima
she was ignored and sad.
I would lure these people toward her no one cared
no one saw her beauty.
My job was to make a change, keep things moving
cheat if necessary.
This was hard for me
now and then I would short change a customer
to make Fatima dance
I would lose mtself in ecstasy.
When she stopped
Fatima and I would be surrounded by
lurching winos and victims of sterno canned heat
all standing stupified
looking like secret service men.
One time I became so obsessed
I stole Fatima away to the back room
I made her dance to five nickles
she seemed to glow and smile
while I masturbated.
I never read any of the fortune cards she ejected
I wonder what they told me.


THE GIANT DIPPER

The Giant Dipper
a roller coaster to remeber
so curvasious

so rapid
so dangerous
The day it left the tracks
I was there
I am one of the survivors.
It is better not to remember.
I was sixteen then.

DREAM

When I was eighteen
I dreamed off a

great
white
roller coaster
strtanding on a
black white bleached
board pier.
It stood straight and tall
With tracks spiralling
up to ominous sky
And ending in nowhere.
Two white clouds
in the form of talons
Seemed to be pulling it upwards
into
a very powerful light.

RACE THROUGH THE CLOUDS

They were tearing down the Venice Pier.
Nothing was there anymore
only a bleak white beach
rotting planks
a strong smell of urine
one structure half standing
tracks spiralling to the sky.
Two clouds, as if they were talons
reaching down from the sun.
There were four signs
KEEP OUT

RACE THROUGH THE CLOUDS
NO STANDING
FATIMA CIGA.
I was thirty-two then.

THE BALL OF MIRRORS

A ballroom full of gargoyals and griffins
clouds and stars were on the ceiling
red velvet and mirrored walls
a revolving bandstand
a ball of mirrors
casting
prismatic light across the dnacers.
When I was six years old
I stood at the rail
watching the dancers.
I would stare in the ball of mirrors
searching for my face

It was never there
until
the whold dance hall
was turning.
The ball remained still.

NIGHTMARE

Dreams
Of the dark places
Corners of horror
Dreams of death
Fear of death
Funerals at night
Funerals moving over one another
Open graves
Shrouds
Lines of funerals
Marble lined mausoleunms
Flower odors Sounds of trolly bells
Black suits on people
Without faces
Hearses standing with
Open doors
Waiting.


THE AWAKENING

A sunny morning
A cemeatary
deep in Mexico
the earth, the sky
welded together
A cross
weathered
polychromed.
When I look down
the skeleton of a dog
lay on the grave.
"He was faithful to his master"
I said.
I faced the sun
the light was bright
I knew then for the first time
death was natural
and
not to be
a
nightmare
anymore.


SLEEPING WOMAN

Looking through an iron cross
A sunny morning
Pink monuments among blue monuments
White monuments among white clouds
Pink clouds among blue patches
Crosses of stone
Crosses of wood
Crosses with carved names
Crosses with burned names
Crosses with painted names
All shimmering.
A woman in black
Sleeping
Her black parasol
Against a pink cross.
The call of a dove
The sound of the wind
Then all is still
Through the iron cross.


THE DAY OF THE DEAD

Day is turning into night
the streets and the cemetaries
are
full of people
People sawing
People painting
People sweeping
People walking
carrying wreaths

tools and paint
food and candles
Children running and laughing
Children with skull candy
paper coffins
paper graves
Children with paper
funeral processions
turned by a crank
an endless belt.
First in line is the coffin with four men
Second is the priest in a special mitre
Third are the people with candles and lillies
All
with garbanza bean heads
They are moving
up from the devil'as mouth
down into the gates of heaven.
Picnics are arriving
People are eating in groups
People singing, dancing, laaughing,
All night this goes on
The morning brings jow.
Everything shimmers
on the day of the dead.

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