and you think it’s because
you’re not understood
in a small town
where extraordinarily ordinary people
go about the business of living
without expecting glorious results.
You show up catastrophically
on my doorstep
at three in the morning
and ask if I’ll let you in like a wound
that has slashed you open like a mouth
and you know I won’t turn you away.
You don’t know what to do with your beauty
and neither do I
without a prelude to the encounter
and so you ask me how to live.
I turn myself inside out
looking for loose change
in the pockets of a dream
to drop into the begging bowl of the silence
and sliced by the insight
of a master in medieval Japan
tell you every step of the way
should crush the head of the question.
You think I am immediate and wise
and for the moment it’s a useful delusion
as I look into the reasonable facsimiles of light
that are posing as your eyes
and see a painful young woman
trying to sail like a swan through her first eclipse.
I dodge the euphoric arrows
that randomly fly
from your toxological lips
and try not to get sucked into
thinking of you as a wishbone with hips
and outrunning the flashflood of the effusion
turn my attention back to your confusion.
The moon is in my window.
A muse has come
to ask for inspiration.
Water asks the fire how to flow
but what you really want to know
what you truly want to learn
is how to burn.
You’re trying to pull the moon
like a hot sword out of a cold stone
to kill your lover over and over and over again
like a wasp on a brain
trying to sting itself into honey.
If you weren’t so beautiful,
you’d be funny
but I make the appropriate concessions
and listen to your accusations
like the intimate confessions
of a promiscuous nun
who’s never slept with anyone.
I listen quietly and tenderly
to the chafing of the restless snakes
in your angry abyss
gathering myself up like visionary rain
above the cauldron of a distant, cosmic ocean
to fall like a cooling kiss
on the flaring heads of the igneous.
I milk the fangs of the moon
into experimental antidotes
and no fool around matcheads and cobras
summon the wind like an ambulance on standby
to immunize me against the toxicity
of your insistence
I’m your private school.
Morgana la Fey at Merlin High,
eager to learn, eager to deepen her darkness.
You want me to teach your eyes to flow
through a labyrinth of underground dreams
you’ve tunnelled through your pain like a blind mole
waiting for moonlight to wash you out
of all your crazy bloodstreams.
If you can’t live with the one you love
the way you long to
appealing to oblivious gods
maybe you can kill them into it.
If you’re hurt so deeply
you can no longer feel your heart,
maybe there’s an art
that can be mastered
to do it so discretely
the blood that unspools on the blade
prefers the wounded poppy of their death
that stalks them like a bloodclot in a rose
to the lonely craving of their next breath
to feel the edge again
that addicts them like the moon
to another hit on a battered vein.
I can hear what you’re thinking,
I can see what you feel through my fingers.
I know you haven’t come to heal
or put your hand in the hand of another
that isn’t folded like a secret loveletter
of Damascene steel
ghouled by jewels of blood.
I can peel the eclipse from your eyes
like an executioner’s hood
and fill the darkness
with the music of diamonds
falling like rain from their crowns of coal.
I can look into your eyes
like the lies you wanted everyone to believe in
and make them come true.
I can teach you to hunt like a magician
in the twenty-first century
and dropping your halo down to your feet
encircle you in the dark clarity
of an inviolable sanctuary
with gates of golden horn
that swing open like the moon
between the wingspan of her crescents.
Or I can turn a word like a stone
and set the angels free
like petrified bone
amazed by the new lucidity
that remarrows it like the clone
of a woman no one can be
until she returns the sword to herself
she lay down like the moon
surrendering to the sea
in a holy war
that cut the throats of the waves
and made widows of the sacred tides
she concealed like the secret insurgency
of her own dark urgency.
But since you asked
and the flower is already
half-unmasked by the morning
and the truth is only a voice away
from revealing itself,
and the hour scratches at the door
like a cat to be let in,
I will tell you
what the good and foolish never learn:
If you want to burn
like fire on the water
without going out
like a flame unwicked by the wind
that sins against it like a veil
it knots with nets of doubt
to gill the moon like shale,
you have to teach your demons how to sail.