EVERY WORD TURNS AWAY
Every word turns away
shame-faced and a liar
when you try to say things so true
they could only be contaminated
by a mouth.
And the tree in your voice
may be its own guitar
and every flower of your breath
be rooted in stars like the wind,
and you can spend a whole lifetime
trying to say everything
as if words could exact living destinies
from the names on the scrolls of the dead
to save everyone, to save
everything that exists
but when you’re done,
when the tree falls silent
and the bird has flown away,
everything, just as it is,
will still be left unsaid
and just as there is no likeness for the living
there will be no likeness for the dead.
It is the unsayability of the mystic theme
that runs through us like a road through a dream
or the poem in our bloodstream
that is the cosmological constant
that keeps on expressing us
like waves of its own water
though we go looking for ourselves
like empty cups
to fill the topics of our names
forgetting like the moon
that water is its own chalice.
Why kneel by the water like the moon
to drink from your own face
as if it tasted any different downstream
than it did when you were a cloud
high on the mountain
when you can taste
the facelessness of the sea in everything
if you drink deep enough?
And there are eyes full of wine
waiting to get drunk on you
that haven’t bloomed yet
and wells that your tears
are still falling through
like plumb-bobs and pennies
that haven’t reached bottom yet,
and deaths that are antiquely your own
you must rise from
like the hosts of the morning glory
to show the gaping bells of your irrefutable ghosts
it can be done.
Words have bad memories.
Words are troubled sleep and nightmares.
Words are dead trees in a winter swamp
that couldn’t wake a mosquito up.
Words are the ring of the gold on the countertop
that tells you it isn’t true.
Words are a snakepit of spraybombs
that go off like terrorists
on any average day
in the market-heart of the silence.
Words are wanted posters
nailing their own likenesses
to the crucifix of a telephone pole
to divert their detection like water
from the tines
and witching wands of the lightning
that seeks them out like humans alone in the open.
And if you try to say the unsayable
by smearing the view
with a new holy book
what have you said
that isn’t just more graffitti
scratched on God’s face,
or the vast scream of the dawn
just before you wake up from the dream
to discover you’re gone?
Words are the negative space
we use to delineate
the shapes of ourselves
when we talk ourselves
like water into fish,
like infinite, open-mouthed skies
that have winged their way into words
like autumn rain in the hearts of the waterbirds
that leave no trace behind.
Words are blind. And eyeless.
Words are boulders
in the throat of the impasse
when the mountain tries to speak
of things that last,
or mud in the stream of the valley
when it lowers its gaze like a poem
to whisper of things that pass.
Words turn the spell
on the sorcerer
and dangle him
like a participial puppet
from the strings
of his own grammar,
his own magic,
like stars in farcical cocoons
on the trophy-lines of his webs.
Why rummage through
the wardrobe of a wave
for something to cover your nakedness
when every time you go swimming
you can wear the sea?
Take a page out of the book of the stars
and keep words behind you
like seagulls in the wake of your shining
so by the time anyone can see you
that’s not who you are.
Words are living creatures,
words are all eyes and ears
as vivid and vital as yours
looking out from under the autumn leaves
like a flower pressed into a book
that gives it no meaning
that it didn’t have in the fields.
Ignorance doesn’t eclipse the light
and enlightenment doesn’t illuminate.
You may talk forever around it
but what’s the meaning of fire
or sit by the mindstream all night
making constellations of the fireflies
that come together like words
and there may be no separation
between the water
and the reflections of the stars
that ride it like long-legged spiders,
or between you and the earth
not so much difference
as a grass blade,
but what’s the meaning of water,
what’s the meaning of the earth under your feet,
what’s the meaning of that blade of grass?
Words speak for themselves,
not anything else.
Words are living voices
not harps in the throats of the dead.
A word is not a thought,
not an emotion,
not a stand-in for reality
not the verbal version
of the stem cells on your tongue,
or the eloquent fragrance of a brain
recruiting bees to chafe their pollen into honey.
You can spend a whole lifetime saying
and still not know what a word is,
a whole lifetime feeling
and not know what emotion is,
a whole lifetime thinking
and not know what a thought is.
that are not wholly
at the discretion of the depths,
nothing is the likeness of anything else
in the unity of their uniqueness,
the oneness of their oneness,
the mystic specificity
of many rivers
unspooling the mountain
to weave this infinite sea of awareness
into the myriad forms and tongues and waves of us
who take on minds and hang
like empty cups and water droplets
from the tip of a blade of star grass,
from our own hooked fingers,
the black crescents of the lunar triggers
that play Russian roulette with our heads,
and the dreams that fit us like skin
and the lean watercolours of our sweat
on form-fitted sheets
when our separation troubles us
like waves trying to say the unsayable sea
to islands that already flow
like clear diamonds
that have mastered the yoga of tears.
Everything’s like that
when things turn from solid to real.
Even these words.
Even in the fireflies
no one ever sees
deep in the well of the word,
even in the human heart,
the star, the rock, the tree,
in the smallest eye of water
that ever looked upon a summer sky,
the unsayable sea
of the whole of this multiverse
that sheds worlds like cool petals
from the sea mouths of the mind,
the life of everything
to explore its own weather
like water, to hold
its own life like a jewel
up to the light
and see everyone crowned
in a palace of water
whenever you say your name
to the stars
just to let them know
that you were here
as if you meant it.