Thursday, February 5, 2009



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

from nothing

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.

Beyond appearances

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

effortlessly exists

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.