I SEE YOUR LEAF OF FIRE
I see your leaf of fire
still burning on the Tay River
like an autumn of falling maps
that have come to the end of their lifelines.
Now the trees of Perth read their own shadows
like the wake of impossible journeys
that slip through their leafless masts
like wind and water and stars.
But you have outgrown them
like a lifeboat
beyond the reach of their tears.
And the romantic in you is not dead
and the outlaw thrives
and you are still enthralled
by the dark honey
that flows from the cosmic hives
of the illuminati on the nightshift.
And I see you’ve stopped throwing
your firstborn off a cliff
without a parachute.
And I can still hear the distant thunder
of the dice you roll
like the bones of a sphinx
when you gamble with the Book of Changes.
Your solitude like your beauty
is still the single star
of an alluring beautitude
in a black mirror
that shows the night its face.
And deep, deep within yourself
you remain the sole keeper
of the dark mass of the universe
you’re refining in your furnace-heart
like the ore of the light.
And I can see how the ocean
still endures its own weather
in the green of your eyes.
Experience has its grazers
and its predators, too,
and some farm their lives
and some try to train their sheep to hunt,
but you still know how to go for the jugular
on the neck of a wounded guitar
you’ve brought down
like a fleeing gazelle from behind.
You eat experience
and leave small remnants of the heart
for the scavengers to find.
And I can tell by the tone of your voice
that pain has added its ambiguous vowel
to your vocabulary
and there’s blood on the crescents of the moon
that have torn the sail
of many arrivals and departures
as you came and went
in all your phases
like a calendar of scars.
And what a delight
after all these years
to see you’re still playing pool
with your stars,
and taking the long shot,
chalking your stick on a skull.
And there’s that demon of night again
that black rose in a crown of thorns
that’s sometimes so sad and alone
in the incomprehensible vastness of things
when emotions silver the stone
like lost earrings
more than once I have thought of you
as the last of a species
of fallen angels
left to stand guard alone
like a dolmen on the moon
over the only grave that would receive them
when Valhalla put down its sword.
And yet how easily you give yourself away
like generous bread
to the outcasts
who still gather at your firegate
as if the moon were a soft-hearted oven
they couldn’t burn their fingers on.
You say you’re afraid of decaying,
you say you’re overwhelmed.
Thieves are boosting the stars
in your downtown windows
and everyone’s trying to ditch their scars
like the accent of a foreign language
that died like water on Mars
when the sirens lost their voice
to the wind that passed like a sailor.
And money and art
are an eye of oil in the ocean
that can’t find anyway out of the mix
of the fluid labyrinth
that chokes you in its coils
except by seeing it out to the end
like an unwanted loveletter
you don’t know where to send.
So let the river take it like a leaf
or a black candle
the corner of a starmap
that gave up looking for life
on the bright side of everything
when the mirror was smeared
by the silver trail of a snail
that was amazed to find itself
like the tail of an anonymous comet
at the heart of a cosmic scandal
as it trespassed across the glass eye
of an indicted telescope
that bore false witness to the shining.
You can’t tinker rings
out of what the maggots are mining
and much to the surprise
of their afterlife
they’ll never turn into butterflies.
Who looks for exposure
like a blackmailed photo in their eyes
when you know, as you do,
how to burn like dawn in a diamond
without a feather of light
to take your measure
in those scales
you always tip toward life?
The dew on the grass is not the same thing
as the little gram-masters of Gore Street
watering their pound,
and the stars that shine down
on everyone and everything alike
can’t be railed by a razor on a mirror
because they’re not trying
to make an impression on the night
by snorting the light
until their shadows can see
what life looks like
in all its futility and madness
through the eyes of the rain
looking in through a hospital window
like small children in deep pain
they can’t do anything about.
But when the lights go out
there are intensities
that can be pursued
like dolphins in the oceanic moonlight
tides beyond the tidal-pools of the obvious
cluttered like lost keys
and broken shells
that think they still speak for the sea
at the bottom of their museum drawers.
The fools go looking for a vein
like cables to jumpstart the stars
between one battery heart and another
and end up cooking in their own acids
but there are lightning rods
beyond these jaded polarities
that have looked into the darkness
and seen things in a flash of insight
that have made mystics of the weathervanes
and settled once and for all
the chronic conceptual wars
between our mirrors and our windowpanes
that keep upgrading their armies
to lay siege to our mud-walled brains.
It takes more courage
to be some people than others
and even more, sometimes, not to be;
but who’s got a word
for the dark clarity
of the unspeakable genius it takes
to make a Jesse?
fish bring their own lamps in the depths