Monday, November 2, 2009




I’ve seen the angels over Perth at night

asking if anybody had gone to bed hungry

when they looked through its windows like eyes

and seeing many who had,

disappear aurorally like blessings.

And I’ve seen the happy covert demons

hiding in the burning bushes of Stewart Park

like fireflies glowing on the heaters of shared joints

or a bad imitation of the voice of God

and crossed the Red Bridge over the Tay

to the darker side of enlightenment

listening to the delicate laughter of water

flirting with the moon.

The Sufis say that you begin to take on the characteristics

of anyone you’ve been around for forty days or more

so chameleons everywhere, Beware!

And I would also add that you become

the here of wherever you are

and in this instance of me

that includes everyone,

that means Perth,

this foolish jewel of a town

I’m turning in the lifelight

of a very serious clown.

So to ask where are we here in the shadows

of these two towers of time and water

that preside over us like a city hall and a Martian

that just walked out of the War of the Worlds

is the same as asking who.

I am Perth. And so are you.

And we’re both standing

in the same dark doorway on Gore Street late at night,

trembling like a teenage girl

too late to go back to her foster home

as she ducks out of the light

trying to stay out of sight

of the drunk pick-up trucks and police cruisers.

Perth has its lilies

but it’s hard to bloom

when you’re tangled up in your own roots

and everyone here is living like everywhere else

on the crumbs of the dreams

that fall from their eyes in the morning.

To be born and raised in Perth

is as boring as living and looking for work in Eden

and if you’re under twenty-one

you can’t wait to be driven out

by testy angels with flaming swords

who begrudingly open the gate

all the way to Toronto

like the beginning of an afterlife you can’t afford.

It’s an initiation ritual,

a dark night of your soul you must pass through like Toronto

to learn to love Perth

like a return to a more feasible innocence.

Everyone here was educated somewhere else

and when we arrived

we learned to leave our schools at the door

like expensive city shoes

and gallop through

this tiny medieval town

avoiding the tractor-trailers

like prize-winning horses

in muddy rubber boots.

And there are old men and women

whose bones go on for miles

like slumping cedar rails

around wide open fields

returning to the bush

and the wild white stars

of their furious beginnings.

Like old pot-bellied stoves

crammed with two-year old cracked red oak

on a bitter, winter night,

they are the boundary stones

of what is truly human about the place,

the prophetic skulls

no one huddles around anymore

in the sacred groves

of a first growth forest

that was cut down like time.

I have seen the angels over Perth at night

shining down on this web of a town

when even the spiders are clenched in sleep like fists

and put an eye in their place

like the tear of a fool in a dreamcatcher

that makes everything it sees come true

when it opens its heart like a foodbank

and all the roads that led away from here

like dispossessed refugees

with the world on their backs

trying to shake the dust of the road they’ve cursed

off the winged sandals of Hermes Tresmegistus,

the thrice-blessed,

and fly from here

like birds from a net

suddenly realize

like Canada geese in the spring

the greater love of the return journey.

I’ve always preferred extraordinarily ordinary people

to the ordinarily extraordinary simulacra

who pimp themselves out

like infatuated mirrors

in the dressing-rooms of Narcissus

blowing them off with celebrity kisses

that don’t mean a fucking thing.

But everywhere here without looking

you can see the universe

in every grain of sand

that wears a human face

like the alpha and omega

of an infinite alphabet

that stumbles across them

like unfinished novels

that have just opened a local bookstore.

But if you’re from out of town

and all you can see

is a grain of sand in a universe

that the rivers have worn down

and the moon has panned out

and the hills have clenched their teeth shut like a mine,

and you track your opinion like muddy boots

you’re too backwards to take off in the house

all over everyone

then in my best hillbilly hippy

upper Ottawa Valley Tom-stomping twang

like a broken string on a steel guitar

as if I were drunk in the Imperial:

mind yur manners, Slick,

or your head’ll come off

like a beer-cap

on a north country ride

on the dark side of Highway Seven

down washboard dirt roads

that go on forever

like the scars of heaven

to an unfathomed, unnamed lake of pain

we keep stocked with big-mouthed bass like you

and gawd, gawd, baldy Jesus

we’ll make yoos blubber and piss

like gasoline in the rain

to snuff the match under yer pan

and pull the fishook outta yur arsehole

and throw yoos back

too small a fish to fry.

And even the hippies

who celebrate vegetables

and the downtown business core

who hang the banners of their festivals

like surgical masks across Foster Street

as if they were afraid of catching the flu

when everybody shows up

will punch you in the third eye

like a tourist brochure

of what not to do in Perth

if you’re too sure of who you are

in time and space

and think you’re too big for the place.

I’ve seen the angels over Perth at night

hanging out like teenagers

at the corner of Gore and the Universe

trying to pool their change

around the long distance telephone booth

they obey as if the voice of God

were a local drug dealer

with infinite connections

and I have listened to them talking in tongues

like graffitti on heritage brick

trying to get Babylon off their minds

whenever they feel hopeless and homesick.

And I’ve seen them like butterflies in the wrong cocoon

in dozens of small towns across the country

strewn like seed on a rock

and I’ve understood that a small town

is a house with a broken lock

and a lonely back door

that bangs in the wind

when no one bothers to knock.

And I’ve seen the ghosts who fall

on the hands of the cuckooless clocktower

every night after the Brinx truck leaves the bank

like bands of rebel hosts

that Caesarian circumstances overthrew

because they didn’t make it out of here on time.

And I’ve cried in the rainy parking lot

of the asphalt mall up on the highway

to see a young tree chained

to a licensed square of dirt

like a child taken captive

as the groves beyond Callahan’s car lot grieve.

And I’ve walked the infamous tracks

where the suicides and the drunks

lie down like bicycles and back packs

to meet the train that howls like pain

through the quick eclipse of their delirium

at never coming back

and the blood in my heart

was as dark and chill

as a haemorraging blackberry

to think of what must have gone on

in the hearts of those who came here

where the ladders lie down like railway ties

in the spirit’s lost and found

and the agony of their absence goes on forever

so sadly from town to town

like Perth on the Tay

and Perth in Washington

and Perth in New South Wales

all the way from Perth in Scotland

like the incorrigible blossoms of immigrant sails

their orchards haven’t forgotten.

But everybody knows

there are more farewells in the world

than there are miles in a smile

you can never take back

and even this autumn night

that sits on my heart like a crow

on a dead branch

isn’t all black.

I have seen the angels over Perth at night

recharging the stars of the New England asters

clustered in the goldenrod

as if they were fireflies

in a nightshift factory

welding feathers of light

to the aspirations of another Icarus

just an autumn leaf short of his fall.

And I’ve watched as they’ve slipped themselves

like loveletters under the troubled skulls

pearled on their damp pillows

as if they were stones

that would be overturned by the morning

when everything would be joyously clear

as a window that made it through another winter.

So good things happen here too

like bread and babies and music

and this summer driving up Wilson Street

on a day that sweated like Panama

I saw a large, red firetruck

on the lawn of Stewart School

its extension ladder longer than the golden rule

up among the branches of celestial trees

and a tiny fireman way at the top

holding the head of a serpent of a hose by the nape

and from its mouth this giant rose of a fountain

of beatific water bloomed in the air

with the fragrance of rainbows

and fell like a blessing

on dozens of children and adults

shrieking with glee in the glistening below.

And I said to myself as I passed,

Yes. That’s it. That’s it.

That’s the secret jewel

that’s sewn into the lining of Perth

whenever she leaves home like a poor woman

who doesn’t really know her own worth.

That’s why the geese come back

to this pond beside a cornfield

like the angels above Perth every night

and the waterlilies hatch like swans

whenever the moon’s on the river

and the highschool kids

are learning how to drink and toke

down by Devil’s Rock

where they gather

like the laughter of many different keys

to the same lock

or myriad swords drawn

from the same stone of the moon

they will later return to the water

one by one

like the blades of life

that were too sharp to handle

in the conspiracies of love and light

they fell upon like lovers

when the wild irises

whispered dangerously to them one August night

by the edge of the mindstream

they crossed like Caesar into Rome.

Alea iacta. The di cast

like two lumps of tatooed sugar

into the snake-bit braille of the mix,

I have seen the angels over Perth at night

throwing the yarrow sticks of the I Ching into chaos

when they combed the constellations out of their hair

in front of the black mirror

that unspooled them

like comets sweeping orchards

off the backstairs of the earth

after some incredible shotgun wedding

between the long scars of mud

and roadside brides of water

that gave birth to the clans

of the scattered nations

that kick like stables and mangers

in the knocked-up churches of Perth.

And I have seen the angels over Perth at night

huddled in debate over the dense sensuous meaning

of what I came here for

and stayed to avoid,

having seen enough of the world

to know it’s only a lonely replica of one

and whoever you are is the where and why

of your own knowing

and wherever you stand or fall down

is the ground of your own mystically specific being

with all the virtues and vices of a small town

whose unity sometimes feels like isolation

and just like God,

just like Perth and its fireflies

is a hidden secret that wishs to be known.