WHO TAUGHT YOU
Who taught you to abhor the savage
as if you were
an intolerant missionary to yourself?
Or walk into the room
and sit down
like a civilization that can’t compose itself?
And what strange habits you have for eyes
like ominous seabirds off the coast
of the continent with nowhere to perch
you’ve just discovered about yourself
that doesn’t bear your name.
And o come on now
isn’t it the most grievously wounded
who cry out the loudest
in their delirium of pain
and shake their wills
like steel at the ruthless heavens
though all they’ve ever really done is heal?
And why slash out in your anger like the moon at everyone
when you should know by now better than anyone
that whenever you do
it’s the sword that bleeds to death?
And you say you’ve tried to live decently
in an indecent world
but it’s a shame
you’ve never walked barefoot anywhere
without your morals in your hand like shoes.
That’s just the mud and water of it
between your fingers and your toes
but I’ve never joined a Buddha
eating flowers for lunch
who would have it any other way.
Or as Solomon said to so and so,
on his way to the temple
to set an example,
half a baby isn’t the same as a whole bunch.
And then broke down in tears.
We all have our fears and illusions
and isn’t so much suffering in the world
generated by the fact
we cherish our misery
like self-inflicted voodoo dolls
we won’t let go of
because nothing else
looks like us into the void
and sees nothing that looks like us looking back?
But what a surprise to be here at all
stepping in and out
of these coffins and lifeboats
paired like shoes under our beds
where they gape
like mouths before the open sea
that has washed them ashore
like dust out of its one good eye
we just flew into
like birds against a windowpane.
And even more of a wonder
is the day you discover
you can taste the full harvest
in every crumb of a dream
and even in the lamp
that’s gone out in the night
clarity is still faster than light.
Within you I swear
on all that is human
are worlds within worlds
like the spherical mirrors of the morning
hanging their eyes like jewels
in the webs of the dreamcatchers
that looked everywhere
through the spiritual lost and founds of the light
but couldn’t find us until nightfall
when we each came out like a star
above our own manger
and the darkness was sweet with gifts.
The blind don’t diminish the brightness of the mirror
when they hold themselves up to it like a shadow
and even when your eyes are open
you don’t add a feather of light to the shining
though you burn like Icarus without a starmap
by flying too near the sun
beyond the heels of your aspiration.
And even when we are crazed moths
in a straitjackets of flesh
seeking asylum in the fire,
isn’t it the Promethean nature
of every living creature
that has ever stolen from the gods
even in a state of ashes
not to be bound for long by anything
that isn’t out of reach?
It’s not the art of a petty life
to know how to long for the impossible for years
knowing that if appearances can be deceptive
then so must be the illusion
when anything disappears.
The important thing is not
to try to attain anything by reaching out
a finger shy of God
for things like life and love and light
as if you were a dead battery
asking the stars for a jumpstart
when one of the myriad truths of the matter is
you don’t have to work hard
to earn your own gifts
like a beggar in a palace
that doesn’t recognize her own face
looking down upon her
like her own reflection in the heavens
as if her eyes always had to go
in the same place either side of her nose
and couldn’t flow along
with the shoreless starstreams
like easy fish through space.
And if you must cry out
like an insatiable mirror for things you’ve lost
or pine at the gate of your own homelessness
like a long sad farewell
to all those things that never came
like the sea to your feet
as if every wave
were meant to fit you
like a glass slipper,
then I suggest
with only a whisper of night in my voice
to tempt the light out of hiding
that the next time you cry
like a wounded sword
that no longer divides
the empty grotto of the pain
that separates lovers
like two halves of the same brain,
look up at the nightsky
as if you were looking into the eyes
of your own prophetic tears
and see and be more deeply
than any kind of telescope or wishing well
in every single one of them
the dark pregnant mother
of the billion chandeliers
that hang like stars above you.