I HAVE SUCCEEDED IN COMMON
I have succeeded in common but failed alone.
Experience? The sum of all my mistakes.
What kind of authority is that to quote
as if wisdom were just a matter
of throwing in the sword
or snatching victory like food
from the mouth of defeat?
Just because you’re arrogant about your humility
must I be humble about my arrogance?
What haven’t I given to the poor
that hasn’t been stolen by the rich?
I let go of bitter things
just to sweeten the ripening
but there is no second innocence in decay
and I knew a lot more yesterday than I do today.
Where you stop is where you start
and I suppose my death
has already been achieved
as many times behind me
as it will be tomorrows from now
when the vast nights
of these foreshortened days
live through me again
like a road we’ve all walked down before
as if we were in pain and didn’t know where to go.
Gratefully I was born too stupid to be a cynic
or maybe I’m just stubborn enough to wait
for things to regenerate all on their own
or perhaps I’ve gone a gate too far
but it gets harder and harder to say
where things end and begin
when even the elements of my body
have already been through three lifetimes of a star.
Is this Bethlehem or Armageddon?
I’m a flash flood in a waterclock of blood
and how many eras of shining must have gone into
making these two little beads of water I use for eyes
that keep running down my cheek
as if it wasn’t enough just to see
you had to feel to find what you seek.
I’m as old as any apple tree
that measures its lifespan in seeds.
I’m an old old monkey
who looks back up at the trees he just left
and wonders if he took the right step
or if he’s just losing his prehensile grip.
I try to do my time standing up
but sometimes I feel as if the universe
ground the two lenses of my eyes
like Spinoza in his attic room
and put them together like a telescope
just to get a good look at itself through me
as it scanned the immeasurable uber-stellar spaces within
for signs of intelligent life.
But there’s no return address
for an echo in a blackhole
that’s lost its voice to the night
and no light to write an answer back.
I keep sending myself off
like a starmap in a bottle of water
trying to get a fix on my location
somewhere in this island universe
and bring Ovid on the coast of the Black Sea in Tomis
writing his Tristes among the Sarmatians
home from exile at last.
But the universe is still too Augustan
for that to come to pass
and everytime I light a candle
to see where I am
it’s at a black mass
of dark matter and energy off the scale
of anything I could assess.
But it occurs to me now and again
as the strong rope is unwoven
by Penelope the moon
into the frayed lifelines of this weak string
I’m growing like space away from everything.
And what was at my fingertips yesterday
like sunlight on the frets of the waves
that squandered themselves like music coming ashore
is today the evening din of a few dim stars
sitting like bass clefs and birds
or clinging like overdue apples
long into November
to the five senses of my sway-backed powerlines
lingering like the longer wavelengths of my star-crossed staves.
All the blue light of my mornings
has shifted to the red of night
as I dream like calcium in an iron bed
and beat the stardust out of the constellations
that have lain under the windows of my room for lightyears
like flying carpets on a clothesline
the wind wants back.
Who said you couldn’t exceed
the speed of light
when every seer knows
space and time are faster than insight
and it isn’t the water
it’s your mind that flows through the abyss
like a lost starstream through a great emptiness
naming everything anew
like things it left at home?
A star doesn’t make a farce of its legend
by believing in its own light.
It stays ahead of its shining
as if it were an endless night beyond
the arising of signs
so no one can say for sure where it is
when they point to it for direction.
There’s nothing terminal about death.
It’s just a course correction.