Wednesday, March 31, 2010




for Alysia Bell


How long has it been now since childhood

had to become an adult pre-emptively

to survive your infancy

and take the blindfold off your innocence

in front of a firing squad of guilt

to see what was coming

like a last-minute reprieve

or another bullet through the heart

you could no longer pretend

was merely the harsh kiss

of someone you needed to believe

really loved you?

And what does it say of a world

where it takes more courage to be a child

cornered in the shadows of her bedroom

than it does to be the manic grown-up

on the other side of the door

smashing their eyes like felonious mirrors

in another drunk tantrum on the kitchen floor?

And who was there to know

how many lives you’d already gone through

by the time you were ten

trying to fit your family to the right shoe

like Cinderella to the happy ending that eluded you?

How many times have you stood like a stranger

at the graveside of your own funeral

like the only one who attended

and thrown your last best hope in

like a broken rose that couldn’t be mended?

And I’ve seen the red skies in the morning

that bloom like apocalyptic roses

just before the storm arises within you

like the ferocity of your offended innocence

trying to uproot the lightning

that lashes out at you like a wounded snake

to strike the place where it hurts the worst.

And then you’re as calm as a Zen dolphin

in a kingfisher sea

that’s just endured its own bad weather

like nothing worth watching on a broken tv

and there’s nothing absolutely nothing

you feel you can’t be

as your darkness passes into lucidity.

I’ve watched the waxing and waning of your eyelids

like phases of the moon

and I know where you keep your eclipses hid

in a shoebox of unanswered loveletters under the bed

and I’ve seen how you’ve tried to heal

the broken leg of your unicorn

whenever it’s trembled out of the shadows

to drink from the virgin elixirs mingled in your tears

like mystic antidotes

and old wives’ tales.

You’re a moonboat with black sails.

Your heart is a rose of dark blood

whose highest tide is a biblical flood

and whose lowest ebb

leaves its fish stranded in starmud

and its stars dangling

like mummified flies in a spider-web

like boyfriends who didn’t have a chance of coming true

once you plucked the jewel from the dreamcatcher

like an eye that offended you.

It’s only when God’s in love

that she creates the world

in her own image

and sees that it is good.

And when she’s not

even the rain’s

just a distant memory

in the heartwood of a leafless tree.

But the world isn’t always something horrific

offering you ice-cream

in a terrible dream you can’t wake up from.

Sometimes five petals open and one flower blooms

like an orchid

like a waterlily

like a dandelion far from home

in a swamp

in the shadow of an outhouse

in the armpit of a gravestone

in a broken home

and even the lonely teenager

in a tormented bedroom

sometimes looks in the mirror

and sees that all her sunspots have gone from the shining.

Sometimes the checkers

are jumped by an ostrakon

out of left field

that’s learned how to get over things on her own.

And night comes to the lips of the daylily

and sips fire like a dragonfly

from the grail of its burning goblet

before it closes it eye in the darkness

like a sky that’s pitched a tent

out under the stars

and falls asleep dreaming of Venus and Mars.

And there are mirrors

with cracks in the corners of their eyes

that haven’t been broken yet

by anything you had to throw at them

when they told you not to forget

how beautiful you truly are

underneath the scars you use for makeup.

And sometimes when the first snow comes

it doesn’t lie down like a virgin princess

on the pyres of fall

that no one can wake with a kiss

like a snowflake on a furnace

or a sacrificial lamb

at the eleventh commandment

of a bloodthirsty thorn,

but drifts slowly down

like the big untethered flight feathers

of an extinct species of bird

disappearing in the aerial blue perspective

of a thoughtless oblivion

sweeter than anything

that’s gone before it.

And if there’s no fairness in creation

there’s no fault in it either

and if you open your eyes and your ears wide enough

like seashells and telescopes

you can hear the leaves

you can hear the waves

you can hear the pebbles and the stars

all in the same voice you use

to talk to yourself in your solitude

about what you think your life is turning into

exonerating their homely existence

by remembering once they walked with God in freedom

but after the Big Bang they had no choice

but to be what they are

in the unique scheme of things

like porn stars and butterfly wings

or the sappy endings of bad novels

that bleed like maple syrup

that doesn’t run sweet in the spring

because they’ve made pulp fiction

out of the dark secret themes of life

that flow through us like mindstreams

always on their way to somewhere else

that flowers like the universe in all directions.

If sometimes your heart burns

like an urn full of the ashes of the voodoo dolls

you once called friends

that turned against you like unfaithful curses

that couldn’t keep your secrets to themselves

and told everyone how scared you were

of your own magic,

try to remember

that pain isn’t funny

and life isn’t always laughably tragic

and there’s a hidden antiseptic in honey

that can heal the worst burns

like acetylene and steel

if you don’t saint the sweet things in life with pins

or gore the new moon on its own horns.

And when you’re taking the schoolbus home

and you’re sitting by the window

looking out into the sad distance

away from your hilarious companions

because of some emptiness they couldn’t understand

remember that the breakfast of champions

isn’t a bowlful of thorns

and the best way to lift a hex

you’ve imposed upon yourself

is to let someone sit down in the empty seat next to you

and exaggerate your loneliness into laughter.

And when things get heavier than bells to bear

and the air chokes on an evil wind

and the only course available

is to throw the compass out the window

and let it finds its own way north

like an eye seized by stars in all directions

you can always lean on your skeleton

like the strong beam of a rafter

that’s more than enough

to keep the big bad wolf

from blowing your house down.

You have been through much early and overcome

the worst of the morning

to show the sun your flower

like a poem you just finished writing

in which freedom is a wolf

love is a heart in an earthquake zone

that’s always cracking along its fault lines

to give birth to a baby bird

in a family tree

that’s just been struck by lightning.

And everything about you

that the world has yet to believe

everything they can’t see yet

everything that’s bright and clear

and deep and dark and wonderful

about who you’re becoming

because they haven’t opened their eyes enough

in light of the unearthly things

that haunt a teen-age girl

like a mere slip of the moon

growing into a woman

is symbolized by your cherished unicorn

standing at the edge of your painting

waiting for you to come ashore

like the Lady of the Lake

or Cleopatra showing off on the Nile

in a silver lifeboat

with crescent moons for oars

and a heart as big as the sky

where Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

and Alysia in the Sea with Whales

are two of the latest constellations

she’s painted on the flip-sides of her sails.











































for Alysia Waters


Willow-minded friend of mine

you’re the star of Isis in the palm of my hand

that keeps me from drowning in a sea of glass.

How often have I been washed ashore

on the coasts of your flesh

like a naked sailor in an icestorm

of breaking chandeliers

and been taken to see the king

by a princess doing laundry?

A firefly in the distance

might be a great star up close

and your every breath

seed the whirlwind

with golden drops of rain

after the tempest has exorcised its pain

and you grow more beautiful picture by picture

like someone who wants to be redeemed

in her own eyes

for things that only she could be.

But that’s not why I love you.

No siren no muse no priestess no witch

no shepherdess of exotic snakes

squirming with the future

like mystic themes around your body

no sacred whore ready to party in the temple

with Minervan nightowls and Cepheid movie-stars

that don’t want anybody to turn the lights on

to see what’s going on in the darkness

they are to everybody,

you are to me more

than I have eyes to see

to the beginning and end of things

but I can feel the night within

flowing like dark energy through space

and tendrils of time growing like paisley lifelines

into something sweeter than the wine

the white mirror drinks from its own reflection.

Before the arising of signs

I can feel your presence moving in me

like unborn constellations playing chess with time

to see who shall be the blossom

who the root

who the leaf

and who shall prime the lightning of the vine.

Long before your veils are parted by no one

like rivers of insight

I can hear your stars

whispering things into my ear

that make whole worlds appear

rocking life in their arms like water.

Time is a mental space

with different flavours.

You taste like the wounded grace

of an eloquent truce with flowers

and as Dogen Zenji said in l238

the lucky day is when you discover it’s all one day

meaning one chameleon

turning many different colours

to match the hours it spends

in front of the mirror

that keeps it guessing

who’s the seer and who’s the seen.

The grass turns red.

The flower turns green.

How long have I waited for you

like a tide on the moon to come in

like the spoke of a tree for a rim of stars

like a metaphor in the cocoon of a dragonfly for wings

you could see through like a stained-glass window

divining the silence like a witching wand

in a waterless church?

And it’s all just been a moment ago

that isn’t at the discretion of birth and death

I learned to breathe with you on the moon

like some atmospheric fish

transformed by a new medium

into whatever you wished me to be

when I was the lifeboat

in the eye of the endless sea

that washed me out like a cinder

with the tears of a passing mindstream

as if I got in the way of my own dream

and you?

You were the mystic specificity

as you will always be

in the lunar pearl of it all

that sometimes doubles for my skull.

And isn’t it funny how when the night screams

it’s always an aurora

that everyone mistakes for dawn?

A snail of a comet smears the mirror and moves on

and it’s as good a path as any to follow I suspect

if I had a destination in mind

that wasn’t looping in retrograde like a noose.

I may be as footloose and fancy-free as a ghost

but there’s no end of this longing

that keeps making me up as I go along

trying to be true and strong

to what I love the most about being dead.

I think of you

and I burn in the terrible clarity

of a light that’s never fallen on anyone

as if illumination were endlessly eyeless.

I think of you

like water looking up at the moon as it rises

and I realize the wingless openess of the dark gates before me

and pass through like a midnight sun

whose seeing evaporates in the morning

like visions and words and waterbirds

that have been transcendentally uplifted out of the graves

of their own reflections.

We are what we need to be to each other

without knowing what that is

like a phantom kind of picture-music

that’s always changing its lyrics

to keep up with the mood of the times

whether it’s the high definition tunnel vision

of the smokey beekeepers

trying to bring law to the unruly flowers

or the dark energy of an expansive space

driving the stars like exiles

into the absolute sublimity of a starless place

deep in the heart of God

that even creation can’t fill

or we’re just kicking pebbles down the road together

through clouds of white sweet clover

like afternoon companions of each other’s solitude.

Time is the poetry of the eternal

when love sits by itself under its willow tree

and watches the stream pass by

like the flowing eye it drinks from.

I drink pellucidly on the moon

from old grails of sacred blood

like an ark that survived the flood

only to find itself abandoned like a farm

on a mountaintop with two of every kind

except for one

who made his way down alone with the alone

to sing his lover up out of the dead

as if he were missing one of his eyes

and the other had turned to stone.