Monday, April 12, 2010



What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

The opinion of a weak man.

Another philosophical cannibal

who ate the heart of Hannibal

trying to transcend himself homeopathically

like an elephant high in the Alps.

And what does it make you stronger for?

More of the same lame supremacy

hobbling across the stage

like the wounded iamb of a crippled king

suffering played with like a toy

who tore the wings off things like a spider?

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods

they kill us for their sport.

And some people root well

in the manure of suffering

and tell me that it makes them grow

and I could easily believe it does

if I were a vegetable

but the apple is not more beautiful for its bruises

the child is not ennobled by his hunger

and if you’re truly alone

who is there to liberate you from your solitude?

Is the water more beautiful when it’s tormented

by the things it flows through around and under

than it is when it’s left to find peace all on its own?

There’s a dumb blank stupid face on pain

when you look in the mirror

and the mirror turns to stone.

There are memories.

There are scars.

There’s Auschwitz Gaza and Darfur.

There are lifeboats that jumped ship like plague rats

and ran aground in Genoa like the middle ages.

There are thorns and nails and skulls

and the sacred relics of the unholy atrocities

that burn people in fire to keep them from going to hell.

For all the people killed by cannon

as many have been killed by bells.

Killer wasps.

But no honey in the holyland

when you beat the stars out of

the golden dome of the hive like a pinata.

Inured to suffering like the least of all possible worlds

you may have learned to grow a garden in a snakepit

but the rose is not defanged

nor the thornapple of its antidote less venomous.

Some tears fall on barren ground.

And some tears are famous.

And it could be we suffer at our own hands

open our bellies and veins

as a way of putting a good face on a bad space

that’s got us down and out

in Ottawa and Osaka

and it’s amazing to watch honour overcome life

but it’s still just a way of opening a loveletter with a knife

and when all is dead and done

taking no for an answer.

Suffering might go into remission for awhile

and concentration camps turn into constellations

and a good rain wash the blood off the flowers

and the geraniums you planted around the house

keep away snakes

and the poppies bleed like junkie donors

trying to make a few bucks at the blood bank

that can’t thank them enough for their bloodstreams

but the wheel of death and birth

is always out of alignment

like most of the planets

and things come back again

like the second run of a storm

or a tidal wave that rises like a dragon

from the dream of an underground watershed

shaken by an earthquake from a deep sleep.

And I can’t see how any of this makes me stronger.

You might feel exalted by the power

in the bulldrums of the thunder

but you won’t like the taste of the lightning in your tea

when you’re rhapsodically high on your own overview

like a flag above the best

and the mountain loses its nerve

and turns into quicksand under you

and the sun stops still at noon above the walls of Jericho

and the horns of the prophet aren’t blessed

and you ask yourself in your helplessness

like a guitar that’s forgotten how to open its mouth and scream

why pain is always the black kool-aid of change

why suffering always spins the cocoon

around our transformations

as our fingernails go black as the new moon

that started out trying to make butterflies

but wound up sealing mummies in a tomb.

Can’t love do as much and more?

Isn’t joy as much of a magician as sorrow

Isn’t wonder as much of an elixir today

as it will be tomorrow

or compassion as much of a grail

or truth as much of a feather

in the scale of things

or beauty as much of a potion

to change the course of our wind blown waterwings

on the great ocean of suffering

as the rose that drowned in its own blood

like the undertow of the dream

that was swept under heavy Aztec eyelids like syphilis?

Every angel in the way

was first called Satan.

They were all Satan.

They were cops at roadblocks.

They got in your face

to keep you from harming yourself

by going down the wrong path.

They turned your eyes around and sent you back

the way of all light in the night.

Jacob wrestled with the angel in the way

and walked away with a limp

like Hephaestus and Richard the Second.

Satan dislocated their hips.

Did they hobble away stronger

because they were the divinely wounded kings

of crippled things?

Or was Satan weakened by his victory

and humans strengthened by their defeat?

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

is a slave’s notion of how to endure the unendurable

and grow like revolution from defeat to defeat.

History is laced with the sententious pragmatism of chaste scars.

Victory heals and smiles and doesn’t hesitate.

Defeat heals and scars and waits.

A war between two sides of the same gate

neither side ever walks through

into a bigger overview of things

that brings peace to the war of wings

over who was captain of the bird

that circled like a lapwing on the runway

but neither victory nor defeat

however high the control tower

ever got off the ground.

It’s just that way with power.

It likes to march.

It doesn’t fly.

But if you ever do make it through

those flightless gates

into the space beyond the common ground

you’re trying to take a stand on

to keep from being knocked down

like the Colossus of Rhodes

or the flyweight lighthouses

of Atlantis and Crete

you won’t need any kind of move

to pin your opponent by his shoulders

like Atlas to the earth

in a UFC clash of the titans.

You can’t be brought to heel

like a starmap kneeling in the dirt

nursing blackholes like daggers underneath your scars.

Our endless igneous wars

are just a bad dream of Vulcan

Venus wakes up from in the arms of Mars

and delivers herself in the nick of time

from a death thrust of rust

that assays everything that’s won as lost

to fire’s version of frost.

In this place where nothing’s overcome

and nothing’s lost or won

there’s no triumph or defeat

anything weak

or anything that makes you stronger

by disdaining to kill you like the Buddha in the road

it met coming the other way

no stern angel blocking your passage

like Moses forbidden the promised land

or Adam and Eve driven out of Eden

by vicious militias of cherubim

no lamb led to the slaughter

no lion maimed by the meek

and no one blinded by what they seek

because there’s no way  

you can knock someone off their feet

who’s walking on stars

as if they were jewels of water.

And the winds of war

aren’t the measure of your next breath

and life doesn’t grow stronger by living longer than death.