IF YOU KNOW MORE
If you know more
about what you don’t want
than what you do
you might think you’re wise
but I just think you’re aging
whether you’re eighty-six or twenty-two.
Many friends and lovers have died.
Many dark windows without eyes.
But only on the outside.
Inside they live with me like clouds
in the uninhibited vastness of a sky
that goes on forever
like the memory of some small kindness
that revealed everything about them
I ever needed to know.
They come and go like birds
each a theme of light in their own element
that is embodied in me like starmud
that has become human.
Water or carbon
fire or wind
I taste of them
like an autumn apple tastes of the sun
as the sun goes down.
I drive by the houses
where they used to live
that other people live in now.
And I don’t always know
who I’m praying to or why
and it doesn’t really matter if
no one is listening
or standing at the window
but I ask whatever powers prevail
even if it’s just to nudge an atom with a thought
to fill their sails with generous horizons
and make a warm wind
their forwarding address.
I thank them for who they still are
like the memes and genes
of the better part of my dna
that makes me me.
They are the dark matter
of things I cannot see
that shape the universe I’m living in for now
The trees are more compassionate
because they lived
and the stone of the world
on which I lay my head at night to dream
is softer for some memory I cherish of them.
The rain is more loving.
The grass is greener.
The flower more red.
But that doesn’t mean
when I lie with a living woman
I’m making love to the dead
or she brings a cemetery to bed
or I’m the corpse on a pyre
and she’s the fire
that feathers the phoenix in flames.
I don’t look at the moon in passing
and see a gravestone with many names.
And if I howl like a mad man sometimes
just to hear an echo in my solitude
it’s the agony of life not death
that smokes the cold night air with my breath
high above the timberline
where the stars may be uncompromisingly clear
but they’re not cruel.
Life isn’t death’s fool
if you don’t live it in jest
like a guest who’s forgotten
how to be grateful for all the fireflies
you followed like stars in the east
as if you were a magus
on your way to a feast with gifts
not the grave-goods of a funeral.
Disappointment and pain
have aged you faster than time.
You’re a stone bird transfixed
by the indelible eclipse of your lucidity
swallowing you whole like a cosmic serpent.
Even your constellations are jaded tatoos.
And the wines of life
with all their chameleonic world views
no longer get drunk on you
and since you’ve drained
the colour from your eyes
like the iris of a rainbow
you might conceive of things
as if they were clues
of broken promises yet to come
but you’re inspired by albino muses
paler than the skull of the moon
waning through its final phases.
If you’d only turn your coffin over like a lifeboat
and give it back to the sea
like the fossil of an exoskeleton
you don’t need anymore
or roll the moon like a stone away from your tomb
you’d see how the yellow grass greens in the light
and the shadows of the trees and leaves
play upon it like music on water
or a strange intelligence upon the light
that is thereby made visible and alive by it.
A flat earth without ecstasy
and an impoverished ocean
where all the horizons are flatlining
because they’ve lost heart
is the small wave of a petty emotion
in the rapturous tides of life
that wash the dead and the living up alike
in the same turmoil of beginnings and ends.
I embrace my friends living and dead
the way a mountain weaves a river
like a strong rope
out of many weak threads
that spontaneously got it together.
This one wants to use it
to hang himself
and this one wants to
climb up to heaven on it
like a caterpillar.
And this one’s trying to read it
like a lifeline on the palm of his hand
with his index finger
as if it were the alpha and omega of his name.
The dead-and-gone forever
is also here-and-now
where their absence
is alive as melting snow
or the heartwood of a green bough
that keys the spine of the singing bird
like a Spanish guitar
or the dead branch
that holds the moon up like a blossom
or a loveletter to a star.
I share space with everyone and thing I’ve lost
like a shape-shifting constellation
in an expanding universe
where the light that left my eyes
just a moment ago
like people I’ve been and met and cherished
over the long dark radiant years of transformation
it’s taken me to get here
shine as if they’ve just arrived.
Life and death like all opposites
that engender one another
are a collaboration.
They’re not at war.
They give birth to things
like two hands of the same potter
who doesn’t just work
with the substance of the clay
but the emptiness as well.
Turn it skyside up
and you can turn a funeral bell
into a wine-cup
and pour your life into it
like a sea into the mouth of the moon
and pass it around among your friends
as if they were all kings and queens of the zodiac
getting drunk on the same planet together
around a fire down by the river
toasting the night in tears and laughter
like generous atmospheres of good weather
knowing death is only as far from life
as a wave is from water
the knower from his knowing
the gone from their going
or a cup is from its emptiness
when the wine is flowing.