Saturday, June 19, 2010




You keep looking for meaning in a world

you say hasn’t given you one

worth living for

and you’re down and disappointed

and all that red passion

that used to burn like books and leaves

has turned as mystically brown

as the background of a Rembrandt painting

or gone up in smoke

at the Bonfire of the Vanities.

Now you’re a copycat Savanarola

in a faculty lounge

trying to turn God back like the Renaissance

for behaving like the Medici.

You used to be a little on the teachy side

but now you’re boring and preachy

having settled the whole issue

of what you’re doing on earth like a fist.

You once went looking for the point of life like a grail.

Now you plunge it through everyone’s heart like a spear.

Like the terrible angel at the garden-gate

to prove you’re sincere as fire

you’re ready to kill anyone

who likes what they see in the mirror

that never wears the same face twice

when it looks at you.

The truth is

since you’re fond of the word

you never found a meaning big enough

to accommodate that Delphic python of an ego

that’s kept sloughing you like skin over the years.

You were always too big

for any chrysalis or cocoon you ever crawled into

and the greatest miracle of transformation

as far as you were concerned

is the shape you took in the womb

like the pearl of the moon

from a grain of dirt

at the bottom of a seascape.

What unified field theory could ever contain you

like some cosmic Houdini in chains and locks

twisting upside down over a snakepit of thoughts

trying to think your way out of the box

as if you were the ultimate escape-artist

and could pour the universe out of the universe?

Even space wasn’t enough of an embrace

to hold you

and now time’s given up on you as well.

Eleven dimensions were never enough

to take your measure.

You wanted to be the golden Buddha

that wormed its way into the heart

of an enlightened rose.

The blackhole in the heart of the galaxy.

The exception that became the rule.

But you never understood

the candle of life that burns within us all

sheds more than one petal

over the course of a lifetime

spent gazing at the flame

fixed in the seeming stillness

like a flower that blooms in fire

every two thousand years

you can’t look at with the same eyes twice.

You never understood that when you look at things

long enough with an open heart

and an unbounded mind

they estrange your eyes

into new ways of seeing.

They bring you into being

like a star turning in its own light

or dark jewels of anti-matter

to see what value

you might place on them

when the gem looks through its own eyes

into the radiance of life without an appraiser.

But the flaws in perfection

are the laws of a fool

or to secularize a mystic dictum

the same eyes by which you see them

are the eyes by which they see you.

Two dunces on the same stool.

One a myth of origin

that got lost in its own meaning

chasing its own tail to see where it begins

and the other the head of a reform school

for black matter

absentee without permission.

Two abnormalities

looking for reality

in the corners of the human condition

that baffles it with the clarity

of a hundred million books

giving private lap dances

in sheep-eyed sylvan nooks

for the savage wolf-popes

with shepherd’s crooks

whose greed is the meaning of prayer.

But the universe whispers itself

into its own ear like a secret

even it couldn’t keep to itself

and everything in existence

from starfish galaxy to solitary night bird

cherishs what they’ve heard

each in their own awareness

not of the word at the beginning of things

as if things were created out of choice

but of the voice behind it

that sings freely to each alone

in the silence of their solitude 

like a fountain-mouth of light

that lavishs the world on everyone

without intention or design

as if everyone were privvy to the same mind

and it were thinking out loud

in the picture-music of colours

you can only see

before the arising of signs.

That’s why it looks empty and dark

beyond the blazing billboards

of your highway paradigms.

And for someone like you

who prefers to jump into snakepits

to ask for directions

when the whole world is free-falling

without a map or parachute

through a bottomless abyss

without any sense of up or down

it must dwarf you the same as it does

a featherless bird breaking out of the egg

like a new universe into a nest of flying serpents.

Daring says feathers

and falling takes flight

because it’s in the nature of the abyss

to heal itself like wounded water

when it bathes in its own light

like light and stars

or snakes in the talons of eagles

the lowest of the low

raised up to the highest of the high

like a constellation

when they suddenly realize

in the annihilation of opposites

how dragons win their wings.

You ask fraudulent questions

and expect honest answers.

You try to define what you’re seeking

even before you look.

You stir the starmud in the mirror

to make things clearer

but you still end up looking at things

with dirty eyes.

And out of the darkness

like bats to burdock

blinded by that porchlight of a mind

you keep on all night

in a frenzy of insects

your thoughts are glued

like kites that flew into the powerlines

or flies into a spider-web

of sticky views

on how to keep it together

like a shepherd of clouds

trying to pasture the weather

in the starfields of a mountain sky.

You want to be the mystic arachnid

with fangs like the moon

and radiant elixirs for toxins

you can cook in a spoon

without flagging the fit

with a pennant of blood

that puts its cosmic armour on

and shouldering its lance like a syringe

tilts at the windmill of your arm

like the meaning of Don Quixote

lost like a peduncle in the ensuing phylum

of a species that went extinct

for refusing to adapt

to a reformed chaos theory of evolution

flintknapping the future fossils

of an improved Stone Age.

You keep thinking

if you roll enough rocks up a hill

like Sisyphus

you can build a fortress

or the Al Hambra

or the Taj Mahal

or even the Parthenon

but things just keep coming down on you

like an avalanche down from the world mountain

into the valley of the kings

where the mummies wait for their afterlives

under pyramids of quicksand.

Only a fool would spend a whole lifetime

trying to learn

what he already knows. 

In order to understand such a thing

one must be such a person.

Already being such a person

why bother to understand such a thing?

You’re trying to map

the stars in your genome

to find your constellation

like a long lost home

that walked out on you like a threshold

when you went a step too far

and added yourself like a big capital I

to the beginning of that tongue-tied alphabet

that made profound spelling-mistakes

in your amino acids

the moment you started

to proof-read your protein

for punctuation marks

that were too big-hearted.

Vicarious mind!

Faecal pile and pit.

Snake-eyed jewel

at the bottom of the shit

that schools the fools’ laughter

by ignoring it

you can keep on looking for a kissing-stone

in a hail of Leonid meteors

that keep knocking you out

like a dinosaur

that takes it on the lip

like a quick jab

from an under-rated mammal

or you can hoard water in your humps

like a camel on the moon

that moves through the cool of the night

in a caravan of shadows

trading with the desert

toward ancient oases of ice

that taste like the frozen tears

of the ballroom chandeliers

that gathered like stars

to take advantage of the night

by twisting your words

like a speech impediment

that whispers like the sea in her ears

at a dance

for club-footed glaciers.

But you can’t wriggle out of the universe

like an anaconda in thin-skinned panty-hose

that’s just swallowed itself all the way up to the nose

like a mystic condom

playing it safe

down on its knees

to give itself a cosmic blowjob

without contracting an unforgivable disease.

And there are dangerous cave-bears

that live at the back of your mouth

among the skulls of your ancient ancestors

and bones like bad omens

so you won’t find much shelter there

to keep the fire alive long enough

through the long night ahead

to finish the painting

you were working on

without saying a word

that would discolour your voice with a meaning

that won’t be discovered for years

long after your words have moved on without you

like the common language

of a migrant tribe

in the direction of their spears.



















































the universe pours itself into its own ear like a secret

everything is meant to keep













Ten thousand voices in my head

some living some dead

but I don’t let a single one of them

get in the way

of what’s trying to be said.

Let the whole orchard

break into a song or a symphony

and it’s still not worth listening to

compared to the wonder of a single note

that isn’t attuned to anything

but sits with me

like a guitar in the corner

that picks me up occasionally

and strings me out over the emptiness

like a suspension bridge

engineered by the spiders of music

all the way over to the far side of nowhere.

I’m that extra day in the calendar of a light-year

that shows up once every four years

to try and work things out

but it’s what I do in my spare time

when I’m not called upon to balance anything

that intrigues me.

It may be one planet

but it’s got an infinite number of axes

sticking through it like pins

through a voodoo doll

or sun swords in the back of a lunar bull

depending on what angle you’re looking at it from.

Remove yourself from things

like the universe expanding out of sight

and the curse is lifted

that stood in your light like eyes

that got in the way of your seeing.

Put your mind down once and awhile

like that embryo of a sword

in a womb of dark ore

you’re still trying to pull out of the stone

to be made king of the iron age.

Just for once let things begin with a big bang

that shocks you out of yourself

not a haemorage of rust

that pops like a wet paper bag

and gets sopped up by an old rag.

The play’s the thing

not the poster

and existence isn’t a method actor on tour.

Reality is an acquired taste

that serves the rapture before the wine

the meaning before the sign

and holds the dark mirror up

as an example to all

of how to see

before its smeared

like a spray-bombed wall

by every passing reflection.

Ten thousand voices in my head

and everything they say is true

whether I want to hear it or not.

And they all can carry a tune

better than I do

or follow a theme out to the end

like a lifeline on the palm of their hand

that’s always Niles longer than mine

that dies in the desert an oasis shy of Egypt.

I might work with words and facts

but they’re a grammar of birds

with a secret syntax

that takes me out of context

every time I try to join the conversation.

None of them speaks my wild mother tongue

this far from home

without a voice of my own

I can follow back to where I came from

like petrified footsteps in African stone.

But there isn’t a dialect of the silence

I haven’t mastered when I’m alone

letting the universe speak through me

like the wind in the leaves

as if I were a language

of flesh and blood and starmud

more verb than noun

more participle than gerund

no royal antecedent in the background

of the common pronoun

but I can look any part of speech in the eye

like the alpha of an indefinite article

that gets things rolling

like dice at the foot of the cross of the

wondering how many full-stops it’s going to take

not to come up snake-eyes.

Ten thousand voices in my head

some beautiful some wise

some playing dead in the sunrise

some raging like fists against the sky

and the face that turns away

from the broken window

like the full moon

some oracular clowns

and others just bad medicine.

But there’s one that doesn’t pray or bless or curse.

It doesn’t summon me like the dead to a seance

and even when a fire breaks out like a muse

it doesn’t panic like an emergency exit.

It can speak of life

without trying to second-guess it

and when words aren’t enough to say it

it’s suffered in silence long enough

listening to me shoot off my mouth

like a Friday night cowboy

trying to shoot out the stars like streetlamps

to find my own way home in the dark

to know how to play the blues

as if there were no one else around.