Tuesday, June 29, 2010




You’re not mad enough to understand my poetry.

Suffering hasn’t twisted you into strange shapes

like a hangman’s apprentice

practising knots with your spine

or driven your innocence out into the desert

like a scape-goat for the sins of others

until you had mastered their evil

and become a great devil

condemned to do good

as if it were the most exquisite torment

of the damned.

You’ve never stood like an exile

at a sleepless window

and listened to the night rain

speaking in a foreign language.

Your electrons have never

been bumped out of their orbitals

like the photonic refugees

of a radioactive element

with half an afterlife

that can see in the dark

and last for millions of years.

What tongue-tied tuning fork

of a pygmy atom

like the emperor of Austria to Mozart

seeing a galaxy

or hearing a symphony

indicts a cosmic conception

beyond the diminutive perception

and bent event horizons

of a black dwarf

for too many stars

too many notes?

You can’t taste the new wine

until it’s been poured

into the same old dirty cup of a mind

you’ve been drinking from

like the bloodless goblet of the moon for years.

Long breath

short breath

don’t they both go on forever

like poems you can’t measure for a straitjacket?

You want to make haikus out of hurricanes.

You want to time the wind

when it blows your house down.

You’ve sat down among your peers

at a designer seance

and studied literature

as if you were communing with ghosts

who had the decency not to show up in the flesh.

And you may have climbed

to the top of the world mountain like a postcard

but you’ve never come down from it

like an avalanche of rocks

you rolled away from your tomb

like the vernal equinox

as if Stonehenge were built by Sisyphus.

And what’s it to me

if your attention span

is a flea on a hot-plate

and you’re in the habit

of drinking spit

from everyone else’s mouth but your own

or jealousy makes you celibate

everytime you catch me

French-kissing the muse at her wellspring?

You’re a goldfish in a shark bowl

a shore-hugger

with a spineless guitar-pick for a fin

afraid of the dangers

of being swept out into the deep night sea

by the rogue karma

of getting caught up

in your own undertow.

You’re more at home

among dead starfish and washed-up things

in the slums of shallow tidal pools

than the palatial spaces

of more gifted myths of origin.

Literati in the corpus delecti

of the great dead

forensically parsed

by the grammar of maggots

it must be scary for you

to try to imagine

anything you can’t prove

like the singularity

at the bottom of a blackhole

or the creative potential of dark matter.

You may be armies of lice

in the Golden Fleece

living like stars with tenure

in faculties of sunlight

but who among you

knows how to sow

the teeth of the dragon?

If I keep faith with my calling

by following it like a salmon

all the way to the sea like a river

and back to the mountains to die

why should I listen

to the fingerlings on a fish farm

about flowing the wrong way

without checking the depth of the water

to see if I’m in too deep?

I can’t get enough of the stars

but you look at them like a blackhole

and think they’re overdoing their shining.

I’ve never regretted trusting or loving someone

in some interglacial warming period

when the trees come back.

And I’ve never killed a thing I ever loved.

I swallow the darkness of separation

knowing it’s the poisoned mushroom

of the emperor-clown’s last act.

I taste the fact on the fork and concede.

I take more than my own death

out into the desert

and I mourn without accusation

the empty cup of the moon

at the dry lips of its dying mirages.

It’s just the way the rose haemmorages

when it gets cold.

It’s just the way a paper boat

is kept afloat by its own themes

all the way down a river

that doesn’t care where it’s going

because its only destination is anywhere.

And what decent fire lies to its flames?

And I’d rather be loved than right

most of the time anyway

so I’ll take the blame upon me

and you can sleep tight as a lifeboat on the Titanic

and I’ll just drift south with the icebergs

hoping that at the first sign of your solitude

you don’t panic

at the way things are going down

and way way too overboard.

You put pen to paper

like a pharoah builds a pyramid

only to wind up

like a mummy in a museum under glass.

But the first thing I write off is me.

I dispossess myself of thoughts and feelings

like a serpent ditches its skin

tired of being the fall-guy for sin

or the ocean gets its waves off its back 

as if they didn’t belong to anyone’s mind

when the wind reads what’s written in sand

like a lifeline on the palm of my hand

that bends round the heel of my thumb

like an ongoing question of when.

You have to become no one

if you want to understand

the mindlessness of being a human

and the only way to express it

is to say it without a mouth

hear it without listening

and see it without eyes.

Anyone can write a decent poem

but how many can walk on the dark side

and let the poetry write them

without squealing for death

to make their last breath

the whole orchard

in the blossom of a haiku

that might read like a fortune-cookie

but breaks just like an egg

that got the word out

like a bird afraid of the sky

there’s no more room at the inn

for the stars to follow the magi like a hearse

wreathed in laurels and flowers

like the dead blessing

round the bend of a live curse.

You can’t live like a maggot

and write like an eagle.

And though it’s not a grace

that’s easily acquired

by verse lamplighting at night in the woods

to attract the muse like a doe

to your moth-bound lucidities

baying at the moon

you hope will mistake you for a wolf

even the darkness has enough taste

not to try to pour the ocean into a teacup

that hasn’t been washed out first

like someone with a filthy mouth.

All your dainty revisions

were the personal decisions

of someone addicted to plastic surgery

like the bride of Frankenstein to Botox

trying to deconstruct her face.

But me?

I had no choice.

How can you revise space?

Or take anything away from zero?

You try to keep order in your life and work

as if you were building Rome again

from the ashes up like Nero.

And I don’t know why it’s so

but insight after insight

flashing through me like sunswords

through the back of a lunar bull

though it’s been painful

has sustained my life somehow

like the brainchild of a compatible chaos.

And I may have been treated madly by poetry

and speak in tongues

like a lunatic in the rain in Babylon

long after it’s bricks were broken

and the last eclipse had spoken

its last word

about free choice

being gerry-mandered out of the absurd

but you’re as well-versed

as the soft lip

of a Georgian sheep dip

that’s just found its voice.