MY EYES ARE GETTING BETTER
My eyes are getting better
as I get older
despite the sunspots
and leggy eclipses
and when I look back
I can see further than I ever did
except it isn’t the light
that illuminates things any more
and that’s a whole other palette
with colours of its own
wavelengths faster than light.
When you see things with your eyes
the past may be red deepening into black
and the future a furious white-blue
that pushes the darkness back
a T Tauri star or two
but when you see things
with the whole of your being
it isn’t time that’s passing
and it turns out linear perspective isn’t true
and things in the distance aren’t blue
because there are as many farewells
in the foreground
as there are the prophetic yellows
of intimate tomorrows
that haven’t happened yet
way at the back.
Memory isn’t the distilled essence of existence
you can swill in your hand
like a glass of brandy in front of the fireplace
to keep warm when it’s cold outside.
Memory doesn’t drink out of a glass
like sacrificial blood out of a thermometer.
It scoops the moon out of the nightstream
and drinks with both hands.
It revels in its madness
like Li Po’s poetry
not the prose of a vain Narcissus.
It isn’t the pale reflection
of what was once vital.
It walks with those
who haven’t been born yet
as easily as it talks to ghosts
without changing the subject.
I’ve got future memories
I’ve carried around inside myself for years
like the embryos of what’s become of yesterday.
There are sorrows up ahead
I haven’t endured yet
that I’ve already cried for
well in advance of my tears.
Is a river the past
or the future of the sea
and which one’s the prophet
and which one’s the prophecy
that didn’t come to pass?
Does the man head back to the boy he used to be?
A couple of earthquakes
it was hard to stand up to
and the cornerstone of my youth
sank through the quicksand of my maturity
like a California sabre-tooth
that won’t be discovered
until thousands of years from now
when archaeologists start looking
for missing links in the fossils of the truth.
and yesterday can’t catch up
but the thing that I like best about now
is that it never hesitates
to be where it will when it wants
without worrying about where everyone else is.
At least that’s what I tell myself
when I can’t stop thinking about you
like someone who will never happen again
the way love first said your name
as if a word
to become more famous
than the voice that said it
like an afterlife
reclaimed from the lost and found.
Where are you now
who came like a deathwish
to the geni in the lamp
of an unknown constellation
who wouldn’t give you what you wanted?
Did you ever forgive me?
Sometimes it’s more dangerous to be deceived
than it is to be haunted by a truth
you never believed in.
You wanted to live in the moment
as if time were the homogenity of space
and I tried to tell you that it wasn’t midnight everywhere
and somewhere the sun was still shining
but there are some clouds
that prefer shrouds to happy linings
and I don’t remember which one of us died first
but to this day
when anyone rubs me the wrong way
I grant them three curses.
And of the three.
Loving someone unconditionally is the worst.
And neither of the other two
are much better than the first
when you’re asked to decide
between truth and compassion
as if you were tasked
to divide the baby
between two mothers
and you suddenly realize
how hard it is to choose
which one of your eyes to put out
in the name of the other
like a candleflame with a forked tongue
that sees everything
as if it had two shadows
and one of them was longer than the other
like the short and the long straw
of a subjective risk
that couldn’t bridge the gap
between the cool lucidities
of the fireflies of insight
that tried to make constellations out of everything
and the way
you kept splitting the tree of knowledge
like a wishbone
down the middle
between my uncertain intensities
and the unlikely absolutes
of your pre-emptive lightning strikes.
Caesar may have accidentally burned down
the library at Alexandria
where seventy-two imminently isolated scholars
wrote the exact same Septuagint
to prove the divinity of its revelation
but a greater loss
than the amassed wisdom of the past
is the way your intellect
wouldn’t take the lid off
a masonjar full of fireflies
you jammed like stars
into a moment you wanted to preserve forever.
I meet the past everywhere on the road I’m on now
coming back from the future
as if I had all the time in the world
to recall tomorrow
without a sense of urgency.
Or as I once said to a beautiful young artist
when she was poor and nameless.
Until you’ve bought
your own work back
at a garage sale
for next to nothing
you can’t be sure
you’re going to be famous.
And there’s no way
you can trick yesterday
out of the arms of the past
like the new moon
out of the arms of the old.
I was one of the tantric children
of literature once
an enfant terrible like Rimbaud.
I got a taste of fame.
I spit it out
like bottled water
from the wellsprings of the muses
who found their inspiration in clean living
but never got fired up
by the lack of truth in their diet.
I shut my mouth.
I was as precocious as a highchair.
I would go to a poetry reading
and turn it into a riot.
Fire on the water.
Autumn trees on the Fall River.
I was an arsonist
in a volunteer fire brigade
witching for water in hell.
Now I’m the emergency exit
at the end of a long line
of alarm bells
I’m swinging on like Quasimodo
I don’t need a mirror
what the lucky don’t see
in what’s ugly.
Beauty falls in love with the Beast.
But I haven’t been to church in awhile
since my soul
took out a restraining order
to keep the priest away from the child.
Early autumn along the backroads into heaven.
The sumac’s burning.
The sumac’s burning.
The phoenix is on its pyre.
Is this a birth?
Is this a death?
Or just where highway seven
meets the five eleven
and time intersects the timeless
like the red yellow and green
of stop pause and go
that hangs its streetlight
like the stages of a ripening pepper
above the kids in the crosswalk
of another Halloween
that walks with the dead
all the way to the other side of the living
like a ghost in a bedsheet
with a bagful of jelly beans?
Let the living and the dead alike
grasp what little they can
but if your hands are full of nothing
there isn’t much room
for anything else.
Let go of it.
Throw it down.
if it’s still void-bound.
Then sit down on the ground
and have a good laugh
at your own expense
when you see the dark abundance
in the bright vacancy
like black matter
through a gravitational lense
that expends ninety-six percent of itself
on a universe
to keep the lights on
the other four parts we can see.
But isn’t it good to know
there’s so much in life
we’ll never get our hands on?
That so much that’s out there
wants nothing to do with anyone
either of us will ever be?
That you and I
and what we remember
of the way we created each other in agony
in love and lust and jealousy
and all those little endearing ways
we couldn’t be each other when we had to
and these hills I keep retiring
more and more to at night alone
just to be closer to the stars
and the stars themselves
exhausting the last of their farewells
on a summer that’s already turned its back
and gone down over the hills
and the way memory over the years
stops opening itself up like a family album
and begins to take on the image
of anyone who’s standing
near enough to the mirror
for it to appear
in the guise of what it’s become?
Isn’t it good to know
that memory is the mother of the muses
and that the past
isn’t a museum of dead artifacts
and teeth missing from elusive jawbones
grinning at the absurdity
of what does and doesn’t last
and how luxuriously the present cherishs
the garbage of the past?
Isn’t it good to know
memory is the watershed of inspiration
that flows down the world mountain
to keep the sea’s glass full
of the mystic wine
that can drown a drunk in a dropful
and rescue the moon from the eyes of the blind
who refuse to get into the lifeboat
when they’re asked to leave
everything else behind?
Isn’t it good to know
however many fools go to school
and fall in love with knowledge
like ladders with windows
they can look at the world through
like enlightened towers
with an elevated view
of what surrounds them out there
that even we we die
we’re still exceptions to eternity
and not the rule?
That we remember each other creatively
and not as we were
once and for all forever for good
as the people way back when
when you leave someone
you don’t add them
to the great resevoir of the past
like a future you left behind you
that couldn’t last
because time had done with it
the same thing it does
to the emotional life
of any other pyramid
lost the sands of an hourglass.
The future’s just a ruse of time
that sucks us into
accepting the present
as a provisional compromise
with the moment at hand
as if history without a past
were the only alternative left
to living forever.
But however we refine clarity
it’s still not enlightenment
if you’re still telling the story
and the story isn’t telling you
at the same time
in another universe
stranger than this one
that makes us up as it goes along
out of whatever it comes upon
like someone far away we’ll never meet
but we keep looking for in the eyes
of every human we greet
like a myth of origins
taking its seat around the fire
like a house of the zodiac
that bears credible witness
to the truth of the fact
that time is more of a maniac
than a liar.