I EXPAND AND EXAGGERATE MY FAULTS
I expand and exaggerate my faults
to make them shrink with laughter.
I douse my rage like a torch
in the mindstream
of a waking dream
to know a darkness
that’s much colder than I am.
Even the perennially young
grow relatively old
but it’s got nothing to do with age
unless you’re counting.
Living your life well
is the subtle art
to let it unmaster you
as if you’d never existed.
Space is more immensely here than matter.
As you were
whenever I watched the wind
trying to help you hang out the laundry
as the bedsheets blew
the loose wet sails
of a clothesline Cutty Sark in your face.
You were trying to be a good mother.
You were trying to bring your bow about
and get the wind behind you.
You wanted to forget a lot of things
to make room for some new dreams
but you knew you were only pretending.
Your future was already out of fashion
before those parts of your childhood
you hadn’t lived your way through yet
caught up with you like an old debt
to a dangerous passion.
I was the eldest son of a single mother on welfare
and you hurt the way she did
and there was no way
my sacrificial heart
couldn’t find you beautiful.
And you needed me
like you needed a pet delusion
until your old man got out of prison
and reality put on its old cruel aspect
just like my father
who opened things up like a door
that was always angry and drunk.
If my mother was a rose
with the soul of a bloodbank
my father was a haemmorage
with the heart of a drunktank
and the man you married
was almost as pathetically violent as him.
All women were whores.
All children either
stage-frightened child stars
about to enter show biz
in front of his drunk buddies
because they were his
or shit on his shoes
he could wipe off
on the flying carpets
of their innocence
as he was leaving for good
for people that knew how to treat him
a lot better than we did.
I remember walking that autumn beside you
barefoot over my emotions
like the broken mirror
of a reflecting telescope
along Cordova Bay Beach
deserted in the rain that fell for miles and miles and miles
as you explained
why we couldn’t see each other anymore.
You were eleven years older than I was
but I remember thinking
you sounded like an emergency door
looking for a way out of life
that didn’t have a squad car
with flashing lights
or an ambulance
blocking the exit.
It’s still a dark mystery to me
why women like to give scorpions
a second chance
to humiliate them
like Catholic interrogators
in the church dungeons
of Albigensian France
burning heretics at the stake
as practice for the crusades
aimed at Jerusalem.
You taught me a lot about men and women
and what you taught me
was for the most part
and dangerously lunar
and if sometimes
I smile like a knife
at something I still like
about the way my heart
doesn’t open old wounds
like a Texas text book
to rewrite the scars of the victims
by turning them out on the streets
of revisionist history
like the apochryphal books of the Bible
I attribute that compassionate irony to you.
You were the clarity
that abounds with illumination
like a whole new universe
astounded to discover reality
is its own revelation.
The rabbit pulls itself out of the hat.
And when you did that
you left a lot of things behind
because your heart couldn’t bear
anymore than it could carry
and you already had a dead marriage on your back
because you were a Marine on Guadalcanal
who wouldn’t leave the wounded behind
as you went off upright out into the open
to rescue yourself and you family
like a wounded voodoo doll
caught in the spiritual crossfire of imperial demons.
Why did you do that
when all the cherry blossoms were perfect?
Why did you die for the emperor
instead of surrendering to us?
Why did you let so much time and space
get in the way of us
my sense of the near and intimate
for years to come
would always be a bird
disappearing into the distance at moonrise
like something you said
you knew I’d remember
about what makes love
an ordeal of life
that only the loveless
can live their way through.
And even if it is true
and I’m still not sure I believe you
why did you pick that night
of all the nights I wanted you
to blow things out like the stars
and walk off like a hurricane rose
that had just shed me
like a wave or an eyelid
in a flood of tears
that came in
like a shipwreck of providence
at hightide on the moon?
I could have taken
any amount of earthly poison
but it was the spiritual sugar
you put on the point of the dagger
that wounded me forever.
You left me with nothing to hate
but the way love advances intelligence
like a woman cutting flowers
at the gates of hell
with nothing to hide
under the veils of Frankenstein’s bride
telling herself tall tales
about Isis in her moonboat
trimming her sails
to stay afloat
in the perilous weather
that kept knocking you about on the rocks
of a mythological marriage.
You let him ride you
like a golden chariot
through a slum
until the wheels fell off
and it was too late
to remember you were mortal
with or without him.
Why did you let
a reflected glory
eclipse the sun at midnight?
Why did you change
the course of the story
just as it was about to enter the sea?
I went down like stars
when you changed seasons
and spring got caught out in the cold
with nothing but her reasons on.
Black virgins cursed the advent of your absence
as your name peeled like paint
off a weathervane
that was pointing
in the opposite direction of prayer
just to prove you didn’t exist
to believe in yourself
and there was nothing worth asking for.
That night I showed up like an opening
and you showed up like a door
to say you would always love me
though you couldn’t anymore
for the kids’ sake
and how important it was
that they know their real father.
You could change him in time.
You could teach Chernobyl how to barbecue
in your own backyard
with all the kids around.
I knew mine.
I can still feel his guiding hand
around my throat.
As Francis Bacon wrote
children are hostages to fortune
and who was I to argue with the ransom note?
And just like that
was free of the two of us for good.
I never wished you anything but the best
and if I cursed a little bit
under my breath
it was only because
for a little while
in your presence
I thought I had been
so supremely blessed
accepting my death
took an afterlife longer than usual.
Fifteen years later a friend from Albuquerque
said he met you in a hardware store
looking for chicken-wire
to make a dog-pen.
He said you’d let yourself go
after a nasty divorce.
You were a fat alcoholic soccer mom
into acupuncture and reading the Tarot
to tourists from London
to supplement your income
as a part-time home decorator.
That was the first I’d heard of you from anyone.