Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Someone keeps following me

like the shadow of who I was supposed to be.

The dark sibling of light

whose face got turned away from the sun.

He’s the remnant of perfection that’s left of me.

He’s the one I was expected to achieve.

He’s the one I’m supposed to believe.

I’m what happened to him along the way.

And the defeat goes on and on and on.

I want to say look you were there.

You saw what went down.

How natural everything seemed at the time.

How inevitability governed everything like hindsight.

But he just stands there staring

if I were the most inconceivable thing on his mind.

He’s the son my mother should have had.

I’m the one she didn’t deserve.

He’s the blue flower.

And I’m the black dog.

He’s the favourite of the rain.

And I’m the fire hydrant that wound up in the sewer

after putting out the fire.

He wanted to live a good life with laudable accomplishments.

He wanted to do well for himself

given where we were born

and he was groomed for it

by the very people who had made him poor.

He vowed to become one of them and thought

all shall be well all shall be well

all manner of thing shall be well

and he’d know the kind of self-respect

you just can’t get on welfare.

I went slumming with anyone

who was passionate or dangerous.

I’ve always felt guilty because

I wasn’t better than I am.

I think it was something

my mother kept saying in rage about me

when I was young.

And my tough old broom pod of a granny

always agreed.

I was so much more like my unforgiveable father

than my brother and sisters were

I could smell the burning flesh

of some kind of mark being branded on my heart.

O.K. I said

I’m evil but I’m smart

and there’s always poetry and art.

I’ll be self-destructively creative

and give myself up to visions in the desert

before they drive me out in May

when they cleanse the temples of smoke and incense

and they’re looking for a scapegoat

whose innocence is within question.

And that was the first great divide in the mindstream

between him and me

and after that we were two different shores

and one burning bridge.

And I was determined I wasn’t going to be the shadow

that got left behind.

So here we are forty-eight years later

and he’s asking me with those

eery condescendingly accusing eyes of his

if I think I’m as smart now as I used to be

before I started living my life like a river

instead of a highway

and as much as I love the stars

dropped out of astronomy

because everything felt starless and unshining.

You can make more money

asking stars how old they are

and where they’re going spectrographically

than you can sharing the little light you’ve got to go by

through poetry and painting.

In art

things get worse

the better you get at them.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

You might still think of yourself

as an oscilloscope with a wavelength for a lifeline

but here you’re off the radar.

And I lived like that for years.

Women black coffee cigarettes and books.

I wanted to guide people by example

and lead them away from me.

I embodied the estranged compassion of the damned

in everything I did

and kept myself at an appropriate distance

in the aerial and thematic perspectives

of all my works.

I can empathize deeply with people

but seldom to the point

where I let them become me.

I have a plutonium soul

and the afterlife of a nuclear winter.

I’m one of the heavier elements of life

and my intensities are as natural to me

as the stability of his carbon is to him.

And the way I express myself

is more of an exorcism than a seance.

I dispossess myself of all things human

so they won’t be hurt by what’s left.

And I endure.

And I’ve got the energy

of an angry rogue star in my genes

that refuses to pale in his sunlight by comparison.

He graces our Russian Mongol ancestry with gilded graves

and tears that run like chandeliers

down his ballroom cheeks.

I trace it in lightyears

and leave the rest to chance.

He preens his decency.

I revel in the bright vacancy

the dark abundance

of my reptilian clarity.

He sees things in a white mirror.

I see through them in a black.

He mourns the things I do.

But he doesn’t know a damned thing about agony.

He thinks he’s the one who’s real.

And he resists me like temptation.

Not to feel might be the way to feel about Zen

but I indulge the passions of an unenlightened man

because I don’t trust purity

to remember that it’s just the fashion

of a passing moment

that buffs its own reflection in a doorknob

and passes judgment on the poor

with the stiff bliss of a happy slumlord.

His universe is Steady State.

Mine’s a Big Bang

empowered by a dark energy

that keeps accelerating my fate

into the void ahead of me

so by the time any kind of insight arrives

it’s always too late

to be news.

Right door.

Wrong address.

He’s the cornerstone.

I’m the quicksand.

He’s the habitable planet

and I’m the menacing asteroid.

He promotes evolution

and I’ve always got a rock in my hand

as big as the moon

to bring about a change in who rules

the windows and the mirrors

on the other side

of what they expect me to be in passing.

I’m the radical zero

who thinks it’s foolish

to try to make something out of nothing

given it’s already a given

and he’s the commonsensical whole number

that takes account of things.

He says he’s not perfect

to be arrogant about his humility

but that’s only a shadow of what he lacks.

I try to carry my own weight

because I don’t expect much

in the way of serious intelligent help

but he gets around

like a corpse on everybody’s backs

as if he were the stranger who came to the rescue.

He’s the crutch who leans on legs to hold him up

whenever he walks on water without oars.

I’m the bottom-feeder that he abhors.

But I can take a handful

of the muck and decay of my starmud

and turn it into waterlilies.

I can make my perishing into something beautiful.

I can use death like a spontaneously renewable resource

and make things live

through the transformative power of my art

that are totally blameless

whether they be light or dark.

He comes on like a lifeboat when he’s talking to women

as if he were walking by the sea.

He doesn’t know how to go swimming without an ark.

Women are attracted to me

like blood in the water

when they’re out far enough

to be thrilled by sharks.

I’m the zoo on the outside of the cage

that blunts its teeth on the bars.

He’s in it for the documentary footage

and a few convincing scars.

The sheep hunt tigers into extinction

and the goldfish are trawling

for grey nurses and great whites

to make sharkfin soup.

Even in hell

there’s a sense of proportion

almost a moral aesthetic

that goes unspoken

until someone spots a jackass

trying to lead an eagle around on a leash.

The distastes of a demonic imagination are not petty.

The taboo of the maggot

is not the rule of the whale.

So get behind me my shadow my brother self.

Don’t flash your lighthouse in my eyes

when the stars are out

as if I’m the one

that’s a few magnitudes shy of shining.

It would do you a lot of good to be a little bit bad

but then you’d feel too close to me for comfort

and forget who you are to everyone else.

I’ve never needed anything more

than the dust at my heels

to show me the way down.

I jump

and sometimes

I’m descending into heaven

and sometimes I’m plunging toward hell.

But what can you say about a man

standing at the edge of the bottomless abyss

of his own draconian absence

waiting for the flightfeathers of stray angels

with spare parachutes

to fall out of the sky?

I know you look so far down at me

from that overview

you’ve exalted like a balcony

that got it’s start in life as a pulpit

you suffer from vertigo.

But I could have told you little brother.

I wouldn’t want to alarm or harm you in any way

but I could have looked you straight in the eye

like a bemused king cobra

flaring over your nest like an unpredictable eclipse

or an umbrella somebody opened in the house

and diverted the luck of their lifeline

from the original course of its flowing

into a starmap for dice

pitted with eyeless blackholes

like the sockets in ivory skulls

lost in this wilderness alone

where nothing reminds them of home.

Alea iacta.

The dice are thrown.

You may be a better threshold than I am

but I’ve been crossed by the Rubicon

and I could have told you little brother

without even so much

as the penumbral shadow of a lie

to fall into your milk like a dragon.

I could have dipped

my other wing into your cup

as an antidote to clarify what ails you.

And as you drank up

I could have told you little brother.

The first shall be last

and the last shall be first

and it’s not a good idea when you’re here

to antagonize the lowlife

with your insufferable highness

from your upper story balcony

as if you were always trying

to get something out of your eye

like me

who burns like a cinder

just to see if I can make God cry

to hear why

I would have told you little brother

even snakes can fly.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Crazy man dancing with fireflies.

Another one trying to shoot out the stars.

I hear the woman next door weeping again tonight.

I don’t know what for.

Desire’s a phoenix in love with water

if that’s what it is.

The torch is plunged into the wound

to stop the bleeding

and the ashes get carried away.

I’ve loved nine women for years

and they’ve all buried me in a different place.

Or saved my skull to consult the dead

about a future that wasn’t living up to the moment.

The white poppy of the moon

bats her eyelashs through the pines.

I’ve never been as innocent as a cynic

nor quite as susceptible

but I remember the pain of separation

like the mirror of the lake remembers lightning

as the most brutal of all its revelations.

And how you can walk in and out of some doors

all your life like faces

without ever opening them

or knowing whose they are.

Everybody longs for the threshold they haven’t crossed.

Poor stars trying to live up to their radiance.

Wondering why it’s always behind them.

Why the dreamcatchers never get finished

and love ends up like some kind of cold fish

swimming through endless windows.

Music from far across town

this late at night

like a ghost answering a seance.

It rises above the trees like smoke

and disappears into the moonlight.

Someone’s trying to bloom in fire.

It happens but it’s rare.

I take a firewalk down memory lane

but all my cremations seem no more to me now

than the shadows of candles

and though I feel intimately removed

this afterlife of mine is not scar tissue

whether things got over me

or I got over them

no matter.

Attachment too is a Buddha activity

and though passions that once

made even the trivial sacred

and the impossible slight

have transformed

the hot blue flame of their hydrogen

into the carbon and oxygen

of more sustainable intensities

the selflessness of my impersonality

is not aloofness or indifference or exemption

or the consolation of wisdom won by acclamation.

Time distills the spirit out of all things human

and you can delight in your past

as if it were the future of someone else

who lives it like the unfolding

of leaves in the spring

that shadow the ripening apple

until it tastes like the tears of the autumn sun.

Joy and compassion

and the lucid spontaneity

of staying improbably ageless

again and again and again and again

as the years rejoice in the young and old alike

climbing the ladder of the tree

from so far down in the dark earth

they’re beyond the reach of its ancient roots

and the utmost of its aspirant branchs

scratching at the windows of heaven.

And then most amazing of all

someone comes to the window

and parts the veils

and like the last line of the last act

just before the curtain call

you fall.

You fall toward paradise

as if you’d failed

and had to do it all over again.

But if your heart needs healing

offer your love up like a transplant

to anyone who can use it

and your mystic eyes to the stars

that want to see through them

what their light looks like

from deep inside

the expanding vastness within you

that can hold all that shining

like the sky or the sea embraces

all kinds of its own weather

without ever overflowing the brim.

The skull you drink from

like a wishing well

in the desert watersheds of the dead

is a cup without a horizon.

A real mirage with imaginary water.

A seabed of shadows on the moon.

Low-tide at noon.

Providential midnights when it’s full.

But if you don’t like

what you’ve been hearing about yourself lately

when you stop to listen

to what your saying

and don’t recognize the voice

you’re speaking in as your own

hold your ears up like conch shells to the oceans

that have never heard a recording of themselves

and carefully watch their faces.

And if you make the same stupid mistake

you swore not to make again

learn to recycle your ignorance

so you can save a bit of wisdom

for the rest of the world

to remember what it was like once

to be alone in Eden

with no one else to rely upon

and all you had to add

to the conversation of the rivers

that flowed out of it

all you had to share with your solitude

and boundless emptiness

was your unaswerable longing

even as it was being shaped

by their waters

into the form of the unimaginable.

Into the form of a woman

who tasted then

and tastes forever now

of the original light

of spontaneous creation

however many worlds

and lives and years and nights had to pass

before you first saw her

and felt your afterlife condense into a star.

Crazy man dancing with fireflies.

Crazy man dancing with fireflies.

And it doesn’t matter

there’s no one here

to understand my delight.

Crazy man dancing with fireflies.

It’s hard to read me in so little light

but when you fall asleep

it’s the world that dreams

and though I feather the wind

with firebirds of desire

and write loveletters

long into the night

that grow like the graceful tendrils

of ink dissolving in water

whatever the sign of the season

there’s no bitterness in the vine

and no departure in the reason.

Though I’m a leaf with the wingspan of autumn

even in the dead of winter

the phoenix is green

and by late summer

there’s a crazy man out dancing with fireflies

down by the Tay River

who is too carried away

by the picture-music

of what he hears with his eyes

and sees with his ears

of all that he’s been and will be

alone together with everyone forever

in love and out

full cup and empty

eclipsed and forgotten

or charged with the radiant urgency

of fireflies after the rain

to care what any of it might mean

when they fire the valley up for a moment

like blasting caps in a beaver dam

that’s flooded the road.

And everything’s so nimble with light

so vital and effusive with joy

so mysteriously near and always

all darkness all pain all sorrow

all that’s lost and weary

and fearful of ever being found again

of being loved or despised

is absorbed blameless into bliss

like a tender intimacy

into a great vastness

that lives within us all

even as we disappear into it

like the sky in the heart of a bird.

Or just before the soft flare of moonrise

through the leafless veils

of the glowing birchgroves

on that far hilltop

where the pioneers

used to bury their boys with a view

a night just like this

as illusory as it is real

suffused with a spirit of water

that heals the wounded swords

the bruised flowers

the fevered promises

that are offered to it from the bridge

between this shoreless delirium

and the next.

A presence that’s always flowing away

like a mindstream among the stars and fireflies

with the power of time

and the effortless wisdom of change

that makes the going stay

and the perishing persist.

A night just like this.

A momentary kiss

that keeps faith

with the eternal flames of the fireflies

that adorn the darkness and waters of life

with indefineable joy

in the exuberance of the mystery

and unspeakable trust in the onceness of forever

and an abiding intuition

that even the fiercest thorns of pain

that have tasted first blood

and greyed the hearts of their lovers

can never be estranged

from the beauty of the rose.

A night like this

The great abyss

lucidly alive with its own shining

and a woman’s eyes

and a crazy man dancing with fireflies.



How to write poetry in a snakepit

without getting bit.

It’s easy enough to prophecy

from the bottom of desert wells

on mountaintops

in prison

and it would be sheer mercy

to be torn apart by Daniel’s den of lions

or swallowed by a whale

instead of being consumed

for what you believe

by maggots and tapeworms.

Parasites have no sense of a noble death.

But how do you write poetry in a snakepit?

How do you weave flying carpets

out of diamond backs

that strike out at anything that moves

as if their fangs couldn’t help it

you were born with the reflexes of a loom.

What wipes the blood off the crescents of the moon?

Where’s the antidote to the toxic tatoos?

Why all this treachery deceit and meaness?

Is it cool to shine with a reflected pettiness?

Almost fifty years

half a century

I’ve been sitting here doing this.

Trying to listen to what the stars are whispering

over the universal hiss of primordial assholes

who’ve been there from the very beginning of the myth.

In an ugly world

beauty isn’t just a mesmerist

in the eye of the beholder.

It’s a dynamic form of protest

that can kill someone into life

without a weapon.

And it’s hard enough

trying to understand war on the molecular level

the slaughter of the innocents

the loveless obscenity of its pornographic expense

the way it snatchs lives

like scraps of children

off their parents’ plate

and leaves them hungry for the rest of time

and try to reconcile it with a unified field theory

of infinite worlds within worlds of wonder

each with a cause of its own

and a monopoly on the means of its laws

to insist on being itself.

But if you want to see hatred and delusion

on a quantum mechanical level

as it is here up close and intimate

look into the faces

of twenty of your friends

and then turn the mirror on yourself

as if you had your finger on the trigger of the moon

in a game of Russian roulette

with intensely unhappy strangers.

In an ignorant world

insight isn’t just the usual suspect

and wisdom its unwitting accomplice

and the facts their DNA and fingerprints.

It’s a way of splashing acid in the faces

of illiterate extremists.

A way of teaching them how to read

from the burning books they’ve banned

like a child’s eyes

in the name of God.

It’s the most humane way of planting

improvised roadside explosives

that will blow them into kingdom come

like a field full of ripe poppies

milky with snake serum.

All snakes are addicted to their own venom

and speak of it as if they were the fountainmouths

of a secret elixir in the hands of a great magician

who once worked miracles for the pharoahs of Egypt

before that bastard Moses showed up and ruined everything

by throwing down his rod

to see whose serpent was bigger than God.

Snakes are full of penis envy

and you can’t train them to bite other people

or regurgitate the cosmic eggs they’ve swallowed

into a litter box.

And it took years and tsunamis of tears without eyelids

to learn how to be mastered by the skill of it

but the first trick of learning

how to write poetry in a snakepit

is knowing how to turn their scales into feathers

and putting wings on them

without them knowing it

shed them like dragons of old desire

heading south from a cold-blooded climate

like the souls of the dead in the bodies of birds.

Don’t let yourself be hypnotized

or turn away like words

from the eyes of snakes

but remember you can’t live like a fly

and write like an eagle

and turning your pen into a talon

with a firm grasp of the issue

as if it were a neck you’ve pinned down

with a witching wand

look them straight in the eye

and ask them how many children had to die

to keep them safe?

Then drop them on the rocks below

until they learn how to die for themselves.

And it’s crucial

to keep the universe

at the room temperature of fire long enough

it burns like dry ice on their skin.

Poetry is an oxymoronic pursuit

of the highest by the lowest

in a conjoining of mutually engendered opposites

and the lowest will always sting

the way you feel

like Paris stung Achilles in the heel

with a poison arrow

or Hades contracted a snake

to kill Persephone

so he could rape her in the spring

and drag her down below

like the corpse of an anti-romantic necrophile.

If you don’t want to hold a grudge like summer

so that even the earliest of your flowers

are inspired by the muse of grief

tear out your hair like Medusa in a fit of rage

and realize it’s better to go bald

that try to get the cowlicks out of mop of snakes

that never wear the same hairdo twice.

And always remember

it isn’t just the angels

who keep their places like baby teeth

under the ancient stone of the pillow

where you lay your head.

It’s not just the apple-trees

that have to worry

about who they let slide into their orchard beds

but there are rattlesnakes

under the rosebushs as well

that can smell you coming with their tongues.

And if you’re at all spiritual

don’t be naive about illumination.

The light fans out in all directions

like the wavelengths of snakes

thawing like knots combed out of the locks of the spring.

If you want to sit full lotus

in the middle of a public snakepit

and think of it as a private shrine

keep in mind that the same light

that opens the gates to heaven

like the eyes of the flowers

falls into the blackhole skull sockets

of spiritual Calcuttas as well.

If you want to be a lamp unto yourself

you hold up to the darkness

on a vision-quest

remember that creative enlightenment

is radiantly omnidirectional

one mile east is one mile west

and the same firefly that reveals paradise

is a traffic light at a crossroads in hell

that never turns green

and that the worst demons

like the crumbs of celestial dreams

you broke like bread

to share with those who had none

love to gather in the corners of your eyes

like spiders weaving dreamcatchers

to ambush the butterflies.

And though it might seem tempting

to take Medusa for a muse

when you’re trying to write poetry in a snakepit

remembering she’s the death phase of the moon

with immediate access to oracular powers

but it’s just as hard to learn

how to go down on her without turning into stone

as it is to look back on Sodom and Gommorah

without turning into a pillar of salt.

Consider the quality of the inspiration

and its source

and think before you drink deep

from her Pierian spring

like black cool-aid from dixie-cups in Jonestown.

There’s a darkness deep within you

that the light doesn’t know anything about

and it never goes out like bright things do

because it’s the long night

that gave birth to the stars

out of its own emptiness

as it did me and you.

It’s the black mirror

that shines more deeply than the white

once your eyes have adjusted to the clarity.

All the muses are bottled water

compared to its oceanic expanse.

It’s much better to sail your paperboats

like cherry blossoms

downriver to that

than it is to ask a snake

to inspire you with serpentfire

so you can write lovenotes to a sparrow

as if she were sitting on cosmic glains.

Snakes are all throat and no voice

except for the occasional rattle

but what they entrance

they swallow

and there’s no more music

in your whole notes after that.

You’re poetry goes flat as a gutted shell

or the shedding skin of a used rubber

and you’ll never get it up again in your afterlife

even if you sprout wings on your heels

like Hermes Trismegistus the Thrice-Blessed.

Pegasus is dead.

Long live Icarus.

Even tarred and feathered for flight

by an abusive muse

I know it’s hard to live like this

refusing to eat shit

and call it your daily bread

or waiting for manna to fall from heaven

like an airlift from a spiritual foodbank

that doesn’t understand flesh and bone

when you’re a species all of your own

trying to write poetry in a snakepit

and they ask what you do for a living

and you say

I paint and write

among things with two gashs for eyes

that squirm and coil and flare and hiss and spit and bite

out of the pure spite of their snake-nature

no matter how well Orpheus picks the lute

or the snakecharmer fingers the stops of his flute.

Expect to get bit

but don’t be ashamed of it.

I’ve lost track of the number of wounds

I’ve had to suck the venom out of

as I could feel my nerves numbing out

like the unempowered lifelines

to the lights

of a city off the grid

as a night of cold came on like a slow glacier.

And I’ve got so many puncture marks

all over my body

I feel like a cross between a starmap

and a popular voodoo doll on a good day

and a birthday balloon for porcupines on a bad.

Crush a few skulls with the stone of your heart

if you must

but even if the Sufis are right

and you take on the characteristics

of anyone you’ve been around more than forty days

even trying to write poetry in a snakepit

and this is of paramount importance

whatever you do

don’t grow scales on it.

Don’t look for a quick fix

but build your tolerance up slowly

as if your poetry

were the bloodwork of a syringe

that breathes in

as if it were taking a deep draft

and deliberately takes its time

like a good wine

to push back.

Don’t try to regulate the heart

of a warm-blooded mammal

with the rheostat of a reptile

or you’ll wind up writing

haikus and heiroglyphs

that read like the lines of vipers in the sand

and no one who’s ever written poetry in a snakepit

like an antidote to an ancient poison

will ever forgive you for or understand.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011


for Alysia

Since I last wrote to you

I told a Napoleonic goldfish

who thought she ruled the shark bowl

to take my job and shove it

as the measure of a man

who still hasn’t acquired the habit

of eating shit

and calling it his daily bread.

I’ve gone back full time to my art

and now I’m eating paint

and enduring the tedium of terror

in a dangerous life

struggling to pay the rent

as I paint and write

knowing I am bereft of the elements of life

for refusing to be economically deprived of my freedom.

If you’re never hungry

you’ll never know what it means to eat.

I laugh blackly like a raw martini

at the cutting edge of irony

when I think of my art as a Zen oxymoron

that’s discovered a way of starving

that bears fruit.

I can taste my food better now

and if I don’t waste anything

it’s a much happier experience

when it isn’t done out of principle.

I count the probability of the number of years

I have left to live

the springs and autumns

I have yet to become

on my fingers and toes.

And I try not to let my disappointment

in the humanity of demons

keep my heartwood

from blowing tree-rings up to heaven

just to give the angels something to crow about.

I’m alone and sad most of the time

and lately I’ve noticed my solitude

flirting with the idea

of turning into a conviction.

Women approach me

with the ambivalence

of a koan in their gut

they can’t resolve.

But it’s not a good idea

if you’re trying to get laid

to baffle the mystery

with your estrangement

and I strive real hard

as often as I can

not to spook

the middle-aged youth

by being a younger man.

I greet guests warmly when they arrive

but it’s rare that I grieve for anyone

when they leave

like most of what was left out of the conversation

we didn’t have

about who among us was telling the truth.

It’s been awhile since I’ve heard a good lie

that didn’t bore me.

I’m an all-inclusive recluse

more interested in studying the psychology of time

as I get to know it experentially

as the immediate intimacy

of the serial-killer at my throat.

I’ve decultified my work

to keep it from turning into a career

but even as we speak

five poems are being translated into Spanish.

And upon learning

I was the last poet laureate of Ottawa

and after me there was no deluge

they could find to fill

the empty ark of my shoes

I emptied on the mountain top:

or I bruised everyone’s feelings so much

like a pebble in their boot

that turned into an avalanche

I endangered my species with extinction.

Whatever the case

I feel the mystic glee of blacklight fireflies

igniting randomly

like stars and lighthouses

I’ve never listened to

about looking for shelter

from the storm of dark energy

that is released by knowing I’m the last of my kind.

And my spirit and mind

have missed you too

as the months have gone by

as if the colour of my blood in autumn

were missing from my palette

and my heart were an urgent artist

who wanted to get out

and paint with you in Kamloops

where the rivers meet in a sacred place.

I’ve never wanted facebook

to be all that I know of your beautiful face

or the starmaps of our cosmic loveletters

to be all that I know of the grace of your shining.

I can still see the stars mirrored in the flowers

in our gateless garden on the moon

where the roses that fell on their thorns

have healed well enough

to go on blooming without us.

I think I felt more like a weed than the waterlily

I wanted to bring into your life

like a paper ship

I floated down the mindstream

to see if my favourite siren

had any use for an empty lifeboat like me.

On the worst of days

when misery gloated

that pleasure might be a principle

but it was a fundamental law of the universe

even as a shipwreck going down

I could still be entranced

by the memory of your singing.

You get a different view of moonlight

when you look at it

with the eye of the sea

from the bottom.

And now once again

your voice pearls me

like a grain of sand

you can see in the universe

if you look closely enough

under the stones

where the angels keep their ancient places.

And I couldn’t be more delighted

that you still love me

and that your heart aches

like an unanswered telephone

or a wounded seance

when my ghost doesn’t answer my absence.

I’ve lain here like a dead seabed on the moon

for so long waiting for you

to pour your ocean into me

I was beginning to think

the vast expanse of my interminable emptiness

was nothing more

than the homely measure

of a cracked teacup

the little I’ve known of you

that was wet

kept leaking out of.

And it would take a great void

to embrace the depth of your waters

and a clear sky immense enough

not to inhibit the flight of your white clouds

and even if my feelings

were to break

like telescopic mirrors on your rocks

it would take a great three-eyed stargazer like me

not to see that you can’t point

to a piece of me

like the firefly chandelier

of a shattered constellation

that was too spaced out

to fit into anyone’s zodiac

that doesn’t still reflect the whole you

on any good seeing night.

I look at you

as I look at the stars

and you’re the lucid muse

of what’s radiantly possible

deep in the dark secret heart of the improbable.

And I want to reach out

like the uppermost branches

in the crown of an inspired tree

and touch you on the cheek

as if my fingertips

were a chaos

of falling apple bloom.

I want to fall asleep with you

and share the same dream

that summons the waterbirds

and scatters the Japanese plum

like loveletters everywhere

under the eyelids of the wind.



I can feel my thoughts tearing my mind

as if it were a piece of paper.

As if space had a zipper.

I’m playing Russian roulette

with cosmic bubbles in hyperspace

and I’ve got a hole in me.

A puncture.

And I’m leaking out.

I need a new universe

that’s never heard of lifeboats and arks

to acommodate all the dimensions

and inflections of my afterlife

there is no room for in this one.

The grapes are wounded

on the thorns of the barbed wire

that runs up my back like a spine.

Metal stars that don’t shine

like neo-romantic legends

that bloom on the vine

The right flowers

but the wrong lifeline.

My blood.

Their wine.

The full moon at lunar perigee.

Bigger than it’s ever been for the last two decades

and more illusive

than its bluesy encore in October.

Canada geese high overhead at night

because the ice is late in leaving.

There’s nowhere to land.

Cataracts on the shattered mirror.

There’s a sadness in the passage of life

whether it’s coming or going

that transcends the complexities

of what we think we understand

of the grand and beautiful

with the homely immensities of knowing.

Shards of sky in the funeral home parking lot

I keep falling into

taking a shortcut home

like a lost waterbird

with deranged magnetons

trying to fly through windows and mirrors

and spring rain on the unresponsive asphalt.

Someone’s torn out the eyes of the stars

and all I can see

are the black snake-sockets

in the skulls of the leering dice

leading me on through this white night

like the blind luck

of a negative of a photographic starmap

of the thirteenth house of the zodiac

the sun never enters for fear

of infectious eclipses

crossing their heart

like white paint on a plague-door.

Someone’s ripped out the tongue of the wind

like the dead language of a leaf in autumn

and every superstition is listened to

as if it were good advice.

God I miss the fireflies and the loosestrife

and the timelessness of long country roads

that don’t care if they ever go anywhere.

But now isn’t then

and I’ve given up approximating

what’s been bereft of reality

as if I knew.

Is anyone out there?

Would you answer me if you were?

Leave the bottle.

Leave the message.

No one’s coming to the rescue.

The skulls of all of yesterday’s selves

turn into the dice of the moment

and the moment keeps coming up snake-eyes.

I paint.

I write.

But the heavy water of my tears

isn’t intimate enough

with the plutonium intensity

of the rogue reactor my heart has become

to keep myself from melting down.

It’s easy enough

to second-guess yourself

into being someone while you’re alive

but it’s a lot harder to know

who they’ll be burying when you die.

I expect more lies have gone south than truths.

Or if you’re into transmigrating soulfully with the dead

like the Ojibway Pythagoras or ancient Iranians

in the bodies of Canada geese

in late September

when the asters come up

like expressionist constellations

to challenge the classical traditions of the old

and you’re an oxymoron like me

who prefers two wings on his angels

in a coincidence of the contradictories.

And sometimes three.

Then you could always look back on your youth

and ahead to your death

as if life were a hole in the truth

and you can’t fall into love with one

without assenting to the other.

But if you’re completely honest with yourself

nothing does any good.

It’s like a star looking back on its own light.

By the time you see it

it’s somewhere else.

Life is always changing.

Life is a shapeshifter.

A dream-breather.


The river’s turning.


The great serpent of desire


playing the flute

to charm herself

as she swallows her fangs like swords

and eats her own fire.

And it’s one of the strangest

mystic twists in life’s crazy wisdom

a reflection in a warped funhouse mirror

the simultaneity of two spaces in one

that seeing is being

and like the moon on water

like enlightenment and life

they don’t submit to the knife

so you can’t seperate the shadow from the light.

In order to know yourself as you were.

In order to know yourself as you are.

The original star.

You have to be someone else.

I look back over the years at what lives

and what dies

and how all the lies come true

and all the truths turn false

and all I can feel is a sorrow

so deep and beautifully devastating

in the heart of my most adored illusion

that all I can hear

is the sound of my tears

letting go of my eyes

as if it were their turn for a change

to do the falling.

As if they longed like the waters of life

like broken windows

that finally put their fist through the view

to be someone else.

As if the only way

to be truly me

is to be truly you.

As if it were you here alone by yourself

fighting for your life after midnight

with a painting knife in one hand

and a viper of a poem by the neck in the other

trying to take cheap shots at your art

as your blood turns cadmium yellow deep

and the sunflowers bow their heads and weep

at the futility of these excruciating transformations

I keep going through

like a small boy’s notion of being the hero

who puts on a mask like Zorro

and faster than light

with the sword of a painting knife

or the toxic arrow of a Mongol rainbow in reverse

a spitting cobra

loosed from behind like the line of poem

from a galloping horse

falls on and by it again and again

as if his life were the wounded zero

that came to the rescue of the endangered one

by making everything ten times more immense than it is.

I put wings on the snake.

I put wings on the horse.

I put wings on the fires of life

and watch them rise like a phoenix

that has no fear of flying too close to the sun

or plummeting to its death like Icarus.

If you want to learn to fly without wax

you’ve got to be sincere.

Tar and feathers don’t have enough

of the right stuff

to make it to the moon and back.

I ride the dragon.

I swallow the moon

and speak in the tongues of prophets

that regurgitate whales

to turn the vomit into perfume.

It’s raining eyes outside.

I ride the light like Einstein

on his way home from his work as a clerk

in the Swiss Patent Office

and stop time on the drop of a dime

to lengthen my life interminably

like a repeating decimal

that refuses to be defined by its limits.

I summon the corpses of the absolutes

buried in the graveyards of relativity

to a seance of vandals

that knocks them over like headstones

that are too slow on their feet

to win the argument.

The worst way to try to understand an artist

is to believe whenever they say something

they know what they mean.

Stop listening to them

as if you were talking to the dead.

You’ve got to be on the same palette as the painter

to understand the psychology of green.

Colour is food for the hungry.

Colour is the fire of the burning bush.

Colour turns one face to the public

and the other to the stars

like the moon.

Colour works until noon

and then takes a rest in a gesture of shadows.

Colour is the secret password

that the blood says to the heart

when it’s too late to stay open

and it asks what thing come thus

and the blood flashes its familial mood ring

like an angry chameleon

and says

there’s room in there for both of us.

Red’s always willing to take a chance

and be the first to leave home

but ultramarine blue enjoys the love-life of a Druid.

And if black looks dangerous

to the righteous greys

that’s only because they’re estranged from themselves.

Black is at peace with who it is

like a life-changing experience

that can’t be shared

because there’s no birth or death in it.

Black doesn’t act like a rainbow

when the rain makes love to the sun.

And it doesn’t despair when the colours run

like painted tears

and autumn leaves

in a downpour.

Black is the last mirror

your eyes will ever look for themselves in

before they break into clarity

realizing there’s no one there but them

to be whatever colour they want to be.

Right now I’m full of creative admiration

for the chromatic aberration

of ferocious chandeliers of fireflies

and the wet dreams of reflecting telescopes

who have both eyes open in orbit

and burn with the wonder of life

as if they just spotted a naked woman

bathing in stars

to wash off last years’ constellations

like the smell of old loveletters to the light.

But every time I try to emulate them aurorally

it’s everything I can humanly be

to see that I’m this uber-romantic toss-up

between a full eclipse of the moon

and a death-wish with a geni.

It puts the whole of me into every picture

where I feel I’ve always belonged.

I live in a the foursquare tent of a canvas home

I can set up anywhere like an easel

that’s been driven out into the desert like Azazel.

where I live from one mirage to the next

by painting them to look like real water.

But then I’m scraped out

like a drastic colour

when the well runs dry

at the beginning of every spring

and there isn’t enough viridian around to cry

or burnt sienna left to try.

And my geni can tell

by the way I’m abusing Prussian blue

how sad it is to be born

with the soul and eye of an artist

who revels in mixing his complementary passions

so every orange has its blue shadow

and every stiff-dicked bananna

the stillness of its violet afterlife.

Now the iris of my eye

is the random halo of light

around a blackhole

but it’s deep inside

where they can’t be seen

where the colours come to die

one by one like elephants

remembering a mindscape

they passed through many years ago

like a night of pthalo blue

and Payne’s gray

when they weren’t hunted into extinction

by a blacket market

for the warmth of their ivory whites.

And life was a master

who stepped into the on-site studio

at the last moment to rescue the fresco

from catastrophic banality

and make it live

by knowing exactly

when and where

with great abandon

to put the highlights in.


Monday, March 14, 2011


Another death in life experience

or just my life unravelling as so many times before

like many weak threads from one strong rope?

I’ve got a used shoelace for a spinal cord

that isn’t quite long enough to hang myself with

and all the breathable air in the house

is streaming out under the door.

I know what the moon felt like when it lost its atmosphere.

Someone’s throwing rocks through the windows from the inside

as I wait like a dinosaur for the meteor.

There’s already a taste of nuclear winter in the air

and soon the Buddha of Extinction

will be standing on the bank corner again

with a begging bowl the size of an impact crater in the Gulf of Mexico.

But hey

the dog is off the clothesline

and I’m not running

back and forth

back and forth

back and forth

across town anymore

delivering pizzas door to door.

The Pizza Delivery Dude of Perth is dead.

And so’s the Mutt of Pizza Hut.

With all due deference to Rimbaud

so much for my advancement into simple toil.

I’m free to be wholly me again

in the unforeseeable Open of the Great Void

alone with the mundane terrors of of my cosmic insanity

trying to hold myself up to myself

as an example of what not to do

when money’s tight

the principle you stood your ground on

is turning into quicksand

with the tears you’ve martyred to your fears

and all you’ve got to fall back upon

is the mindless life of the life of the mind

a lottery ticket

and the loaves and fishs of your art.

Still life with heretic.

Poetic salads and painterly pastas.

The muses don’t leave a lot of food

at the eastern doors of the dead in late September.

So the better angels of my nature

don’t eat a lot

and my demons are always hungry for more.

I’m not van Gogh

but I understand

why he ate

chromium yellow.

If you want to live a life of art

with a big view

you’ve got to throw your life overboard like ballast

to gain altitude.

You’ve got to learn to live with bad debts in your attitude

that would put leechs and blackholes to shame.

You’ve got to stay one nirvana ahead of Armageddon all the time.

You can run like a voodoo doll.

You can fly like the spirit of a crucified butterfly

from a dead metaphor

to escape the curse

of dancing angels sticking pins in your eyes

like burning spears of insight

but try as you might

you can’t lift it

and things only get worse

when your cornerstones

grow silver wings on their heels like mercury

and the Black Taj Mahal doesn’t like what it sees in the water

when the light turns into dark matter

and space is the only available emergency exit

for a panicked universe

to worm its way out of a bad affair with the whole of itself.

One moment you can think you’re following your life like a river

down the world mountain

like a mindstream as clear as a mirror

and the next your reading your lifelines

like cracks in the way things appear

like dry creekbeds of starmud

like fractures in a skull

and reality sheds its delusions

as if everything you held dear

were nothing but paint flaking off a mirror.

The patrician poverty of a poet

is a ghost-dance that doesn’t bring rain.

And who can explain to the undead

what it’s like to be a painter

who looks at cadmium red

and feels pain

because he can’t pay the rent

or strung out on the bolts of black lightning

the gods keep throwing at him

like hydro bills

as if he were an angry Druid in a studio

with a fragile nervous system

that’s about to burn out like a mystic filament

because he wasn’t prophet enough to keep the lights on

falls to his knees

and prays to the starless night before him

not to turn his eyes off?

Why is it this way?

Is it self-indulgence

to find your only true pleasure

in the absurdity of your work?

To intensify your labour like water

until it turns into the effortless effort

of unmastering the part

you play in your art

like a snowman in the spring?

Is there a secret libido at play in my creative aspirations

to express what’s most human about me

when I’m most alone with what isn’t

that gives offense to some Puritan work ethic

that conceives of me as a heretic

that should be burnt at the stake

like women and pearls and paintings

in Savanarola’s Bonfire of the Vanities

because work isn’t work until it’s pain?

The Upanishads claim that work is a form of worship.

In Japan it’s an enlightenment path.

I think of it as another form of sex.

But here the ocean of awareness

washs the feet of the world mountain

in material servitude

and inspiration is already history

by the time it gets here like starlight.

I see madmen looking sideways at the truth

as if it were some kind of new invention

that hurried back from the future

to save Martha and Mary

the one who listened

in rapturous contemplation

and the other who washed the floor in frustration

from having to work so hard for their own salvation.

Is it too radical to tusk up the roots of my spiritual erosion

with the ferocity of a wild white boar

in a garden on the moon

to discover for myself

why self

is the first face

on the totem of my lunacy?

If I am nourished by the light of my own imagination

and refuse to make a living off the dead metaphors

of uninspired holy wars

between this bitter black farce and that

and call it my daily bread.

If my spiritual freedom exceeds

the constitutional niceties of my liberty

to be intimately estranged from my place in society

because I’m more at home in my homelessness

than I am standing in the doorway on the threshold of my limits

like a rocket that never took off

for fear of transcending gravity.

If I don’t exclude even the ingenuity of the rat

because of my fondness for dragons

from the cunning

of my aesthetic for survival.

If I’d rather share my fire with a phoenix

than a sword-swallower

trying to prove he’s mightier

than the ashs in the urn of a word.

If I don’t think of my life as a loop-hole

in the protocols of an honourable suicide

that’s lost face with the world

and insist on living

as if every moment

were an age of insight.

If my best feature is the crazy wisdom

of realizing my eyes are clouds

and my tongue is a leaf on the wind

and anything you can say about life

must be said playfully

for it to make any sense.

If I celebrate my mystic specificity

because I understand

that the onceness of my being here

is the lifespan of the universe I am

and this now is my age

and here is the only address

I’ve ever been able to call my own.

Tat tvam asi.

You are that.

If I refuse to cower like a nightsea

that’s afraid of its own waves and weather

and take great subjective risks

with my material well-being

because I think the sirens are worth the rocks.

If the surest sign of genius to me is a big heart.

If a single seed is my conception of life

and compassion is the fruit of thought

and beauty is the blossom

reason the leaf

and enlightenment the root.

If wonder and imagination

look at a tree

and see the history of an event

not a thing.

If I congratulate the child on giving birth to the mother

and greet everyone

as if they were the myth of origin

of the worlds within worlds they’ve living in.

If I should think that the best way

to illuminate the darkness that surrounds you

like suffering and ignorance

is not to hold the fireflies up to it like lamps

to enlighten it

but to open my own eyes wide enough

to see that it already shines.

If I can see that ugliness and beauty both

are not in the eye of the beholder

but in the choice of mirrors

I hold up to nature

like the third eye of an orbiting telescope

badly in need of corrective lenses.

If I should despair that I’m a firefly looking at the stars

when I consider what good it does

to add my small light to the shining

and then convince myself of something ironically inane

about trying

and add my wavelength to the billions of lightyears

and unfathomable night anyway

thinking the measure of my eyes

is not the size of the insight

and who knows what might come of it

if like the simulacrum of the creative ineffability

I am supposed to be made in the image of

impressed on starmud

I speak my mind in the first place.

In the beginning was the Word.

The ho logos.

More the power to imagine than a name.

Kun fia kun.

Let it be.

And even if when I’m drunk

on the mystically-spiked wine

of the dark and divine

conceiving of worlds within

that can begin like insight

with something as slight

as the touch of a butterfly on my skin

I should resonate with compassion like a tuning fork

and express it like a human.

If I do all these things as if they were

the spontaneous expression of my freeborn human nature

to see and be and feel and imagine

whatever the fuck I cosmically want

am I not still a man?

Am I not still dangerously human to the One-eyed Liar

who enslaves us in miracles that beggar the mind

like Hubble telescopes for the blind?

It is no mean achievement

of grace and inspiration

to go to the mirror in the morning

and see your original face

and not someone else’s reflection.

I don’t expect to be believed.

But if the stars ever ask me

what return they ever got back on their light

in the way of all that space and time

they laboured into life and insight

like an estranged poet down on his luck

trying to suck the venom

out of the fangmarks on the dice

I will open my mind and my eyes like a human

who has suffered creation like an afterlife

in the wake of his annihilation

like a dream within a dream of the world

and known them both to be nothing more

than two wings of the same waterbird.

Two shores of the same mindstream.

I shall rise like a mountain that has stared

into the grave of its cradle since it was born

to dig it deeper

the higher it rises

and shaking like a tectonic voice in the void

in the place of a divinity who could speak for me

I will say by my own light

to the dark mother hidden in her radiance

I have lived my life as you have

by the insights given me to go by like fireflies

and suggestive constellations

conceiving of cosmic questions

as if I were a human

but not being deceived by the earthly answers

as if I were a mortal god.

What is most perfect about me

is that which is most deeply flawed.