Friday, July 29, 2011


Playing Russian roulette with the moon.

Nothing left to lose.

Nothing left to win.

Maybe it would advance

my literary career.

Everybody loves a dead poet.

And I’ve been putting it out

for the last forty-eight light years.

Mongolian immensities of agony.

Nothing less than everything all the time.

Through wives kids lovers afterlives

and more excruciations and devastations of myself

than even I can comprehend

how they’ve twisted space around me

like an anaconda

trying to make me bend.

Feast or famine

I’ve refused to equate

my financial situation with my emotional life.

And I hear from my compeers I have no common sense.

But then they haven’t been endowed

with the crazy wisdom I have

and I can see the assassin

in the shadows of their advice

even when they disguise their true intent

by wearing rose petals for eyelids.

Intense but ultimately irrelevant.

Most things kill me deeper into life.

So there’s really nothing to resent.

And society doesn’t owe me anything

as far as I’m concerned

because it didn’t put the gun to my head

and say write.

I did that all on my own.

And I’m so used to it now

it’s as easy as picking up a telephone

and calling ahead to see if I’m still at home.

Fool, said my muse to me.

Look into your heart and write.

Good advice from Sir Philip Sydney

and I’ve done that

whether what I saw

was an oracular snake pit

this singularity of a bullet

at the bottom of a black hole

or a star map of fireflies

trying to lead me to enlightenment.

I’ve been as loyally disobedient to the muse

as inspiration clarity and courage

have allowed me to be

to the point where I feel

I’m the lab rat

and she’s the experiment.

And he obeys even as he oversteps the bounds.

Orpheus and Rilke got it right.

But the night is not a reward

and insight can be a lot more brutal than ignorance

when it slashes you

like the interactive edge

of a broken mirror

that doesn’t like what it’s looking at.

I’ve had enough of a taste of fame

to know it’s bad water

and spit it out

and I hear I’ve established my name

in Canadian literature

like a pre-paid grave

in a teachable immortality

where my remains

will be mummified in paper.

I’ve published books

and made it into Poetry Chicago

when I was twenty-six.

I’ve done my time standing up

and paid my dues

in a hundred stupid interviews

where they asked the same questions of a poet

as they would a horse vet.

I’ve been the last poet laureate of Ottawa

for the past twenty years

and I’ve got four literary awards

that don’t take themselves too seriously

and two shelves crammed with periodicals

that do nothing but sit on their hands

like literary credentials

that haven’t convinced me of anything

except how necessary it is to rebel

against my own authority

in a spontaneous west coast sixties way

that picked me up like a habit

when I went to university

to study the stars

like constellations of razor wire

with black holes

in a concentration camp fence.

And I can wince at the clown

that talked his way like face-paint

through nine documentaries

that always begin with a shot of my cowboy boots

as I’m walking down the road

desperately trying not to look

like the stem cell of a stereotype

dangerous mysterious and creatively sublime

at the same time

as kids eating ice-cream cones on skateboards

are trying to show off for the camera

by doing figure eights around me

that stop on a dime

as Gary Cooper walks down main street at high noon

wondering how Thomas Hardy would have handled this.

Point is.

In my eyes

I’ve only ever been as good as my next gig

and that’s not the measure of anything.

Forever young

I’m a constant beginner

that approaches experience like a future memory.

It keeps me empty and clear.

It’s a trick I picked up from the stars.

By the time your light catches up to your eyes

you should be already gone gone gone beyond

where you appear to be.

Don’t give them the lead

on a moving target in the dark

and if you’ve got a few to believe in

and even the mailman does

don’t believe in your own myths and legends

because the moment you do

they’ll immediately turn into a farce

starring you as a famous buffoon.

And it’s okay to render experience

communicable through form

but don’t forget that form itself

is just a special expression of chaos

the way a straight line in calculus

is just a special form of a curve.

And if you take a utilitarian approach to symbols

they become logos flags badges of rank

brands and prison tats.

The purpose of art

is to be purposeless from the first.

That’s why it can square

the abstract absurdity

of a concrete reality

with a human life in despair

playing Russian roulette with the moon

without losing its innocence.


And the sound of the empty’s

louder than the bullet

when I put my finger

on the trigger of the moon

and pull it.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011


There’s an elegant gown

pouring down from the shoulders

of a skeletal hanger in a store-front windowpane

waiting for someone to fill it with life.

Strange and sad to be asked

to pay more for the dress

than you would be to buy the woman

but I’ve seen the same look in an animal shelter

on the faces of the kittens

that wouldn’t be given a home.

The eagerness of so much

that won’t happen.

Women that were almost loved.

Poems that just missed being written.

Men who were the ricochet

but not the first shot.

Echoes of forgotten sounds

of voices that have long ago fallen silent.

Doorways that weren’t meant for the people

who stepped through them.

Fireflies in a spider web

that didn’t quite rise like a constellation.

Old snake skins that life has slipped out of

leaving them with an amputee’s

phantom feeling of missing limbs

or used condoms.

Who’s wasting away

in the torrid apartments

above the Sunday night desolation

of the illuminated grave goods

in the closed boutiques

buried in their own isolation?

What solitudes of genius

are peopling the air

with sagas of love and vice

in those elevated fire-traps

of municipal avarice?

What moments of disregarded beauty

are teaching the mirrors

how to paint what they see

when no one’s looking


What roses disappointed

by eyes that weren’t worthy of their blooming?

The water lilies indistinguishable

from the litter of the Tim Horton’s coffee-cups

that rolled up their rims

and were thrown into the Tay.

Even among the geriatric shut-ins

whose children don’t come up from Toronto

to visit them

no matter how ill and alone they are.

Even among the orgiastic adolescents

cradling their beers like criminal grails

on the stairs of the neon pool hall

above the antiquated carwash.

Even among those

whose lonely Friday night imperatives

were fuck fight or pass out

nursing their weekends like a phone

between their chin and shoulder

in the booth outside Mac’s Milk

as if they were calling in a hot story

before the shit hits the sluglines

of who’s a slut

for turning them down

and who they’re going to pay back

for the sucker punch that knocked them to the ground.

Even among those who were elected

by secret ballots of rumour

to the ranks of the wrecked and ruined

for making a pass at all that is

consensually good and light and innocent about life

like the underground aldermen of anti-matter.

Even among all those who violate the integrity

of their self-inflicted wounds

by despising the body and mind

that made them do it

like voodoo dolls martyred by the curse they cast

upon their eyes their arms their inner thighs

as if razorblades were the ministrants

of an estranged blessing

that longed for punishment.

Even among those blinded

by the glare of their own blazing

as if they knew nothing of time but noon

what forbidden stars shine beyond their solar flares?

Who among these

in the upstairs heritage ghettoes of Perth

watching their teeth fall out on welfare and junkfood

as their children stare at them like deserted parking lots

might have found a cure for cancer

if they’d been given half an educated chance

at one precise moment in their lives

to discover how much more grievously

their minds had been deprived

by the ditch-pigs of high finance

than the troughs of their garbaged bodies?

Poverty isn’t an economic condition

or a lack of ambition

a failure of the imagination

or some clandestine punishment

wreaked by some right-wing God

because there was no lobbyist for the poor

who could make a significant contribution

to the cause of the rich

who suffer like stock markets from famines in Somalia

or suggest lucrative amendments to the Book of Genesis

so the poor would still be waiting in line

on the day of Creation

for the scraps of the afterbirth of everyone else

at the same old foodbank.

I see the propaganda of greed.

I see the merchandising of ideals.

I see art that has been turned out on the street

by cynical pimps like Andy Warhol

and how colours and words and symbols

have become the lackeys of logos

enshrined in the human imagination

like the false idols of Uruk

or the infanticidal death brokers

of Carthage and Phoenicia

of Mammon and Baal

who ate the poor kids first as always

and if that didn’t work

do ut abeas

I give so that you go away

fed them a rich man’s brats.

By the time I get to Roger’s Road

heading out to the starfields

to escape the light pollution

I’m raging like a volcanic fumarole of the sixties

on the bottom of the seabed again

where I thought things were settled

like a shipwreck once and for all

and revolution had been hung up on the wall

like an antique pistol that had made its point

like some rainbow paint ball

tamped into a hippie musket

in some abortive attempt at independence

and the end of human enslavement.

I’m wise enough to know

by a fluke of intuition

I’m not wise enough to know what new limb

we could grow in its place

that would keep the pudgy fingers of a fat chance

out of our children’s underpants

but free enterprise is beginning to look more and more

from the point of view of the poor

like a flesh-eating disease.

A black cat darts out from a thorn apple bush

and crosses my path

and I laugh to think

how much darker I am inside

than either the night or him

and how much less bad luck he can bring me

than a jinxed prayer-wheel

in the heart of a human

whose path he’s just crossed

like the event horizon of a black hole in transit.

If the gods ever had a divine sense of humour

looking at the abomination

they made of our creation

like Marduk from the body parts of Tiamat

it’s probably degenerated into a black farce by now.

Poor cat.

Tomorrow you’ll be road kill

like the rest of us.

Squashed flatter than a logo

on an empty pack of Black Cat cigarettes.

No more witches for you.

Except in magazines

when the homeless dead walk the earth

in the party hats of commercial Halloweens.

God all I want to do is look at some stars

to make sure I haven’t forgotten any of their names

in four languages

and see what flowers are in bloom

down by the river beyond Conlon Farm.

I want to pull the thorns out of my heart with my teeth

like crescent moons in the privacy of my pain.

I want to feel like less of a fuck-up on my own

than I do when I’m with people

even if it’s just for as long

as it takes the third eye of a hurricane

trying to stare down what’s raging around it

to blink and lose its nerve.

I don’t want to come down on Sispyhus

pushing his little planet up a hill

like a cosmic avalanche of asteroids

he wouldn’t have the heart or balls to adapt to

without the kind sex-change

that didn’t pitch its tent in the place of excrement

as William Butler Yeats would say

alluding to the caravanserai of love.

As above so below

but if so

why go?

Are people forced to eat shit

and call it their daily bread in heaven too?

Panes et circenses.

Bread and circuses

but who watches the watchers?

But now it’s no bread

and nothing but celebrity clowns and pundits

keeping one eye on the camera

and the other on the watchers

like the latest ratings of their very own reality show

casting wide their wavelengths

like nets in the hands of the fishers of men.

Four years of an English university education

that taught me to say things in six words

that a farmer could say in one

and how literature took its commercial revenge

upon the artist

by selling the holy relics of heretics

to the iconically addicted illiterates

who don’t know that saeva indignatio in Latin

is just another way of putting words

in Jonathan Swift’s mouth

so he doesn’t say fuck you out loud

on behalf of all the starving

sexually-molested children of Ireland

in a periphrastic English class

studying the seven kinds of ambiguity

that nourish the minds of well-read cannibals

with food for thought.

I want to be gentled by the fireflies

and have the wind pass casually by me

like an animal that knows I’m not a threat

because I haven’t moved in half an hour.

I don’t want to taste these black bitter crumbs of burnt bread

acridly cloying my tongue my voice my heart.

Someone once handed me a note

as I stepped off stage at a poetry reading

that said I was the black-robed outlaw poet priest of Canadian literature

but I’m not that kind of comic book

I’m not a farcical celebrity

that makes an art of himself

to disguise the fact

that he’s an uninspired mediocrity.

And though it made me feel

like a Chaplineque parody of Zorro for a moment

I knew from years on the street

and reading Don Quixote

that the quickest way to deceive someone

is to make them believe in an illusion of themselves.

If you want to pop someone’s balloon

expand it.

And I thought to myself

how insufferably cultural everything is

like the taste of home-made jam

when children everywhere are starving.

And how obscenely irrelevant

and perversely distractive

the wet firecrackers of our tiny heartbreaks are

trying to win an audience

for the profundity of the pain

that pricks the toe of art

to see if there’s any feeling left in the limb

and if our blood is still blue

when people all over the world tonight

are forced to eat theirs

like apples with hidden loveletters

that taste like razor-blades

at a family gathering of body parts.

I love the tincture of moonlight

on the gathering storm clouds.

I love the chandeliers of the columbine

their bells of rain

on the moss-caked rocks in the spring.

I’m still amazed after sixty-two years

at the raptures of silence

the spear heads of light

humility and wonder

that can pierce my heart and eyes like stars.

I can look at the morning glory

and see grails goblets

the soft cool skin of the moon

like opalescent lingerie spread on a bush to dry

when she stepped out of it

like the wavelength of her lover serpent last night

to renew her virginity on the sly.

And I yearn to be immersed

in these realms of beauty and awe

like a mystic junkie shooting stars

who’s always looking to get fixed up.

I’m hooked.

I admit it.

But the cool background of universal bliss

I could exist in forever

just as often as it frees my heart and mind

like unsubjected inspiration

with nothing but time on its hands

to expand into an abyss of darkness and insight

turns into the radioactive hiss

in the foreground of creation

and a savage indignation burns like acid

thrown in the eyes of cosmic elation

when I consider the atrocities

of squandered human potential

in a global society

that isn’t bonded like atoms by love

into the greater harmony of seeing and being

like Pax genes inspired to open our eyes

but is viciously sustained by an imbalance of hatreds

that is catastrophically breaking like continents and skullcaps apart

as if everyone held a pharmaceutical patent

on a different part of the disease

that afflicts our brains and hearts.

And love understanding compassion wonder gratitude

more and more were merely the slag and ore

of the unrefined

who don’t understand

like William Carlos Williams’

little red wheel barrow in the rain

beside the white chickens

how much depends upon war

upon neglect indifference greed lies

murder injustice corruption terror theft and arrogance.

I hear beta-chimps in the wild

will snatch a baby out of the arms of a female

that won’t fornicate with them

and trash it on the rocks.

But what’s that compared to us

who’ve got a big enough neo-cortex

to let twenty-five million children starve to death a year

and don’t dare think for a second

I’m just talking about food.

Sins of omission.

Obscenities of attrition.

The topsoil of the ground of being

the open commons of our mutual humanity

blown away like the dust from which we came

that we were rooted in like the nerves and arteries

that are rooted in our flesh and blood and bones.

Wasn’t it the angel of light

that shone upon the earth

and elaborated us out of starmud

so that when we look out into the incredible darkness that surrounds us

the incomprehensible intensities of chaos and cosmos

Pascal’s vast vacant interstellar spaces

we can embody those solitudes

in the nucleus of everyone of our corpuscles

as if the stars had said to our stem cells

let there be eyes

and we could see creation

as we do the Pleiades

from the inside out

each one of us

each and every sentient life form on the planet

a mystically specific insight into ourselves

in this realm of darkness and light

where it isn’t so much the vision

as it is the shining

that inspires these worlds within worlds

we look upon these days

as if we were estranged

by the works of our hearts and our hands?

M-theory says two undulant membranes

pucker and kiss in hyperspace

and there’s a big bang

and then there’s us

turning the birth sacs

of baby universes

into body bags

we stuff with heroes and their victims.

And if I were to tell you they were both

metaphors for the emptiness of the human heart

longing to be fulfilled

by the urgency of the life within them

would you be so quick to take a bath

in your own grave

to wash yourself clean of the blood you’ve profaned

knowing you’re just bad meat in your own womb

or would you make room for everyone else

to be born along with you

like a child gives birth to its mother and father

or a true gift makes a gift of the giver?

What if I said your heart’s a wishing well

would you throw the full moon down it

like a gold coin

or would you wait for it to grow horns

like quotation marks

and putrefy your own waters with a goat skull?

What if I said

twisting Jesus a bit

you are that one

that it is done unto

when you do it to the least of these?

Do unto others before they do it unto you

is a sword of iron pyrite in the hands of a fool

trying to abase the incorruptible metal of the golden rule.

And there’s no doubt

the past is as creatively mutable as the present and the future

in the timelessness of now

so what could you say to your mother

who carried you for nine months

like a blue moon waxing to full in her belly

when she looks

at the abomination she gave birth to

and there’s no alibi you can use to excuse

turning her womb retroactively into a toilet

that flushed when her water broke?

When the roots of the tree of life

are at war with the flower

don’t expect much in the way of fruit.

What if I said

before the unborn beginningless beginning

of Higgs-boson God particles

it’s always been the genius of the human imagination

to make the inconceivable believable

and then in a leap of inspiration beyond that


Isn’t that what makes the earth

a habitable planet for all of us?

Life is a suggestible creative medium

that spontaneously adapts to us

like karma and stem cells and paint

as we express our visions of being and not being

like millions of drops of water on the grass

everyone a locket of the moon

shaped like our tears

like the billions of stars

that have exhausted their lives

so we could open our eyes and look at them

as the enlightened progenitors of our own shining.

Like billions of windows and mirrors

each looking out at the mystery of being

with their own way of seeing

in this radiant house of light.

Bitter and intense

the black-hearted prophecies

that denounce us now.

The eyeless chandelier of swords

that hangs over our heads now

like nuclear weapons in our siloes

when there should be wheat.

There should be clean water and benign air.

There should be peace and abundance

and the lyrical escapades of lovers and birds

in the unviolated olive groves of earth.

There should be books and medicine

muse and mystery.

There should be

cool herb gardens on the moon

that gently put their fingers to the lips

of wounded fountain mouths

like the healing secrets of the silence in a rainforest

we’re slashing and burning and cutting down

like chainsaws with rabies

that bites the doctor that could heal them.

Why should one human demand a pyramid

to house his afterlife

and another be compelled

to live now under a grain of sand

with his whole family

waiting for immigration to raid their birthright?

There should be houses for all like chrysales

where caterpillars can turn into butterflies

and children can make their way to school safely

through a crosswalk of thresholds

that aren’t the event horizons of the black holes

we lead them into now.

But there isn’t.

There’s just this vapid harvest of air

gathering like explosive gases

to demonize the human spirit

like flamethrowers in a snake pit.

What place is this

where we paint our faces in blood

to celebrate those we desecrate

by dressing our spirits up

in the feathers and local embroidery of our victims?

One day our hearts just run out of time like a waterclock.

One day thought is chopped off

like the last head on a hydra that can’t grow anymore

and our passions drop off

like the blossoms and radio telescopes

that keep their ears open on the towers of the hollyhocks

that listen in on the babble

of polyglot PsychoBabylon in exile.

One night our hanging gardens

just kick the stool right out from under our feet

and the long conversation we’ve been having with the stars

clicks its heels like Dorothy in the Wizard or Oz

and a Nazi appears in a krystal nacht of mirrors

and curtly stops like a reel of tape

endlessly replicating the parallel universe next door.

It’s one thing to explore the mystery of life

without expecting an answer

and it’s another altogether

to approach it like cancer

practising espionage.

Was anything heard?

Did anyone listen?

Or did our mouths just make sounds

that drowned out the shrieks and groans

of the people we slaughtered

in the roar of the aesthetics of desecration

at a Nuremburg rally

at a political convention of ideologues

at an abbatoir of Wall Street speculators

brokering commodities

trading the bundled junk bonds

of what they’ve made of people’s lives

on the electrically prodded stock exchange?

The TSX of human flesh.

The slave block of the nations.

The cave of vampiric succubbi

that incubates the nightmares

that open Pandora’s Box in a panic every morning

at the sound of a bell in a bloodbank of hell.

Go forth and multiply

didn’t mean a feeding frenzy

of sharks that eat their own.

Didn’t mean thrive at the expense

of everyone else.

Didn’t mean

look upon human suffering

as an unlooked-for opportunity to heal yourself.

There should be a book left ajar

to tell the next night’s story

like a child’s mind

and the door to her bedroom

to let the light in

and the shadows out.

There should be a boy

noticing how his telescope

looks like a praying mantis

or the skeletal remains

of a reassembled dinosaur.

There should be a library

not just a gallery

for rejected genius

and shrines to those who were martyred

by their own imagination.

There should be a tree or a fountain

or an eternal flame

dedicated like a new religion

to the unknown dignity

of every anonymous hapless human

that ever looked out of an upstairs apartment window

at the weather

at the bleak deserted streets

the unenigmatic doorways

the empty confessionals of the streetlamps

the garbage cans

the parking meters

the bright vacancy

in the dark abundance of the storefronts

the litter in the gutters

the wind keeps nudging

into new signs of life

and comparing the human condition

to what they have become

took the fall for all of us.

There should be an open field

full of wildflowers and stars

that come a little closer each night

and an innocent gate on one hinge

that knows that human freedom isn’t just a matter

of getting things out

but more profoundly

mastering the spontaneous discipline

of the ancestral art of the heart

that lets them in.


Monday, July 25, 2011


I remember loving you.

You turned my heart into a koan I haven’t cracked yet.

You were a muse of dark matter.

A Mayan phase of the moon

that kept your predictions to yourself.

You were the unified field theory

that made me feel I knew why I was here.

That my abysmal ignorance

was the ore

of infinite enlightenments to come

each one a world of its own

we were free to start with each other.

I remember touching your skin

as if I were reaching out to a ghost

to see if it was real.

Even now after all these years

I can recall the sensation

as if I were holding

a first folio edition of Shakespeare

that no one knew anything about.

A kind of preternatural reverence

for the profound and rare

so intense that whenever we were together

I was always in the presence

of something more than real.

I saw extraordinary beauty and power

in the most ordinary things you said and did.

My will wasn’t so much

bent to yours

by force desire or cupidity

as made irrelevant.

And I remember being astonished

to see how little effect

gravity had around you.

How I bounced around

like a helium balloon

on the ceiling of any room you’d walk into.

How every time I saw you

I could feel my eyes evolve

to accommodate the vision

and see deeper into the dark.

You were such an intriguing planet

if I’d been Jupiter before I met you

I still would have gladly

abdicated from the solar system

just to be your orbiting telescope.

You were all those species of life

the Amazon keeps a secret.

Cures for diseases

I didn’t even know I suffered from

until I met you.

You were the mystery made tangible.

You were the lightning insight that cracked the mirror.

You were the perennial avatar of woman

in every universe

that was worth returning to.

I remember seeing you in the late sixties

sitting in a windowsill

with nothing but a gun and slip on

as the song Spoonful by the Cream

blared out from the heavy hippie drug house

at the top of the hill

over the whole despairing neighbourhood

like an anthem and a challenge all in one.

You smiled like the Mona Lisa

with a midnight special

enigmatically bored with the adoration

you commanded from the blind

who’d never seen anyone like you before.

You looked at me like a silver bullet

but the silence was crucial

and I knew it wasn’t time to go off.

Someone told me your name

as if they were trying to frame

a dangerous alias

but I knew you knew way back then

I could see through them

and the best way to be your friend

was to stay a stranger to the end.

Eight years later in the mid-seventies

I was invited to a field-party

that turned out to be

a snakekpit of holy rollers

baptizing the faithful with a dirty syringe

as they tied you naked to a stake

to burn you like a witch

because you were the most flammable woman in the room.

But I knew you were safe

because fire doesn’t burn fire

water doesn’t drown fire

and danger isn’t afraid of itself

but I broke a few glass fangs

like toxic chandeliers

that had gone into a trance

just in case of an emergency

to cover your back

as the whole place went up in flames.

You said I guess you expect me to say thanks?

And I said no

I don’t run trap lines

to lure my friends

into cages of gratitude.

Put your clothes back on.

I’ve got nothing you want right now.

And it was three years until I saw you again.

And it was then we connected like stars

in an occult constellation of two

and I made love to you

as if we were both on death row

for the same heresy at last.

You were the first

to reverse my spin

in a charged particle field

and show me that love isn’t perfect

until the annihilation is rapturous.

And look at me now

wherever you are

laughing or in tears.

I’ve been singing in those flames for light years

and I haven’t recanted yet.



Waiting for a thunderstorm

just me and the moon

and these deserted streets with their heritage lamps

and tungsten suns

swarming with frenzied insects

like the brain of the occasional crackhead

who’s made a hoody of the night

and pulls it down tighter as he passes

wondering whether he should have asked me for a cigarette.

Lines from sad songs like lingering smoke

from distant fires

curl through my head

like the ghosts of roads I once walked

then break off like old shoelaces.

O and the faces

like blossoms from a tree

hidden deep in the night

suddenly crossing the moon

like birds with messages and destinations

not meant for me anymore.

Kids wives lovers friends.

Imperatives of tenderness

like the first sight of her

shy and naked

and the first angry word

from his mouth

that ever passed between us

as we both stood in silence

knowing the weld

would be stronger than the original bond.

The first scar to ever write alif on my daughter’s skin

like a tiny sabre of Kufic script

you could touch

only if you were very very careful

it was so sacred

she revered it like a holy book.

The first time I ever realized

making my son breakfast in the morning

as he usurped my chair like a throne

and shrieked with laughter

daring me to uproot him

like a baby tooth

that he was fathering me

as much as I was fathering him.

And we could both feel the new ones growing in.

Evanescence of time

releasing the flavours and fragrances

of wounded flowers like cultish elixirs

into the humid night air.

Auroral phantoms of past raptures

gather and disperse

and gather again

like radiance and rain

like carnal intensities

red-shifting into the spiritual immensities

of an aging star.

A squad car slows down to check me out

and I expect any moment

to be talking to a cop

like a fast food attendant

at a drive-through window

but he decides I’m not a threat to the food chain

and cruises off.

And what could I have said to him

if he had asked me

what I’m doing out so late and alone

if I’d been in the mood to be accurate.

I’m watching water lilies

banked along the star streams

bloom and perish like Cepheid variables.

I’m remembering all the women

I’ve ever loved

teach the green phoenix

how to burn in the autumn like sumac.

And then eat my own ashes

like honey from an urn

without getting them all over my heart.

The uncontained contents

of an intimate stranger

passing the closed gates

of a more habitable solitude than mine

listening to the picture-music of his past lives

brighten the wind with fireflies

with the spearheads of weeping candles

guarding the entrance to Eden

as if there were no return address

on the uncensored love letters

that expressed the innocence

of our tragic insight

into the mutability of love.

A furtive young man bobs up

like an apple in a dumpster

in the grocery store parking lot

and stares at me

as if the whole world had root rot.

I make myself as inconsequential as I can

and pass on

wishing I had enough

to take him to Mac’s Milk

and buy him some pizza pockets

that four and twenty blackbirds

don’t fly out of

like a nursery rhyme

that’s as real to him

as the seagulls and crows

he shoos away from his garbage-can

like fierce competitors

for a place in the ark

of his peerless lifeboat.

Humans live to eat to be hungry.

Life eats life to live.

It’s incestuously symbiotic.

It’s cannibalistically psychotic.

It’s a perpetual agony machine.

The big fish eat the little fish

and the little fish have to be smart.

This one swallows like a silo.

This one steals food

from the begging bowls of children’s mouths.

And that one

makes you think

he’s as sweet as St. Francis of Assisi in poverty

as he brushes the flies off a butter tart

and smiles like grace

over something he found half-eaten

and cast away as he is.

Sweet mother of God

have your breasts withered

like the collapsed parachutes of emergency airlifts?

No more manna?

No more locusts and honey in the wilderness?

No more milk of human kindness?

No more galaxies at the spigots of your tits?

Just this ferocious squall of hot toxic vipers

falling like acid rain

down a dry wishing well

that ran out of holy water

like a gnostic mirage

in a hermetic desert of stars?

Are you past the age of child-bearing.

Are you laughing with Sarah

at the very idea of giving birth again.

Have you come to the end of your rope

like the bloodlines of great nations

in the loins of hapless prophets

sacrificing their sons to you

even though you asked for goat

in a holy war of sibling chromosomes?

Are you finished for good

with morning sickness and messiahs?

Have you had enough of immaculate miscarriages

that rise from the tomb

like a man not born of a woman?

No more loaves and fishes?

There’s a genie.

There’s a lamp.

But no more wishes?

There’s a prayer mat.

There’s an oilwell.

But no more flying carpets?

There’s a fortune cookie.

There’s a message in a bottle.

But only this afterlife of lottery tickets

and instant wins

that rip the wings off the heels

of mercurial chance

and alchemical hopes

of turning base metal into gold

with instant defeats

that are as quick on their feet

as turtles and hares on steroids?

The fruitless anomalies of a complex man

bewildered by his own helplessness

not knowing whether he should

insist on the birthright of food with a fist

or open his heart and his hand

and give everything he’s got to give

though there’s as little protein

in the names of his mythic ideals

as there is among the hungry ghosts of fame.

Estrangement and outrage.

The savaged dignity of the cornered

eating their own hearts for the courage

to face their sacrificial lives again another day

like the strategic retreat of an ice age

trying not to do any damage

as they gouge their eyes out in their dreams

and silence the birds with their screams.

Sometimes I think the radiance

I see in the stars and people’s eyes

whatever they’re looking at inside themselves

isn’t so much a function of light

as the shriek of murdered mirrors.

But way leads on to way

and by the time I get down

to the willows on the bank of the Tay

I’m alone again in my own agony

and the willows sway

and the river flows

and the eternal sky

does not inhibit the flight of the white clouds

everything in passage

a water snake riding

the wavelengths of the moon

like a mirage of dead seas in a desert.

And the deep unsayable sadness returns

to pervade and saturate the mind

with ephemerids of the heart

that resonate in time

like the last flowers of the summer.

Translucent simulacra of past familiars

who once possessed me

like occult seasons of the soul

that scattered like leaves and water birds

but made such an impression

upon the waters of my life

they’re indelible reflections

left untouched

by the summons and imperatives

of the long seances of the heart

and quick exorcisms of the mind

cooling the swords and grails of their passions

in star streams exalted beyond thought.

Focused like a drone strike

hunting frogs among the irises

a wild cat disregards me.

A fish jumps at a mosquito.

A flash of long distant lightning.

The shorter circuits of the fireflies.

Headlights slashing through the dark groves

beyond the train tracks

that intersect the road by the cemetery.

Elephantine clouds labour for a mouse of rain.

But every drop a star globe

and the whole of the moon and the sky

in each little tear of a world.

Beauty in the pain of departure

comes like a consolation

and leaves like an alibi.

The willows have lost their flowers

and soon enough their birds.

Some people are buried deeper than others.

And some are at a loss for words.

And some rely on bells

to temper the severity

of their disciplined farewells.

Each of us reaches out for the other

as if we could touch time itself

and gentle it

like a feather of a breath upon our skin

that for a few unborn moments

that last longer than life

makes light of death

for not knowing where to begin.


Thursday, July 21, 2011


The more I try to write and paint

the more I’m pulled away by things

the more I’m dismembered

by the mundane exigencies

of underwhelming circumstance.

I’m swimming through glass.

I’ve abandoned all hope.

Like Rumi said

dangerous hope

futile despair.

I think of them both

and I sneer

like an emergency exit in a hall of mirrors.

My fate might be no more than an afterlife in arrears

but I resent being used so stupidly.

I’m looking for wisdom in a corporate feudal system

that enslaves part time people to full time jobs.

One life on earth.

One brief glimpse of the stars.

One chance to be set adrift in the mystery of it all

like the fragrance of a lover’s hair in the autumn rain.

I’m fighting an unholy crusade of one

that I’m doomed to lose

like a pilgrim that wandered off the track

with no particular shrine in mind

or way of finding his way back.

I knew years ago

when I was all elbows and windowsills

a poet’s life is a fish hook

a crescent of the moon

you had to push all the way through

to avoid the greater damage of pulling it out

once it got caught in your heart.

And there’s only been one theme from the very start

I’ve been humming to myself down this long dark road

where I’m walking with the moon

and the black walnuts don’t need to show me their leaves

like green cards or illegal passports to anywhere they land.

We’re all here alone together

among the homeless in the same lifeboat

on six billion mindstreams

all flowing into the vast inclusive sea of awareness

under a chaos of stars

in a labyrinth of wavelengths and cosmic snakepits

wandering off in all directions at once.

I used to believe

that people were born to see and be happy

but as I grew I realized

that the fairest form of clarity

is compassion.

Soften your eyes

and the diamond thaws

as if it were brought to tears

that put other jewels to shame.

When everybody’s already on death row

who can you find to blame?

Jim Morrison was right.

Nobody gets out of here alive.

But in the meantime

we can attend to the wounded.

We can apply the moon like a cool poultice

to the forehead of a fever

and raise a spoonful of stars

like an elixir to the lips

of a thirsty mirage.

We can wake a child up from a bad dream.

We can be oxygen

to those without any atmospheres

and when the world mountain

can’t find a way down from the clouds

we can be the river that shows it how.

What is our understanding of it after all

but a good guess

a stab in the dark

a firefly

a lightning bolt

a chimney spark of insight

compared to what we don’t know there is

to know of it?

Even the point of a single flower

is a whole field in and of itself.

And every system of conditioned consciousness

is having a secret affair

with chaos deep inside.

The cowards demand certainty.

The heroes are full of doubt.

Life is a succession of disconnected gestures

that somehow work out.

You find water on your way to a mirage.

Delusion was the muse of your inspiration

to head south

and the clarity of real water

was what happened spontaneously along the way.

No one likes a cul de sac

just as they don’t like angels that get in their way

but the dead ends in life

have as much to say as the thoroughfares

and no one ever walks away weaker

or more lost than they were.

The path the blind take

is just as much the way of the seeker

as night visions are

to the revelations of the day.

Try to walk all roads at the same time

and you won’t even walk one well.

Walk one well

and all the others will follow you

like the threads of a strong rope

or mindstreams flowing into a widening river

on its way to the sea

and you’ll end up walking them all.

And no river’s flowing the wrong way to the sea.

The clouds that pass over

don’t look down upon the flowers

that open below

as missed opportunities

they’ll be asked to explain to their watershed.

If things grow

let them.

If things perish

lend them your future.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Ungratified longing’s not much of a focus right now

but sometimes that’s all you’ve got to go on.

The dark energy of a few annihilated positrons.

Fossilized bones around a dead fire pit in a cave on the moon.

The ghosts of lost atmospheres.

An agony of thought and seeing

in a dispassionate waste of being.

Flat lining like the Burgess Shale.

So many lost beginnings in me.

So many aborted attempts at survival

I’m beginning to think I’m inconceivable.

How many worlds have gone extinct

failing to adapt to me?

And how many of my genes

are losing lottery tickets?

I know too much

to apotheosize random chance

and appeal for mercy

and yet I have an ignorant heart

that clings in superstitious awe

to love and compassion.

A sense of wonder that aches

to be intimate with the impersonal.

Last night I saw two full moons

one smaller one overlapping the other

and a smear of light like a snail-track

where it appeared a third one moved

reflected in the double thermal windowpanes

of the Masonic Lodge across the street

and I thought it was a visual clue

to how the infinite worlds of the multiverse

could be born of two membranes in hyperspace.

Of how a particle can replicate a wavelength.

And then I lit another cigarette.

Poured another coffee.

And watched the tail of my goldfish

shimmer in the water

as gracefully as the veils of the aurora borealis.

And then I thought of Isis

and how no man had lifted her veils

and I checked my left hand

to see if she had tattooed a star on it

to keep me from drowning

but she hadn’t

and I was left clinging to my cigarette

in a vast night sea of awareness

where everything I feel and think

ends like the maiden voyage of a shipwreck

and smoke and breath are all I have left to hang onto.

And I feel so sad for this absence in me

I’ve failed to fulfill

like someone’s last wish

on a deathbed

however I’ve laboured like Egypt

to make it come true.

This world that’s counting on me

like the apostrophe of an embryo

to conceive it in a fire womb

of imaginative facts

that seed the abysmal emptiness

with the cosmic significance

of even the smallest creative acts.

Knocking on the front door of absurdity

you realize there’s no one home

so the message doesn’t matter at all.

But knock on the back door

and the message means more

than the person it was meant for

but you still don’t get an answer

and there’s no trades entrance for common sense.

I end up following my train of thought

like buried arrowheads

downwind of systemic herds of stars

moving on to greener fields of vision.

All my life I’ve been consumed

by the creative extremes

of the energies released

by the spontaneous reciprocity

of mutually destructive intensities.

A cataclysm of insight

that’s one part lightning

one part fireflies

one part stars

and an exponential number of eyes

expanding in all directions at once.

I focus on things like space.

I resonate with objects in a room

as if we were all subject to the same doom.

I empathise with lamps and light bulbs.

I attend the funerals of forks.

I’m as fair-minded with my desk

as I am my kitchen-table.

I’m grateful to the windows

for their translucency.

And though I pace a lot

I try not to stress out my floors.

And every chance I get

I compliment the trustworthiness

and stalwart discretion of my doors.

Why not?

They’re as interior to me

as I am to them

or any mental image

of an old school delusion

I had of a self that was superior to them.

Now everything enjoys

the same parity as childhood

and we all get along

like unspeakable reflections

in the mirrors of one another.

They furnish me in my emptiness

and I people them with metaphors.

It’s an estrangement that is inclusively ours.

And I see the same arrangement

among stars and flowers.

Everything in existence

is immaterially real.

Why discriminate between one phantom and another

when a ghost of candle smoke

carries the burden of the theme

as well as a spearhead of flame

in the same dream of collaborative creation?

I sit here among things

in a small Ontario town

in the early hours of the morning

realizing how ridiculous it is

to wonder what my insignificance

might signify

and whether it was more wonderful

to be a human

two centuries ago

when they drove sheep down these deserted streets

than it is now

and if so

how have we been diminished.

Whose image am I now?

Is it more devastating

to be created in the likeness of a god

than what you can discern of yourself

in a cloud of unknowing?

What branch of the tree

did this skull-nut of a mind

drop off of

to root in the starmud

like a nervous system

and blossom into thoughts and words

and worlds within worlds within worlds?

One moment the mindstream

is an ancient river system on Mars

that’s either evaporated

or gone underground

and the next

it’s the white water of stars

where eagles hunt

and swans make the sign of the cross

before they land

and there’s a harp

that isn’t so much a musical instrument

as an untested hybrid wishbone

taken from the other two.

But I don’t want to break anything

before I know what to wish for

so it’s been drying on the windowsill for years.

I expose questions

like the Gordians

showed Alexander their knots.

I’m trying to cut my way

through a hydra-headed snake pit

hoping that the word is still mightier than the sword.

I feel the lies and illusions

as profoundly as I feel the fugitive truths

or the reflections that don’t subscribe

to either point of view

as if to say

this is it

this is all there is

and this is more than enough

to keep on baffling the whizz-kids

for generations to come

with the interrogative silence that follows their answers

like a great clue to how much we don’t know

as we try to collate our faces

over a lifetime of mirrors

into a symbolic design of wavelengths and lifelines

we keep undoing like Penelope undoes the moon

like a flying carpet unravelling out from under us

or Icarus

exceeding his own wingspan

until it was too vast to include either him or us

and every threshold of knowledge

we’ve ever crossed since

were the event horizon of a blackhole

that isn’t big enough to contain us

as we expand like dots on a starmap

into lonelier and lonelier spaces

that can’t remember what it was like to be human

and shine until your light’s

tucked under the eyelids of the roses

like a secret love letter

written in the voices of dream figures

that sometimes wake up when you do

like a stranger knocking

on the inside of the door.

Not to be shut out.

Not to be rejected or abandoned.

Not to be ostracized and exiled.

Not to be wholly consumed on a pyre

as a last ditch effort to make it to the stars.

Not to be the collateral damage of creation.

Not to be a sentient monad in an anonymous mob.

Not to weep in empathy with the victims

and seethe in savage rage at the perpetrators

and then watch their role reversal in a morality play

then ends like the myth of Sisyphus.

Not to be misunderstood because you tried to understand.

Not to feel that life

is an averaging out of brutal crucials

and that mean-hearted cunning is the measure of a human.

Not to see that life’s inestimably precious and generous

and as rare and full of wonder

among things of radiance in a dark universe

as a jewel beyond compare

you found in the bottom of your empty pocket

standing in line at the foodbank

and that no river’s flowing the wrong way to the sea

that receives us all

like birds summoned home at nightfall

to watch the moon be born again

in the sacred groves where we began

and not be treated like a deaf-mute

because your rapture’s not two minutes with a hook.

Not to look at the picture-music of your mindstream

from an intimately cosmic point of view

like sand and stars stuck to the spiral arms

of a dead starfish

and be told you have to put out your eyes like Oedipus

if you want your dreams and visions

to have any commercial potential.

Not to suffer the pseudomorphosis of virtual reality

minerally fossilizing every soupy cell

and intuitive insight of your bodymind

with microchips that treat life

as if it were retrievable skeletal evidence

of how we’ve evolved

from stone age wisdom

into stoned age data.

Not to look upon a computer

as an advance upon women

as memory and muse.

Not to look in awe

upon the vastness and silence of the future

as if it were merely the afterbirth

of the hysterical pregnancies

that rage like the opinions and views

kicking like ghosts in the wombs

of the politicians and pundits

with the life-expectancy of a miscarriage.

Not to see a blade of grass

struggling to grow

through a crack in the concrete

as if it didn’t know

we’d imposed another ice age of cement upon it

as a punishment

for trying to grow where it wants.

Not to watch children die in their millions

of material and cultural attrition

with less chance of survival than houseflies

as see nothing accusatory in their eyes

as their bellies swell with starvation

like small disqualified planets

as if our impotence

were a greater obscenity

than their helplessness.

Not to see illegal immigrants

killed by an atlas

trying to find a place

in the shadows under the table

of the global economy

to live like ants

on the occasional crumbs

that get brushed off the corporate belly

like missing links in the food chain

that led to us.

Borealopithecus robustus Americanensis.

Like the land of the free with electrical fences.

This man’s liberty

that man’s nemesis.

And everyone decked out in chains

as a sign of status

like pimps and mayors

and forty-one percent

of the people’s representatives

ideological millionaires who believe

the poor are the reason the rich suffer.

And that the job-creators

have the same right as leeches

to bleed them for their own good.

Just to be free for a little while.

Just for a moment.

Just to find a small wormhole in the dung heap

like a caterpillar crawling into the fortune cookie

of a space-time chrysalis

to be displaced on the other side of the universe

like a butterfly with a profound effect upon physics.

Not to sit like a night watchman

on the graveyard shift

in the drab silence of a small room

wondering what things are being faithful to

and if a flashlight ever feels

like an undisciplined lighthouse

standing in the shadow of a star.

It’s not possible in a world that always in flux

to return to the way things are

because the way things are

is to never be the same thing twice

so I don’t even bother trying to find my way back

to anyone or anything

knowing they never did

and don’t now exist

except as a guess and an interpretation

of the ungratified longings

of the human imagination

dumbing time down to get a fix on things

like the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

How can you find your bearings

by doing parallax on a mirage.?

In the flash of a specious moment

it’s already light years between mirrors.

So if you were to ask me

where I’m at now

and really wanted to know

I’d say where I’ve always been:

physically intellectually emotionally and spiritually missing.

Even my most cherished memories

what they mean

and the whole of my past

creatively collaborate

in a dynamic equilibrium

with the present and the future

such that now always somehow seems

like just a long memory

of things and events that haven’t happened yet.

And I could easily believe I was prophetic

if I didn’t already know

that what starts out as my voice

invariably comes back

as somebody else’s echo.


Monday, July 18, 2011


On into the next dimension

like a measure of thought

sitting full lotus

on a flying carpet of feeling

that’s on the same wavelength as the stars.

I’ve been an intimate of windows long enough.

I trust them.

But they don’t shine.

They’re confined to the news

of what’s going on beyond them

that’s brought to them live

by skies they flip through

like old Time magazines in a doctor’s office.

Their eyes are long on views

but shy on visions.

Cataracts in the eye.

Flowers in the sky.

If you look through them long enough

you’ll kill all the wildflowers

in your field of vision

and your third eye

will start grinding lenses for a living

like Spinoza

for a spiritual telescope with myopia.

Clarity will start writing messages in your breath

you’re meant to take to heart

as you watch the universe shrinking

like expiry dates on the hot gusts of stars

evaporating like ghosts

from the cold glassy stares

of windowpanes

that have been crying in secret for years

because they’re not taken as seriously as mirrors.

It takes a rock of a will

and the passion of an angry delinquent

to break free of them

but once they’re broken

like the link of a koan

that liberated you from your own thought-chains

you can still see the whole in every piece

of the primordial atom

that precipitated the Big Bang

but it doesn’t get in the way of what’s beyond it.

You stop lifting fingerprints

as evidence that you exist

and start lifting veils

begin shedding skins

stop asking sacred clowns

if they can still recognize you

under all the facepaint

you use to express your emotions.

You let your masks blossom and blow away

like Ezra Pound’s images

of faces on a wet black bough of the subway.

You empty your streets

like a dangerous part of New York

and step out of the doorway

where you’ve been waiting for yourself

to return home.

You exchange the key to the lock

for a fork you can fly from a kite

like a lightning rod in an electrical storm

that sends the snake pit of serpent fire

that moved like a glacier in a dream of thawing

racing up your spine

like a dragon of life

urgent as spring rain

that sheds its scales

like waves and ripples of water

but wakes up feathered in flames.

And this time it’s the sun that drowns

for flying too close to Icarus

like the event horizon of a black hole

that smears its dimensions

like peanut butter

around the rim of a subliminal halo.

Free of the past

whatever you see

confirms your secret intuition

that the world hasn’t happened yet.

That everything you see

in the ubiquitous solitude

of your unwitnessed sentience

is merely prelude

to a greater event

that transcends

the inconceivability

of what’s self-evident about the present.