Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Darker than this never before.

Brain-damaged memories

beyond the infra-red.

Too much metaphoric mileage on the moon.

No solace in the long seance of the dreams

that woke me from my grave

to ask me why they call

and I don’t answer them.

3:43 a.m.

Drunken lovers in the hall

punching out plaster

and threatening to call the police

as if that were the worst they could do to each other.

One door slammed.

One door kicked off its hinges.

Welfare week.

Love binges.

Hearts and bones break

when everyone gets so drunk

they’re frustrated

they can’t make a happy mistake

to compensate for the rest of their tragic lives.

Better to smear shit on the screen

like an Andy Warhol movie

than stare into the blankness

of a bankrupt imagination.

Better the running sore

of a small town soap opera

that never heals.

Better to be wounded grievously

and have something to fight about

for a thousand years.

Better tears and rage and violence

and the dramatic recalls and ricochets of love

than the resolutions of silence

that end it all.

Good fences might make good neighbours

but even an old man

with an ax in his hand

standing in his underpants

in an open doorway

after three in the morning

telling you to shut the fuck up

or he’ll bury it in your skull

like an alternative to Cupid and his arrow

is enough of a red sky in the morning

for anyone to take warning

and fake being a little less anti-social

by putting an end to their marital squall

as the less insane of two immediate dangers.

Good fences might make good neighbours

but if you’re living next to strangers

in a rundown apartment block

who don’t mind their spiritual manners

like well-defined property lines

convincing them there’s a serial killer

living next door

with nothing but time on his hands

is a better form of behaviour modification

than a fence in New Hampshire.

And I could show you far worse things

than your father sees Willy

far worse things.

Time be kind to Kenneth Patchen

wherever he wanders in the abyss tonight

and give him back his legs.

I return to my living room

and listen to them dragging furniture

up against a newly resurrected door

as if Jesus would rather be dead in his tomb

than face a demon in underpants

that gets his imagination flowing like blood.

Everyone clamours for a freedom

that would scare them to death to live

but I can see a day not so far off

when the pursuit of happiness won’t be enough

and they’ll demand the right to solitude

to forget they never caught up to it.

I exhale a cigarette

like a genie from a lamp

that hasn’t wished for anything in years

since the nightmares proved their magic

was stronger than prayers

when desperation overcomes the doubt

that anyone demonic human or divine cares.

I stare the dragon in the eye

like a coffin in a funeral home

that would rather be scattered in ashes on the wind

than turned to stone

like the first impression

bones make on the Burgess Shale.

Make me a pyre of fireflies.

Bring scrolls of sacred birch

like inflammatory holy books

written by great heretics

who found the quickest exit to the stars

was through the flames of the church

that baptizes their arsonists in water

like doves of white phosphorus

in a fountain never quite pure enough

to put their root-fires out.

Hell has better taste in discomfited humans

than heaven has room for comfy cliches.

If you won’t risk condemnation

what could your salvation mean

except something just as cowardly?

The maggots might inherit the eagles

like road kill

and the weatherless windows

might wait for supremacy over the sky

in a conspiracy of weathervanes

but that still doesn’t mean

they’ll know much about shining

and even less

about how to fly.

If you want to enhance the radiance

of whatever star

you’re going by

it’s better to intensify the darkness

than it is to wash it out of your eye.

Not a peep out of the pimp next door

or his air raid siren of a whore.

Chastened by time and suffering

or chastised into a vow of silence out of fear

sometimes the nightmares

come like broken mirrors

that can still see the whole in every part

but the worst still whisper old dreams

as if they were pouring the night

like the picture-music of a clamorous art

into an ear that’s heard more than enough

to break its heart like a lifeboat

on the rocks of cacophonous mermaids

that couldn’t hold a whole note

longer than it would take me to spit

if my life depended on it.

And it does.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My solitude is taking me too seriously tonight.

Space shrinks like Saran-wrap

tightens over my face

turns to glass.

I want to scream.

At whom?

Maybe if I screamed loud enough

the fly could get out of this amber womb

that sits like a paperweight on my heavy desk

by shattering it like a wine goblet

from the inside out.

The stone would roll away

from this rented tomb

and I could poke a finger in my wound

like Caravaggio’s portrait of Christ

showing off his scars to his disciples.

No doubt that would hurt.

Cool night air after the rain.

A bigger silence than usual

looms over the town like an iron bell

that won’t have anything to say till Sunday

unless it’s interrupted by a funeral.

I think this poem

just might be the finger

Doubting Thomas stuck in the wound

to prove Caravaggio’s likeness of Christ was real.

I know it’s not Michelangelo’s depiction

of God’s magnificent digit reaching out

to animate Adam.

Or maybe I’m slashing my throat

on the shards of broken mirrors

trying to get rid of bitter memories

that have lied to me all these years

about being an honest reflection

of the way things are and used to be.

It’s a long shot

but maybe I’m more innocent than I thought

and the people I have tried to love

as if each were a discipline I was apprenticed to

were a lot more gullible and culpable

than I could have known at the time

given how much I needed to believe in them

in order to make my own delusive self come true.

It’s hard to discover that you’ve loved a lie

and harder even still

to embrace the truth

that commiserates with you like a messenger

that wants to be the new friend

that takes the old one’s place

like a cutting wind takes a garden in the fall

leaf by leaf

face by face

blossom by blossom.

Emptiness is difficult enough to adapt to

but now this vacuum.

This mini black hole

in the center of my solar system

that’s replaced the sun with nothing.

I try to cling to the intimate things of the earth

to keep them from flying off into the great abyss

as if they were all I had left to cherish

after the passing storm

of the afterlife I had planned for myself

comprised of all those things and people

I had loved in the past.

This too will pass.

King Lear might shake his fist at the gods

but it’s his fool that I pity

because I know how it feels

to be the dupe of your own ideals.

To praise your own assassin

for love generosity loyalty compassion

and mistake the fangs of the rattlesnake

that coiled under it

for the thorns of a rose

that kept its worm well hidden

in the folds of its breath-taking beauty.

I suppose I could get righteous

about my loathing and hatred

and start a cult of killer bees

like the Old Man of the Mountain

enshrined in a hive of houris and hashish

coming down from his cosmic view

because he saw what you did

and he knows where you live.

But we’ve got Al Qaeda and the Taliban for that

and I can hear the horses

of Hulagu and his Mongols from here

like distant thunder over the Lanark hills.

And soon there’ll be a mountain of skulls

outside the gates of Samarkand

to explain the terms of surrender.

But vengeance is a redundancy

when you take it out on a corpse.

And those people I would like to sit down with

and play Russian roulette with the most

blew their brains out a long time ago

without taking the risk

that would have made them real heroes

instead of logos on the chests of their comic books.

They never learned how to get out of the way

of their own richochet

and they’re roadkill to me now

though that’s a harsh thing to say

for a man who’d rather be soft and supple

than brittle and hard.

Let his emotions bend like river reeds

in the mindstream

or the big heart-shaped leaves

of the basswood trees in the wind

as it’s coming off the fields it silvers in its wake.

I still hope nature abhors a vacuum

for my sake

because the only way

to get this grave robber out of my tomb

is to deepen my emptiness until even death

can’t find any room to maneuver

and everything comes back to life

moment by moment

breath by breath forever.


Though that wasn’t meant to be a prayer.

More a way of not getting sucked in by nothing

for nothing

in the name of nothing that matters anymore.

I cross highway seven

and walk by the cemetery up on Dufferin Road

and notice how the wind

has toppled the mason jar vases

and scattered the flowers chaotically

all over everyone’s graves

as if it didn’t matter

whether they had a favourite or not.

Usually I’m afraid of reading their names

for fear of finding my own

but tonight I look specifically

for those of people I’ve known

like flesh of my flesh

blood of my blood

bone of my bone.

And I want to say

something intimate and forgiving

that might ease their sleep a little

whisper something in their ears

so sincere and magnanimous

it would take root in their dreams

like an oasis in a desert of stars

and we could all shed tears of real water

into the well of a mirage.

And I can feel my heart

pleading with me like a grave stone to stay.

To bury myself with them

like a sword in an old wound

that couldn’t heal any other way.

But thirty years of living in the wilderness

like a judas goat that was driven out

and demonized

to cleanse the temples in May

and the infectious sins of the tribes

and I’ve become enamoured of my solitude.

The bleak honesty of it.

Because when you’re truly on your own

there is no one to do the lying

nothing to lie about

and no one to lie to.

Just the desert kicking dust

in the eyes of the stars.

And the stars leading their caravan

to the oasis where I sit

to wash it off.

I’ve learned from the wind

to rejoice in the mobility of my homelessness.

My heart pleads with me

like a lonely grave stone to stay.

It’s only a short walk through

the corridor of sumac bushes

parting like the Red Sea in the streetlights

down Dufferin Road back to the highway.

There was a time

when I would have been happy

to die among these

who have found a place here.

But the wind was always

a better friend to me

than these here interred

under the weight of their names.

And I say to my heart

though it sinks like a stone to hear it

be generous and pour blessings on their head

as you must and should.

We’ve known the days as the Irish say.

But we’ve cut the pictures

out of the months of the year

and who so ignorant of their own strangeness

they judge yesterday

by today’s calendar?

You see that star up there

flashing between the flying clouds

sailing by like Shelley in the Gulf of Leghorn

into the face of a windstorm?

It’s trying to tell us what hour it is.

It’s time to walk away.

Walk away

down Dufferin Road

without regret or rancour

and leave this to what this is.

Scattered flowers

and intermittent stars

from the mouths

of toppled mason jars.



I’ve had electromagnetic sexual attractions

to women I didn’t even like

and as I got to know them despite myself

felt I was mud-wrestling

in a squalor of mutual disrespect.

And I was the one who loosing.

Anacondas squeezing me in a heart lock.

I’ve seen root fires burn underground

through ten miles of cedars for a week

down the whole length of a valley

and no one know for sure

if they’d finally been put out.

And I’ve often thought

growing up angry bored and deprived

and caught in the emotional crossfire

of my father’s and mother’s annihilation

in an era of clashing Titans

and cannibalistic ogre fathers

on the look-out for Olympian sons

they could swallow like a swaddled stone in a single gulp

the reason I dared the thrill and danger of breaking taboos

my Icarian plunges into seas of awareness

was that it was a revolutionary’s way

of acting out against the authority of my own mind.

Light a candle in church for me

and I’d blow it out

as if I’d just gotten into bed

with the forbidden key to my freedom.

More of the immensities and intensities of human life

are encountered in the dark

than are met on the street in daylight.

Dark dark dark they all go into the dark.

Yes. T. S.

But for a lot of different reasons.

Mine was the desecration of old idols

myself among them.

Outlaws pariahs misfits and heretics.

It’s ironic now to look back and think

if you weren’t an outcast of some kind

you were cast out

like the shard of a broken mirror

that didn’t fit the puzzle

of a slowly evolving vision of life

where the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

You weren’t a grand master

in the dark arts

and ardent discipline

of disobedience.

You didn’t know how to obey in reverse.

Your childhood hadn’t progressed

through the initial seven stations of futility and despair

so you didn’t know how to keep faith with the faithless.

I sometimes think that’s why

so many of my relationships ever since

have been misalliances of dark matter and light.

The parities of mass and function might look the same

but you’ve got to check the charge and spin

before you can be sure that this is love

and not annihilation.

Synchronous happenings in a charged particle field.

Or love playing chicken in a hadron particle collider

at nearly the speed of light

But hey that’s not to say

that there aren’t some women

worth evaporating in a Wilson Cloud Chamber for

like a God-particle in a mystic cloud of unknowing.

Vapour trails and skid marks

that leave their mark on the world

like comets of cosmic graffiti

spray-bombed under a bridge

by gangland trolls

to warn everyone whose turf they’re on.

An urban form of land naming.

The writing on the wall.

And what’s annihilation anyway

when you turn the jewel in a different light

but the unsung beginning of another universe

that couldn’t be any worse than this one?

Hail to the dark muses behind the veils

of my most ferocious inspirations.

Evolution consults the mutants to know what to do next.

For some the dice are loaded like chromosomes and genes.

For others they’re hexed

like dead albatrosses

caught in the rigging of shipwrecks

that have been down so long it looks like up to them

if you can remember what happened to Richard Farina.

Killer-whales in the Oak Bay Marina

making a big splash for the tourists.

Killer-whales waiting for baby seals

to slide off the rocks like careless mermaids

or hookers in rehab.

Maybe it’s just a matter of taste

and learning how to say grace

whether you wear a neck yoke

or stay underground like a missing link

when everyone’s enslaved by a food chain

for reasons that are as far beyond them

as Jamaica is from the Ivory Coast.

The difference between a domestic pet

and an exiled species of wildlife.

And maybe that’s why I often think

poetry’s just a loveletter

you’re writing on death row

to someone you’ve never met.

O firefly!

O synteretic spark!

O fairy dust mingled

in the soot of brooding chimneys

like the birds that keep getting caught in their throats

like songs they were meant to sing

words they were meant to say

but didn’t

I can taste the sun shining at midnight

and the eclipses that have freaked your honey

in the hives of killer bees

with the fragrance of a dangerous elixir

it’s a greater madness than wisdom to resist.

Lao-tzu says a sane man prefers heaven

but it’s heaven that courts insanity.

Sane long enough

and the fountain of youth grows old

waiting for Ponce de Leon.

The darker the muse the deeper the insight

and the further you have to go for stars

to keep the night happy and high.

Forbidden people like forbidden things.

No danger in the writer

and the reader’s got nothing to fear.

But it’s the one percenter death’s-head patched

to the executioner’s hood of the cobra

the hourglass on the black widow’s thorax

and the irisless eyes of the great white shark

that don’t make a sound

that catches the ear

and sends a shudder through the blood

like the poison and the potion

of a dangerous love affair.

It’s not the cause of the injury

but the depth of the wound

that’s the measure of whether

you’re just another

superficial predator in a petting zoo

or your feelings went deep enough into you

it’s less painful to leave the arrowhead in

and learn to live with it like a second heart

than it is to take it out.

If the rose lacks thorns.

If the mountain goat

has lost its figs and horns.

If the lines of a poem don’t sting

like a lover’s scratches on your back

or the striations of passionate glaciers

across the Canadian Shield

who can make love to you for years

submitting to all your desires

for fur and fire and food

without ever once yielding

anything of themselves

but tears and lakes and rivers of farewell

when things begin to warm up.

If the wolf isn’t mauled by the moon

it’s not high enough on the mountain

to be inspired by its wound

to intrigue the indifferent muse

on the far side of its agony

with the odes it writes

to the lunacy of its longing.


Monday, August 29, 2011


There you are again standing in my doorway backlit by the red hall emergency exit sign as if you couldn’t make up your mind whether you had a spur or a wishbone stuck in your throat you know so little about what you’re going to say. There’s a child that’s fallen down an abandoned well. There’s a morning dove still wedged in the chimney at nightfall. There’s a bruised blue orchid of aristocratic blood that’s gone slumming blooming in the nook and cranny of your arm. You smile at me like a broken mirror that wants to know if it’s still pretty. I lie to you lyrically and say you still have the beautifully hurtful eyes of a voodoo doll that could cast a spell on anyone. But why do you keep sticking pins in them as if you were fixing butterflies and nebulae to black velvet starmaps that glow in the dark? I want to say I know how much you hurt for reasons that neither of us are sure of but that’s an old lie and it doesn’t work. You have the wings of a butterfly. More a swallowtail than a monarch. But you lack the antennae. You’ve got no lightning rods. No weathervanes. No compass. No filaments for the light to arc between. And you keep falling for spiders doing bass runs on their musical webs like street musicians with celestial aspirations playing for chump change in front of the bank. Razorwire and wild grapevines. I don’t know why whenever I see you haemorrhaging like this I think of blue roses with titanium thorns taking blood samples to map your genome like the keyboard of a piano you haven’t sat down and played for years. Now it’s a few bars of this and that but I miss the old torches of rhythm and blues you used to snuff out thumbs down in the tears from the eyes of a feral cat in heat. You didn’t waste the creative rapture of your pain back then. You always managed to scratch an ecstasy of fire out of the witching sticks of your voice and the more you were hurt the higher the flame. The more intense. Until it burned with perfect pitch like the clear light of the void that immolated you like a phoenix on the pyre of your own talent. Too many unburnt bones in the urns of your ashes these days. You’re still enough of a firefly to ignite the acetylene but the dragon chokes on smoke.

What can I say? Come in. Sit down. What’s up? You feeling ok? You want something to drink? Smoke? Have you eaten today? You need a lifeboat with a white sail for awhile a few bucks a place to crash for the night and a reason to stay? I wasn’t kidding when I said your eyes were still beautiful. A lachrymose doe caught in the highbeams of headlights on heroin. You freeze in your tracks. But you’re as indifferent to the vulnerability of your suffering as the road you’re on is to road kill. I think you come to me with the blood of a butchered angel on your hands to see if you’re still acceptable in your own eyes. And ask me to help bury the body parts decently where the wild irises bloom like blue hydrogen without any prompting from the florist. It’s a fertility ritual with you. You hallow the graves you walk on like a goddess of the grain who’s lost faith in herself. And you return like your own daughter to the flowers you left behind when you come back from sleeping with the Lord of Jewels to find they’re all blooming like dealers with someone like you on their mind. The diamond bees and damselflies are hooked like brooches to the petal lapels of florid pimps. He loves me. He loves me not. But the answer’s an incommensurable that goes on like pi forever. You wouldn’t be the first lily to root in a swamp and by August of next year there’ll be a whole harem of others. Why do rich girls feel that if they get the dirt of the world on their teddybears it somehow makes them more real? If you come from the gutter like I do it’s hard to think of the street as some kind of finishing school. When I was younger I tried to upgrade my childhood by lying about my return address. And I’ve read the collected letters of the ventriloquists of prosperity writing sexting dirty messages to underage puppets under their dresses. And I know how hard you’ve worked to find a voice of your own without any strings attached to the arachnid puppet-masters of your Mummy and Daddy who look upon you as their failure as if there were still something devastating about you they could own. I grew up in a neighbourhood where there was only one kind of weather. Despair with a chance of violence. Same thing every day. Your mother going to hospital. Your father getting out of jail. Afraid of the emergency exits. Afraid of the emergency entrances. Squad cars and ambulances. The only colour in the lives of bleak grey children. Poppies of blood on the sidewalk. But if you didn’t want to be enslaved by welfare the police or the loony bin of your supervised home life you learned to take possession of yourself. You didn’t trip down to the pawn-shop with it. You didn’t take it to a fence. You didn’t pimp it out on the street. You didn’t use it to pay off a dealer. You kept it like the silver bullet of a masked man for the day you got even for being an orphan. Like Pascal’s note of revelation or the jewel of inestimable worth sewn into the coat of a poor man leaving his house to seek his crust of daily bread you kept it like the udumbara flower of the Buddhists that blooms in fire once every seven thousand years. You didn’t need to vent it with updrafts of rage or water it with tears. You didn’t need to uproot the weeds that grew around it. It was a seed with a life of its own and the flame of a flower that had never been seen before until you discovered it and it took your name in secret like a vow of silence over the icon of the saint that burned in your hands as if you’d just plunged them into hell to pull yourself out of the fire. No rats. No cops. No liars. You were a made man in your own eyes. You had self-respect. You understood the beginning of wisdom wasn’t the fear of God but a healthy fear of yourself forgetting that roses aren’t just roses. They’ve got thorns as well. And it’s not just blood but fire that flows in their veins. That the smooth polished lustrous stones are empty and it’s the dark crude ore that’s freaked with silver motherlodes. That the dark sinister hand of fate shapes the pot on the wheel of birth and death no less than the white gloves of the orthodox. That joy may have talent but it’s pain that’s the dark genius and between the two of them pain is the greater creator. You learn to honour your own suffering like a root fire that not all the volunteer fire brigades in the world could put out for the best of reasons. You discover hidden jewels in your own ashes and begin to intuit that your eyes are fireproof. Stars mingled in the mud of your makeup. You watch them burn black holes in your afterlife so you can get out of the wishing-well of a drug cartel like a starstruck pharoah or a trapped Chilean miner. You see there’s nowhere you can walk down the street without walking on your own grave. And whenever you step on a crack you break your mother’s back.

I see the dangerous potential of your wounded beauty coming undone like scarlet ribbons of blood in the water in the mirror in the bathtub. I see the feeding frenzy that’s already circling you like fins and razorblades. I see how your addiction to addiction pulls you around like a one-eyed wanna-be star with an identity crisis hauling on you like a shepherd moon. You’re in the forbidden zone where pretty blue planets like you end up as asteroids that crash and burn in the Gulf of Mexico and wipe themselves out as a species. Time is omnidirectional and flows from the future into the past just as easily as from the past into the future. And I would say this era of your life can be carbon-dated to the late Permian. And evolution’s on the shelf like an injured player or a deadlocked government. And I can see that you’re listening but I want to hear that you’re seeing.

O Queen Mab what has befallen you that you’re hooked on your own faery dust? The powders potions and elixirs of your own black magic? Don’t you remember the first law of innocence was that you can’t curse a blessing without falling under your own dark spell like an unpredictable eclipse? That a good dealer doesn’t abuse her own product Take the hex off yourself. Exorcise the demon wearing your stars in its eyes as its own. Even in the cultivated gardens where you come from there must be vines that reach out for you with ingratiating tendrils that will choke the life out of you like morning glory rooted in your bloodstream. Put some steel in your dream and stop riding under the banner of the last fit you flagged. To paraphrase what another Victorian junkie once wrote the angels keep their ancient places under the stones not hot moon rocks in a spoon. The shining isn’t cooked in tinfoil. There’s no crusade. No holy war of one. No pilgrimage to a desecrated shrine. No Jerusalem that you have to free from yourself. No outrage of innocence that must be answered for in blood guilt. These are just visions. Gusts of stars that get in your eyes like sandstorms in an hourglass. Mirages hermits oracles of the sun in the desert. A riddle a sphinx set on pain of death to the passersby so she didn’t have to answer for herself. You are not the daughter of a god. It’s wholly human to be broken by what you’ve been best blessed by. Paris might aim for your heel but Eros takes its first shot at your Achilles heart without ever missing the mark. Your personal history isn’t just the festering mystery of the graveware of old swords buried in wounds that have gone gangrenous with age like ancient Celtic queens under the hill tombs of legendary scars. It isn’t just the regalia of weaponry and expert metalwork that lies beside and sits on the skulls the moon buried like a serial killer going through different phases of herself that you’ve got to look at. It’s the wounds themselves that were afflicted upon the guilty and innocent alike that you’ve got to scrutinize as well if you want to get the whole story. You put a diamond cutter’s edge on things like a holy book folded like a sword in the forges of Kyoto and you learn to temper your anger in tears. Your third eye might be silvered in sorrow but you stay in focus even in orbit like the mirrors of the Hubble Telescope. There’s a red shift at the edge of a starless darkness when you spectroanalyze dope. It’s an absorption spectrum. It doesn’t emit rainbows. It’s a black hole of faery dust that’s well known to the stars. It’s a department store paradise that sucks in lost leaders to cowboy the consumers to the sales table to avoid paying a head tax at half the price of the bargain before them. Not a smart move for the wild child of a chartered accountant.

So what can I do for you? I can remind you that you’re human and that’s as rare the Buddha said as a turtle rising from the bottom of a boundless sea once every ten thousand years sticking its head through a lifesaver the size of a doughnut floating freely on the surface. I can remind you of what you used to practise in front of the mirror alone in your bedroom at night when you were dreaming of becoming a singer and couldn’t wait for the dawn. Remember when the future had a beginning not just the end that it holds up to you now like a black mirror to your face without a reflection? Remember when you used to park your Fiat Spider sports coupe under highway overpasses and bridges because you could read graffiti like sheet music and they treated you and the pigeons to great acoustics? Who could ever have imagined that a bridge can be a voice coach? And when you put the top down it was just you and your car radio and the highway for a stage? And the roar of the wind and passing traffic for applause. I could tell you that the last thing people will ever be dispossessed of is their misery. They hang on to it like you do your voodoo dolls. If you suddenly snatched the misery out of people’s arms like a nasty little sister they wouldn’t take it as a case of identity theft. To them it would seem like death. They wouldn’t know who they were without their wounds. When was it you starting dressing your dolls differently in junior highschool? The sexual vamp that thought bats were almost as cute as butterflies. What name did you give her among the strawdogs and scarecrows of the boyfriends you spit blood and Fireball whiskey on like roosters that were about to go under the knife? The only mercy you ever extended to any of them. A sharp blade and a quick kill. I can remind you that you live in the twenty-first century like a survivalist dandelion between the cracks of slabs of concrete like an idea that keeps breaking through your skull. That the aesthetics of desecration on a planet deeply disappointed with its gods and beginning to develop a horror of themselves saturates everyone’s emotional and imaginative spiritual life with mustard gas and Xyklon B. That the sins of the fathers are being afflicted upon the daughters of the earth like toxic stars of insight into the nature of darkness. And you take all this in like fish take in radiation from the same medium that sustains and profanes them. Even the atmosphere is treated like real estate. And when people grow tired of damaging what’s old and venerated they begin to damage what’s new and underestimated. The kites we used to fly caught fire in the powerlines and now the heart is leashed to atrocity and outrage like pitbulls and Martian moons. People fear the sun the air the rain. And the new iron rule that replaced the gold one like a degenerative era of time is do unto others before they do it unto you.

I could remind you that your brain is three and a quarter pounds of supple starmud and not fourteen hundred and seventy-five c.c.s of coral stuck on the Great Barrier Reef of your emotional life like a colony of fossils. Brittle and cutting. That you can see further than the stars can and though you’re a homeless tree of knowledge you can root deeper in the earth than water ever dreamed of. That any one of your thoughts is the wavelength of an endless sentence with an unlocatable particle at the end for punctuation. That there are as many fireflies as there are lightning bolts and dragons among your myriad passions that could teach you how to burn without smoke when the wind is blowing in your face if you were ever to ask. That you’re an empire of life forms that would have put the Romans to shame. That Neanderthals are still taking shelter under the limestone ledges of your fingernails. Flintknapping and polishing them like hand-axes. That the cattle of the sun are grazing on your eyelids. That the stars aren’t afraid of being extinguished when they enter the black holes of your eyes because they long ago discovered that you’re the radiant singularity at the root of their shining. And which of all these metaphors you’ve adopted like orphans because they bear an uncanny resemblance to you is your favourite similitude for an indefinable mind that isn’t in the world of forms? That nevertheless expresses itself by making things up like galaxies and starfish to say what it has to say about the inconceivable in a cosmic language that even the ants have mastered? Every raindrop is the primordial atom of a hyrdrocentric universe. In every tear. Worlds within worlds. And I hear there are diamond planets orbiting neutron stars like engagement rings. And which of all these elements of light space and time all these minerals insects fish reptiles birds mammals and minds is not one your afterlives given we all emerge spontaneously from the womb of the dark mother of interdependent origination. Why do you make who you were walk behind you like a shadow of who you’ve become as if you were ashamed to be seen holding hands with yourself when all things are dancing in a ring around the creative fires of the stars that burn like dragons to bring the rain?

Peacock blue of the sky through dirty windowpanes. The earth is whirling like a Sufi at a mystic crossroads toward the east again. Aubades of pain to false dawns tuning up the birds to sing to the real one. Is it not so with all of us Queen Mab? Isn’t there always in all of us one small ruby-throated humming bird left that comes to the unfolding of the rose of dawn to extract the sweetness of life like nectar not inject it like a syringe in the coils of a rubber snake in the breast of Cleopatra when she couldn’t take it anymore? Sweet one. Brief one. Life is a flash in the pan not something you boil in a spoon and sip like a lotus-eater. And even if that scintillance lasts no longer than the lifespan of a firefly or a nugget of insight washed down the world mountain in a torrent of tears isn’t that the sign of a motherlode of gold further upstream waiting to be revealed? Eclipses don’t always come in black. Sometimes the white light of an artificial dream can conceal the stars on the midway of its blazing more thoroughly than the darkness can. When was the darkness ever deep enough to ruin their shining? When have you ever known a night that wasn’t more lavish with stars than it was with shadows? Dark abundance. Bright vacancy. If the world seems like the bleak lifeless prospect of an alien in exile maybe it’s because you’re the one that’s missing. Queen Mab with her coven of bat-winged dolls. Queen Mab with her sisterhood of fairies dancing on toadstools long before the fallen angels learned to dance on the heads of the pins you stick under your tongue between your toes in the death valleys you’ve made of your arms as if you were collecting butterflies on an endangered species list. And your name first among them. Queen Mab of the Shee. Hummingbird junkie and lepidopterist.

Human suffering is human suffering. Yours included. It isn’t a class war. It isn’t a charity run by the poor for the rich who feel they’re out of touch with reality and have to get way down low with the blues to be worthy of their delusions. That you hurt is clear enough in any economic bracket whether you can afford them or have to wheel and deal and steal your vices from the man who knows them all. You took a fall. But it doesn’t matter to the ants down below whether you fell from the nest or were pushed. You’re a haemorrhage of sunshine on the rocks. You’re the Faberge eggshell of a busted locket in the foodchain that makes you cry everytime you unlock it and part its wings and attempt to recall the last time you tried to fly on your own. But for the grace of God and circumstance there goes everybody like a last chance to blow it. Take pity on them. See who they remind you of. And with even more empathy learn to take pity on yourself. Your cosmic egg didn’t wake up in a snake pit. What’s the point of coming down here to grind your teeth like continental plates making earthquakes in Atlantis? There is no rift between our species. We share the same biodiversity. The same blood line. You shoot faery dust into yours and I shoot stars into mine. Dangerous hope. Futile despair. But we both aspire to shine in our own way. It’s indefensibly human. Born of starmud into darkness it’s only natural to want to light it up and go off in all directions at once like a sudden gust of radiance. But when you do remember that you enlighten hell with the same clarity that overthrows heaven. But stop any star on the Road of Ghosts who ever abused paradise. And any one of them will tell you what I’m trying to say to you tonight Queen Mab. Whether it’s faery dust the Milky Way Disneyland lightning fireflies stars or the isotope of a radioactive antidote to a toxic mindstream leaking like a nuclear meltdown of the heart into a subterranean watershed. The drugs get high on us. Our addictions are hooked on us. Not the other way around. We’re the horse that sets them up. And we’re the horse that lets them down. And in your case Queen Mab of the Faeries hiding like violets under the duff of the fallen I do so fervently wish as you drift off to dreamland. The winged horse that throws them off.


Saturday, August 27, 2011


Black night rain.

As if someone had taken off their mirrors

like lingerie

and thrown them out an upstairs window.

The asphalt shines.

The cement sidewalks weep like watercolours

that wanted to be painted in oils.

The cool air is having a conversation with my skin.

Serpentine rainbows easing down the drains

like the flashback of a sixties acid trip

that got high on my brain

almost half a century ago

and never came down again.

West coast vertigo.

But even the pigeons under the eaves know

if you want to fly

you’ve got to get off the train

even if it is transcontinental.

And if it isn’t worth the trip.

Don’t go.

I went

to see what I couldn’t conquer.

Some went back the way they came.

No shame in that.

One mile east is one mile west.

You do what you can

and call it your best.

But I never found a return address

and where it’s all going

is still my second guess.

A teenager in a doorway bums a cigarette.

It’s too wet to look

for butts and roaches in the park.

For a moment we check each other out

as if we were both involved

in this same insane accident called life.

I say there’s a severe storm warning out.

She says she’s not afraid of the lightning.

I say that’s an enlightened attitude

and ask for my Zippo back.

She says sorry. I say the best of us are

and walk away cooly

like something unruly

but self-contained as rain

into the deepening desolation

and Maenadic frenzy of the night.

Apres moi le deluge.

But even among these billions of water droplets

I can feel her eyes dripping down my neck

like ice-cubes of Orphic anti-matter

in the sweat lodge of a prophetic skull.

And then the inevitable.

Hey mister can I walk with you awhile?

You don’t look dangerous or insane.

And I don’t like to be out on my own at night.

I say my dance card is full

but walking’s ok

at least part of the way.

Where we going?

I say isn’t what brings us both together

on a homeless night like this

the fact that we don’t know

and I’ve got the cigarettes?

She says I know you’re a poet

but I bet I can tell a better lie

than you can tell a joke.

I say it’s an occupational hazard

of learning to sing

without a punchline

or two minutes without a hook

as irresistible as jail bait

to the bottom feeders.

She says you’re way too serious.

I say for who

you or me?

This is just the down time of the mystery

when my personal history

feels like a snakepit.

She said do you think I’m mysterious.

I say no

you’re just curious

about how I can keep dancing

without getting bit.

No one’s afraid of the lightning

until they get hit.

She says what makes you think I haven’t?

I say you’re walking with me.

She says yeah

you may be a stranger

but I’m not the one who’s in danger.

And besides you’ve got the windproof Zippo

and stash of native cigarettes.

Can I have a dry one?

Mine’s drenched.

She says you got an old lady?

I say no one in mind.

She says do you think I’m a crazy bitch.

I say you have the potential.

She says I like you

you’re funny and kind.

I said there’s no point

in tying our shoelaces together

when I’m wearing cowboy boots.

She says you can always take them off.

I say only for a muse.

She says don’t I inspire you?

I say you’re bobbing for skulls

in the summer of life

when you should be

trying to take a bite

out of a windfall of apples

that are happy to lie at your feet.

She says most guys don’t like me

because I’m too honest.

I say lies that heal are true

and truths that wound are lies.

She says you really believe it?

I say I’m talking to you aren’t I?

She says is that supposed to be

some kind of poem?

I say no

it’s just the flow

of the xylem and phloem

of a tree that’s been struck by lightning

more than once.

She says can I make a suggestion?

I say don’t ask a deceptive question

and expect a straight answer.

She says you want to go down

to the willows by the river

and have a good cry.

I say I’ve already disembarked

from that ark

when it left me high and dry

on the top of Mt. Ararat

with two of every kind?

She says what kind am I?

I say the latest mutation.

A whole new species unto yourself.

She says is that good or bad?

I say no

just kind of lonely and sad.

She says what makes you say that?

I say the peduncle is lost in the ensuing phylum.

She says you mean you don’t know?

I say you haven’t lived enough yet

with desire or regret

to be seeking asylum

in the Burgess Shale.

She says first impressions

are the ones that last the longest.

First come.

Last gone.

I say that’s something

you should keep your eye on.



If you’ve come this far

by the very fact you could

your solitude is marked for exile.

Those who sustain

are threatened by those who enhance.

There’s a soft night breeze

blowing through the open window

and a chandelier trying to teach a mobile to dance

and a man looking up at the stars

into the abyss beyond

wondering how to be grateful

that chaos took advantage of random chance

and he’s here

amazed by the accident.

Being without intent.

Meaning without a basis in fact.

And a passion for darkness that surpasses the stars.

His longing must have reached them by now.

His compassion must have brought them to tears.

Wavelengths of insight can burn for light years

like fireflies with astrolabes

trying to get a fix on their event horizons

as if their own shining

were the only lead they had to go on.

A mirage in a desert of stars

when you’re lost

can give you a sense of direction

to the watershed of your radiance

as well as any other approach to the vastness can.

He picks a few yellow leaves off a green plant

in a bone-dry apartment

and for a moment he’s Adam in the garden again.

He realizes that promoting life

is his way of cherishing his own.

And then he ruminates on its perishing

on his way to the garbage can

to dispose of the heart-shaped leaves

like phases of the moon

on the pages of an obsolete calendar

with pictures of the scenic past

inviting you to come and visit.

What’s a guest to do by himself

when there’s no one else

in the light house

to play the host

but the ghost of God

wandering like smoke along this lonely coast

trying to make the sea stand still

knowing that’s the one commandment

it can’t fulfill

and probably what got him killed?

Prayers are more sincere at a seance

than they are at church.

Widow watch in a dark tower

long after the search has been called off.

He lights a candle.

He blows it out.

He sits down at his desk

and listens to the raging rant

of a heart-broke drunk outside

smashing the love letter he meant to write

like an empty whisky bottle

in the indifferent street light

on the rocks of a lip-syncing mermaid

who’s just jumped his shipwreck

for a lifeboat that likes her singing.

He gets the message.

He’s not one of her new friends.

The man at his desk

reassesses his loneliness

and decides one bodymind

a lifetime

might be a brighter lamp

than any two a genie could wish for.

New lamps for old.

But the fire doesn’t change.

Desire takes root in its own ashes.

Two birds perch like hinges

on the door of a grand entrance

to a Janus-faced New Year

though it’s only August

that looks both ways at once

at the valley its just passed through like a death mask

and the view from the peak

of the mountain it’s on

speaking to God face to face

as if there were no come down to the future

of its unhinged celebrants.

Is love the long binge of a periodic alcoholic

who can’t remember

the damage he’s done

to the weather of a loved one?

Or is there something more to it

that greets the heart

with everything that’s missing from the mind?

An inexplicable mystery

that reveals a starmap

of fireflies for the blind

that no one can follow

like the white cane of a tall ship

witching for water in hell

like a lightning rod.

And in heaven

a bloodline that isn’t wounded

by a grail of sad heavy wine

that cures the ailing kingdom of its symptoms

but not the longing of the disease

for the delirium of the dream

that broke it

like a water clock with a fever.

More heretic than believer

a crow balances

like a black umbrella

on a power line outside his window.

Looking at it

he sees an eclipse of the moon.


No exit

but time

maybe time.

Even the darkness must pass.

He takes it as a sign

that if he’s come this far

the future is well behind him.

He’s a star beyond shining

and there’s no way

even if he’s recalled from exile

even if he receives a look from someone

he can return to

they’re ever going to find him.


Thursday, August 25, 2011


Things might be drifting away

like an empty lifeboat

with nothing left to save

but the memory of moonlight

on the rush of a wave of the heart

that rose and fell

like a bell of insight on the night watch

that said all’s well all’s well for the night.

And so it was for a while.

Time might seem

that it’s overstaying its welcome

and you’ve become the estranged guest

of a bad dream

in your own bed

in the thirteenth house of the zodiac

where the dispossessed

shack up with the misbegotten

and the ghosts of everything you’ve forgotten

don’t give you any rest

until all that you’ve cursed

out of anger and need

has been immensely forgiven and blessed.

And perhaps it appears

you’ve been the rogue star

of a sign in long exile

far away from now

and that might account

for your misplaced trust in mirrors

and your lack of confidence in star maps.

Happiness just happens

like good luck and grace

and the creative inspiration

to rejoice in your time and place here

as if the purpose of your voice

were always to praise

even on the darkest of days

when the only thing

that shone in your eyes

weren’t the stars you kept

locked away in your tears

like the face paint of clowns

or the crown jewels of the Pleiades

but a bitter farce of black holes

in the veils of the mirage

that eclipsed your enlightenment

with a starless night

it’s impossible to get beyond.

And so it may well be

for those who’ve been

as far gone for as long you have.

But even the blind are shining

though they can’t see it

and the deaf are still singing

though they can’t hear it

and the dead are still living

though they can’t feel it.

And those who have given up seeking

still find what they were looking for

like a loveletter with a return address

and an open door that recognizes them

like the prodigal threshold

of a homeless human

about to cross one more

like the last step of a long journey

that lost its way back in all directions

like the radiance of a star in space and time

that never took its eye off the past.

We cherish the flowers of summer that bloom last

more poignantly than those of the spring

because we feel our own hour of farewell

in the progress of their passing.

The sadness of an earthly excellence

fulfilled and surpassed

we see in the shedding of the aster’s petals

and in the lowering of the wild rose’s eyelids

and in the lengthening of the black walnut’s shadows

that move like cool water

across the dry grass of a late afternoon

signs of the same night approaching us.

And we know it will be dusk soon.

We’ll look up at the blue moon in late October

and whether the silos are full or empty

wonder if every harvest

wears the same death mask we do

with the smile of a scythe on its face

or if the goddess of the grain

bears true witness to

the perennial innocence of death

in the way she enhances

the white spectre of the first frost

to shock the garden down to its roots

with the same koan she uses

to enlighten the dew on the stargrass.

And you might dread the coming excruciations

of the scarecrow immolated on the pyre

of its own substance

like the short straw of flesh

that once sustained it

lost in a draw with death.

And come to scorn your heart like an urn

filled with ashes in the aftermath

of the same fire that once filled it

so full of desire to bloom

it could no more contain itself

than a seed can keep a secret from the spring.

You could see it that way.

And who among those clinging

like a blue atmosphere

to this homeless grain of dust

in the vastness of these sidereal immensities

within and without

that animate us like starmud

to join in this dance of life and death

like a legacy of shining

that can’t be washed out of our eyes

though tears have fallen for lightyears

on the root fires of what we’ve loved and lost.

Who among these

could say you were wrong?

Because no river’s flowing

the wrong way to the sea

in this reunion of arrivals and departures

at the stations of our afterlives

on this wheel of birth and death.

We’re all going to make it back

to where we came from

one way or another.

Some like rain.

Some like ice.

Some like snow.

Some like the lingering ghost

of morning mist on the lake

that’s gone before noon

and some like water on the moon.

The flowing of the river

summoned by the sea

to the source of its coming and going

is the calling of life everywhere

to transcend itself

by passing into the unknown

like the available dimension of a future

that’s no further beyond us

than the past is

in the light of distant stars.

The sword doesn’t wound itself.

Fire doesn’t burn itself.

Water doesn’t drown in itself.

And life doesn’t bleed out of itself

like the dream of a fortune-telling poppy

or a water clock that’s run itself to ground.

The eye isn’t the seeing.

The ear isn’t the hearing.

The tongue isn’t the tasting.

The skin isn’t the touching.

The voice isn’t the saying.

The brain isn’t the thinking.

The heart isn’t the feeling

anymore than life

is the carrying in

and death is the bearing out.

The darkness isn’t a lack of light

and the light isn’t the absence of night.

Death is unborn.

Life is unperishing.

Formless in a world of forms.

Two wavelengths of the same awareness.

You say you can see night gathering

under the door you’re afraid to answer

long before anyone knocks

and though you dream by your own light

you don’t know who’s casting the shadows.

Is sorrow any younger in the heart of a child

than it is in the memory of an old man?

Joy any less vivid in the eyes of an old woman

attending to the flowers in her garden

than it is in a girl having tea with her dolls?

Is this day not as new to the widow

as it is to the newly-wed?

Experience is the capstone and dunce-cap

of the sum of destructions

that made us who we are today.

And in life it’s the brilliance of our failures

that throws more light on the dark matter

of the issue before us

than all the star power

of the blazing successes

that blind us to our own shining.

You step out of a backlit doorway

into the dark

and slowly the darkness grows

the eyes you need to see the stars.

And maybe death is like that.

Nothing to look at but black

until we blow the candle out

that’s been misleading us all the way.

Maybe that’s why the jaws of skulls

are always caught gaping at something

that’s more than they can say.

But look at the expressions on their faces.

Maybe their eyes

are too overwhelmed by what they’re seeing

to want to get in the way.

You could see it like that.

You could see it through the eyes of the rain.

You can taste it on the tongue of a candleflame.

You can read it from right to left

in the Kufic script of the wind.

You can hear it in what the stars are whispering

through the keyholes in the pyramids.

You can feel it all around you

like bubbles of skin and air.

Like empty rooms with atmosphere.

As many ways and roads and rivers as there are

that flow into it down the world mountain

back to the sea

back to the same undifferentiated watershed

of these myriads of mystic specificity

and who could number them all

as many as the stars

or all the grains of sand

of all the deserts and beaches on earth

as many as the dead of every kind who’ve come and gone

all that blood mind passion dream and imagination

all those tears all that despair lucidity and apprehension

love and familial affection

all that waste and hatred and emotional sewage

dissolved wholly back into the sea

like a watercolour left out in the rain

like a name written on water

by a poet who died young

in a foreign language far away from home

just as birth arrays the universe before us

and says make of it what you can

so death approaches no less a peer of life

than we are in our relationship with all things

and offers us

the same great creative opportunity life does.

Green bough.

Dead branch.


Moon rise.

The hidden night bird alights

on either alike

and folding its wings

like gates and books

and the eyelids of those who dream

at the beginning and end

of a long dark radiant journey




In Perth Ontario tonight the willows are drying

the new born pearl of the moon with their hair.

A small town in the dark is feeling smaller

in the enormity of the universe

that reveals its mystic intimacies

and then just as sublimely ignores it.

An East Indian family

is arranging the all night fluorescent lotus

of Mac’s Milk at four in the morning

the way I’ve seen ants

supervise the budding of white peonies.

Fuzzy’s ghost is scrutinizing

the sidewalk and parking lot

outside the Imperial Inn

looking for lost wallets

cash drugs earrings and watches.

He once amazed me before he died

with what he’d found after the bars close

and I could tell by the intelligence and passion

he infused into the search

and the revelation of how good he was at it

and how lucrative and lucid it was

to be a scavenger

that he was incorrigibly nocturnal

and this was his enlightenment path.

A long train whistle like a bawling calf

stuck in starmud down by the Tay River

where the loosestrife and goldenrod

fight it out over the wetlands

like complementary colours.

The smell of autumn stars on the wind.

The brittle petals of beer bottles smashed on Devil’s Rock.

I rejoice under my breath

in the bleakness of my solitude

as I make my way through the arsenal

of wooden pikes

and the masts of toppled birch

shipwrecked along the shores of the river

scouting out the best places to paint and stargaze

because it always makes me feel

one step closer to the absence of God.

Eyes gleam in the darkness

like arresting flavours of light.

Racoons muskrats and feral cats.

We have no business with each other

but we’re aware that the other’s there.

We freeze in a moment of mutual apprehension

and then get on with it.

The seeking and the need.

This emptiness that refuses to be full

in the midst of so much it could hunger for.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Honeysuckle and wild raspberries.

Enclaves of sap green shadows

where the grasshoppers take shelter from the sun.

Cerulean blue chicory by the side of the road

and star clusters of New England asters

thrust like a bouquet of constellations

through the broken down stave

of a cedar rail fence

that’s past caring

whether it keeps things in

or lets them out.

Here once

many years ago

I tried to live far away from pain

and here again

though I know better now

than to think paradise

is any kind of anodyne

my eye is caught off guard

by every manner of earthly excellence

that isn’t ambivalent or deceitful.

I once walked this dirt road

for five miles one night

followed by what looked like

a black wolf with ruby eyes

that flashed like an ambulance in the moonlight

every time I turned around

to see if it was still there

or if it were closing on me.

A fire walk of fear.

I won’t say I found courage that night.

I would say I was unscared.

The moon weaves silver dreamcatchers

for the spiders

and even the low growl

of a wilderness that’s grown curious about you

can be a liberating mantra.

I approach this place

like the creative imagination of a good teacher

unfurling the sails of the morning glory

like spare parachutes

to catch the wind

and sail all the way down the Yang-tze River

like the swans of anonymous loveletters.

Violet loosestrife and goldenrod.

Flowers are what

complementary colours look like

when they’re dancing.

And here I learned

picking up the skulls of squirrels and groundhogs

as if they were pinecones

and watching the bewilderment

of a wounded doe

try and fail to clear a fence

that would have been child’s play to her yesterday

and the two children

buried before they were four

at the turn of the century

up on the top of the high hill

under a shipwreck of an oak

that’s never put to sea

how death is as equally acceptable to life

as life is to death.

The wild grapevines

are writing their own kind of music

drunk on whole notes

and the dragonflies are coming down

like C.I.A. drones

on cells of terrorist mosquitoes.

Though I’m cellularly immersed in it

there’s a gap between me and nature

that isn’t so much the space between

one thing and another

as it is a bubble of thought and passion

in a great sea of vivifying awareness

washed up on the shores of consciousness

like a bottle from a faraway place

with no message inside

except light years and light years of longing.

Nature is the midwife of a serial killer.

Nature is the dark mother that gives birth to all things.

Nature is a metaphor for me

as I am for it.

A coincidence of the contradictories.

Closer than a face is to its own reflection.

Closer than the sea is

that wraps this airy nothing in a skin of water

and then treats it to the tattoo it’s always wanted

on its birthday

like the sign of the house it was born under

in the black stars of an unforgettable constellation.

Someone once said

that death was self-containment.

I disagree with that.

Life is a bubble.

And poof !

In the twinkling of an eye

there goes the neighbourhood.

Death is rapid expansion into the open.

Life toes the threshold

but it’s death that crosses it

and enters its homelessness

like the primordial atom

on the road to nowhere

that isn’t here and now.

Down to the swamp

to check out the water lilies.

I painted down here for years

with a French easel as shaky as a fawn

getting up on its folding legs for the first time.

A blue heron snaps the air like a wet sheet

and startles the frogs into popcorn.

Life soup.

Green scum.

A deer path

and a beaver

repairing a mud hut

that would have turned into civilization

if it hadn’t harvested trees

instead of grass.

You can hear the silence

of a watchful presence

over and above the sounds

of life going on all around you

when you’re alone in a marsh like this.

You can smell the transformation

of the duff and decay

into the beauty food of the waterlilies.

You can tine the air like the tongue of a snake

and taste the cauldron brewing

the eye of the newt

and the one-legged frog

into the ambrosia of water hyacinths

as blue as Raphael.

I feel like the sorcerer’s apprentice

the first day on the job.

A praying mantis.

A Vietnam of dragonflies.

But what I saw here day after day

through all four seasons of the year

I’d come down here to paint

showed me nature is nurture

and life suckles at death’s tit.

But you can’t tell

who’s being raised by whose assassin.

Who’s the exit.

Who’s the entrance.

Because there’s just one big open gate

hinged like birds to the sky

with nothing written above it

as a sign of welcome or warning

and you’re greeted by nothing but your own presence.

And I’ve sat out here by myself

until the first light of morning

just to look for clues among the stars.

But the mysteries don’t answer you

like questions it occurred to you to ask

They go on and on forever

like wounded joys

the radiance and the wonder

cut so deep

they never want to heal.

You can appeal to the stars for clarity.

You can look for small suggestions in the grass.

You can get a feel

for where the wildflowers

like to gather in abandoned fields

and where the pioneers

who grew them in gardens

just behind the summer kitchen

like Bouncing Bet

whose sap they used for soap

buried the tiny children

who died of scarlet fever

under the crude grave stones

of the Canadian Shield.

And the hills they chose like nannies

to watch over them

with beauty and affection.

And the silence and the sorrow

of the long sparse walk

back down to the farm without them.

And when you put your ear up to their abyss

you’d swear you could hear their voices

asking you the same questions

that they asked of themselves.

Is there a meaning to all this

that’s more than just a flash

of lightning and fireflies?

Anything you can say or feel about life

that isn’t always two children shy of the truth?