DARKER THAN THIS NEVER BEFORE
Darker than this never before.
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.
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.
Hearts and bones break
when everyone gets so drunk
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
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.