Wednesday, March 23, 2011


for Alysia

Since I last wrote to you

I told a Napoleonic goldfish

who thought she ruled the shark bowl

to take my job and shove it

as the measure of a man

who still hasn’t acquired the habit

of eating shit

and calling it his daily bread.

I’ve gone back full time to my art

and now I’m eating paint

and enduring the tedium of terror

in a dangerous life

struggling to pay the rent

as I paint and write

knowing I am bereft of the elements of life

for refusing to be economically deprived of my freedom.

If you’re never hungry

you’ll never know what it means to eat.

I laugh blackly like a raw martini

at the cutting edge of irony

when I think of my art as a Zen oxymoron

that’s discovered a way of starving

that bears fruit.

I can taste my food better now

and if I don’t waste anything

it’s a much happier experience

when it isn’t done out of principle.

I count the probability of the number of years

I have left to live

the springs and autumns

I have yet to become

on my fingers and toes.

And I try not to let my disappointment

in the humanity of demons

keep my heartwood

from blowing tree-rings up to heaven

just to give the angels something to crow about.

I’m alone and sad most of the time

and lately I’ve noticed my solitude

flirting with the idea

of turning into a conviction.

Women approach me

with the ambivalence

of a koan in their gut

they can’t resolve.

But it’s not a good idea

if you’re trying to get laid

to baffle the mystery

with your estrangement

and I strive real hard

as often as I can

not to spook

the middle-aged youth

by being a younger man.

I greet guests warmly when they arrive

but it’s rare that I grieve for anyone

when they leave

like most of what was left out of the conversation

we didn’t have

about who among us was telling the truth.

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

that didn’t bore me.

I’m an all-inclusive recluse

more interested in studying the psychology of time

as I get to know it experentially

as the immediate intimacy

of the serial-killer at my throat.

I’ve decultified my work

to keep it from turning into a career

but even as we speak

five poems are being translated into Spanish.

And upon learning

I was the last poet laureate of Ottawa

and after me there was no deluge

they could find to fill

the empty ark of my shoes

I emptied on the mountain top:

or I bruised everyone’s feelings so much

like a pebble in their boot

that turned into an avalanche

I endangered my species with extinction.

Whatever the case

I feel the mystic glee of blacklight fireflies

igniting randomly

like stars and lighthouses

I’ve never listened to

about looking for shelter

from the storm of dark energy

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

And my spirit and mind

have missed you too

as the months have gone by

as if the colour of my blood in autumn

were missing from my palette

and my heart were an urgent artist

who wanted to get out

and paint with you in Kamloops

where the rivers meet in a sacred place.

I’ve never wanted facebook

to be all that I know of your beautiful face

or the starmaps of our cosmic loveletters

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

I can still see the stars mirrored in the flowers

in our gateless garden on the moon

where the roses that fell on their thorns

have healed well enough

to go on blooming without us.

I think I felt more like a weed than the waterlily

I wanted to bring into your life

like a paper ship

I floated down the mindstream

to see if my favourite siren

had any use for an empty lifeboat like me.

On the worst of days

when misery gloated

that pleasure might be a principle

but it was a fundamental law of the universe

even as a shipwreck going down

I could still be entranced

by the memory of your singing.

You get a different view of moonlight

when you look at it

with the eye of the sea

from the bottom.

And now once again

your voice pearls me

like a grain of sand

you can see in the universe

if you look closely enough

under the stones

where the angels keep their ancient places.

And I couldn’t be more delighted

that you still love me

and that your heart aches

like an unanswered telephone

or a wounded seance

when my ghost doesn’t answer my absence.

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

for so long waiting for you

to pour your ocean into me

I was beginning to think

the vast expanse of my interminable emptiness

was nothing more

than the homely measure

of a cracked teacup

the little I’ve known of you

that was wet

kept leaking out of.

And it would take a great void

to embrace the depth of your waters

and a clear sky immense enough

not to inhibit the flight of your white clouds

and even if my feelings

were to break

like telescopic mirrors on your rocks

it would take a great three-eyed stargazer like me

not to see that you can’t point

to a piece of me

like the firefly chandelier

of a shattered constellation

that was too spaced out

to fit into anyone’s zodiac

that doesn’t still reflect the whole you

on any good seeing night.

I look at you

as I look at the stars

and you’re the lucid muse

of what’s radiantly possible

deep in the dark secret heart of the improbable.

And I want to reach out

like the uppermost branches

in the crown of an inspired tree

and touch you on the cheek

as if my fingertips

were a chaos

of falling apple bloom.

I want to fall asleep with you

and share the same dream

that summons the waterbirds

and scatters the Japanese plum

like loveletters everywhere

under the eyelids of the wind.



I can feel my thoughts tearing my mind

as if it were a piece of paper.

As if space had a zipper.

I’m playing Russian roulette

with cosmic bubbles in hyperspace

and I’ve got a hole in me.

A puncture.

And I’m leaking out.

I need a new universe

that’s never heard of lifeboats and arks

to acommodate all the dimensions

and inflections of my afterlife

there is no room for in this one.

The grapes are wounded

on the thorns of the barbed wire

that runs up my back like a spine.

Metal stars that don’t shine

like neo-romantic legends

that bloom on the vine

The right flowers

but the wrong lifeline.

My blood.

Their wine.

The full moon at lunar perigee.

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

and more illusive

than its bluesy encore in October.

Canada geese high overhead at night

because the ice is late in leaving.

There’s nowhere to land.

Cataracts on the shattered mirror.

There’s a sadness in the passage of life

whether it’s coming or going

that transcends the complexities

of what we think we understand

of the grand and beautiful

with the homely immensities of knowing.

Shards of sky in the funeral home parking lot

I keep falling into

taking a shortcut home

like a lost waterbird

with deranged magnetons

trying to fly through windows and mirrors

and spring rain on the unresponsive asphalt.

Someone’s torn out the eyes of the stars

and all I can see

are the black snake-sockets

in the skulls of the leering dice

leading me on through this white night

like the blind luck

of a negative of a photographic starmap

of the thirteenth house of the zodiac

the sun never enters for fear

of infectious eclipses

crossing their heart

like white paint on a plague-door.

Someone’s ripped out the tongue of the wind

like the dead language of a leaf in autumn

and every superstition is listened to

as if it were good advice.

God I miss the fireflies and the loosestrife

and the timelessness of long country roads

that don’t care if they ever go anywhere.

But now isn’t then

and I’ve given up approximating

what’s been bereft of reality

as if I knew.

Is anyone out there?

Would you answer me if you were?

Leave the bottle.

Leave the message.

No one’s coming to the rescue.

The skulls of all of yesterday’s selves

turn into the dice of the moment

and the moment keeps coming up snake-eyes.

I paint.

I write.

But the heavy water of my tears

isn’t intimate enough

with the plutonium intensity

of the rogue reactor my heart has become

to keep myself from melting down.

It’s easy enough

to second-guess yourself

into being someone while you’re alive

but it’s a lot harder to know

who they’ll be burying when you die.

I expect more lies have gone south than truths.

Or if you’re into transmigrating soulfully with the dead

like the Ojibway Pythagoras or ancient Iranians

in the bodies of Canada geese

in late September

when the asters come up

like expressionist constellations

to challenge the classical traditions of the old

and you’re an oxymoron like me

who prefers two wings on his angels

in a coincidence of the contradictories.

And sometimes three.

Then you could always look back on your youth

and ahead to your death

as if life were a hole in the truth

and you can’t fall into love with one

without assenting to the other.

But if you’re completely honest with yourself

nothing does any good.

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

By the time you see it

it’s somewhere else.

Life is always changing.

Life is a shapeshifter.

A dream-breather.


The river’s turning.


The great serpent of desire


playing the flute

to charm herself

as she swallows her fangs like swords

and eats her own fire.

And it’s one of the strangest

mystic twists in life’s crazy wisdom

a reflection in a warped funhouse mirror

the simultaneity of two spaces in one

that seeing is being

and like the moon on water

like enlightenment and life

they don’t submit to the knife

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

In order to know yourself as you were.

In order to know yourself as you are.

The original star.

You have to be someone else.

I look back over the years at what lives

and what dies

and how all the lies come true

and all the truths turn false

and all I can feel is a sorrow

so deep and beautifully devastating

in the heart of my most adored illusion

that all I can hear

is the sound of my tears

letting go of my eyes

as if it were their turn for a change

to do the falling.

As if they longed like the waters of life

like broken windows

that finally put their fist through the view

to be someone else.

As if the only way

to be truly me

is to be truly you.

As if it were you here alone by yourself

fighting for your life after midnight

with a painting knife in one hand

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

trying to take cheap shots at your art

as your blood turns cadmium yellow deep

and the sunflowers bow their heads and weep

at the futility of these excruciating transformations

I keep going through

like a small boy’s notion of being the hero

who puts on a mask like Zorro

and faster than light

with the sword of a painting knife

or the toxic arrow of a Mongol rainbow in reverse

a spitting cobra

loosed from behind like the line of poem

from a galloping horse

falls on and by it again and again

as if his life were the wounded zero

that came to the rescue of the endangered one

by making everything ten times more immense than it is.

I put wings on the snake.

I put wings on the horse.

I put wings on the fires of life

and watch them rise like a phoenix

that has no fear of flying too close to the sun

or plummeting to its death like Icarus.

If you want to learn to fly without wax

you’ve got to be sincere.

Tar and feathers don’t have enough

of the right stuff

to make it to the moon and back.

I ride the dragon.

I swallow the moon

and speak in the tongues of prophets

that regurgitate whales

to turn the vomit into perfume.

It’s raining eyes outside.

I ride the light like Einstein

on his way home from his work as a clerk

in the Swiss Patent Office

and stop time on the drop of a dime

to lengthen my life interminably

like a repeating decimal

that refuses to be defined by its limits.

I summon the corpses of the absolutes

buried in the graveyards of relativity

to a seance of vandals

that knocks them over like headstones

that are too slow on their feet

to win the argument.

The worst way to try to understand an artist

is to believe whenever they say something

they know what they mean.

Stop listening to them

as if you were talking to the dead.

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

to understand the psychology of green.

Colour is food for the hungry.

Colour is the fire of the burning bush.

Colour turns one face to the public

and the other to the stars

like the moon.

Colour works until noon

and then takes a rest in a gesture of shadows.

Colour is the secret password

that the blood says to the heart

when it’s too late to stay open

and it asks what thing come thus

and the blood flashes its familial mood ring

like an angry chameleon

and says

there’s room in there for both of us.

Red’s always willing to take a chance

and be the first to leave home

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

And if black looks dangerous

to the righteous greys

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

Black is at peace with who it is

like a life-changing experience

that can’t be shared

because there’s no birth or death in it.

Black doesn’t act like a rainbow

when the rain makes love to the sun.

And it doesn’t despair when the colours run

like painted tears

and autumn leaves

in a downpour.

Black is the last mirror

your eyes will ever look for themselves in

before they break into clarity

realizing there’s no one there but them

to be whatever colour they want to be.

Right now I’m full of creative admiration

for the chromatic aberration

of ferocious chandeliers of fireflies

and the wet dreams of reflecting telescopes

who have both eyes open in orbit

and burn with the wonder of life

as if they just spotted a naked woman

bathing in stars

to wash off last years’ constellations

like the smell of old loveletters to the light.

But every time I try to emulate them aurorally

it’s everything I can humanly be

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

between a full eclipse of the moon

and a death-wish with a geni.

It puts the whole of me into every picture

where I feel I’ve always belonged.

I live in a the foursquare tent of a canvas home

I can set up anywhere like an easel

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

where I live from one mirage to the next

by painting them to look like real water.

But then I’m scraped out

like a drastic colour

when the well runs dry

at the beginning of every spring

and there isn’t enough viridian around to cry

or burnt sienna left to try.

And my geni can tell

by the way I’m abusing Prussian blue

how sad it is to be born

with the soul and eye of an artist

who revels in mixing his complementary passions

so every orange has its blue shadow

and every stiff-dicked bananna

the stillness of its violet afterlife.

Now the iris of my eye

is the random halo of light

around a blackhole

but it’s deep inside

where they can’t be seen

where the colours come to die

one by one like elephants

remembering a mindscape

they passed through many years ago

like a night of pthalo blue

and Payne’s gray

when they weren’t hunted into extinction

by a blacket market

for the warmth of their ivory whites.

And life was a master

who stepped into the on-site studio

at the last moment to rescue the fresco

from catastrophic banality

and make it live

by knowing exactly

when and where

with great abandon

to put the highlights in.