Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Someone keeps following me

like the shadow of who I was supposed to be.

The dark sibling of light

whose face got turned away from the sun.

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

He’s the one I was expected to achieve.

He’s the one I’m supposed to believe.

I’m what happened to him along the way.

And the defeat goes on and on and on.

I want to say look you were there.

You saw what went down.

How natural everything seemed at the time.

How inevitability governed everything like hindsight.

But he just stands there staring

if I were the most inconceivable thing on his mind.

He’s the son my mother should have had.

I’m the one she didn’t deserve.

He’s the blue flower.

And I’m the black dog.

He’s the favourite of the rain.

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

after putting out the fire.

He wanted to live a good life with laudable accomplishments.

He wanted to do well for himself

given where we were born

and he was groomed for it

by the very people who had made him poor.

He vowed to become one of them and thought

all shall be well all shall be well

all manner of thing shall be well

and he’d know the kind of self-respect

you just can’t get on welfare.

I went slumming with anyone

who was passionate or dangerous.

I’ve always felt guilty because

I wasn’t better than I am.

I think it was something

my mother kept saying in rage about me

when I was young.

And my tough old broom pod of a granny

always agreed.

I was so much more like my unforgiveable father

than my brother and sisters were

I could smell the burning flesh

of some kind of mark being branded on my heart.

O.K. I said

I’m evil but I’m smart

and there’s always poetry and art.

I’ll be self-destructively creative

and give myself up to visions in the desert

before they drive me out in May

when they cleanse the temples of smoke and incense

and they’re looking for a scapegoat

whose innocence is within question.

And that was the first great divide in the mindstream

between him and me

and after that we were two different shores

and one burning bridge.

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

that got left behind.

So here we are forty-eight years later

and he’s asking me with those

eery condescendingly accusing eyes of his

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

before I started living my life like a river

instead of a highway

and as much as I love the stars

dropped out of astronomy

because everything felt starless and unshining.

You can make more money

asking stars how old they are

and where they’re going spectrographically

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

through poetry and painting.

In art

things get worse

the better you get at them.

Abandon all hope ye who enter here.

You might still think of yourself

as an oscilloscope with a wavelength for a lifeline

but here you’re off the radar.

And I lived like that for years.

Women black coffee cigarettes and books.

I wanted to guide people by example

and lead them away from me.

I embodied the estranged compassion of the damned

in everything I did

and kept myself at an appropriate distance

in the aerial and thematic perspectives

of all my works.

I can empathize deeply with people

but seldom to the point

where I let them become me.

I have a plutonium soul

and the afterlife of a nuclear winter.

I’m one of the heavier elements of life

and my intensities are as natural to me

as the stability of his carbon is to him.

And the way I express myself

is more of an exorcism than a seance.

I dispossess myself of all things human

so they won’t be hurt by what’s left.

And I endure.

And I’ve got the energy

of an angry rogue star in my genes

that refuses to pale in his sunlight by comparison.

He graces our Russian Mongol ancestry with gilded graves

and tears that run like chandeliers

down his ballroom cheeks.

I trace it in lightyears

and leave the rest to chance.

He preens his decency.

I revel in the bright vacancy

the dark abundance

of my reptilian clarity.

He sees things in a white mirror.

I see through them in a black.

He mourns the things I do.

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

He thinks he’s the one who’s real.

And he resists me like temptation.

Not to feel might be the way to feel about Zen

but I indulge the passions of an unenlightened man

because I don’t trust purity

to remember that it’s just the fashion

of a passing moment

that buffs its own reflection in a doorknob

and passes judgment on the poor

with the stiff bliss of a happy slumlord.

His universe is Steady State.

Mine’s a Big Bang

empowered by a dark energy

that keeps accelerating my fate

into the void ahead of me

so by the time any kind of insight arrives

it’s always too late

to be news.

Right door.

Wrong address.

He’s the cornerstone.

I’m the quicksand.

He’s the habitable planet

and I’m the menacing asteroid.

He promotes evolution

and I’ve always got a rock in my hand

as big as the moon

to bring about a change in who rules

the windows and the mirrors

on the other side

of what they expect me to be in passing.

I’m the radical zero

who thinks it’s foolish

to try to make something out of nothing

given it’s already a given

and he’s the commonsensical whole number

that takes account of things.

He says he’s not perfect

to be arrogant about his humility

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

I try to carry my own weight

because I don’t expect much

in the way of serious intelligent help

but he gets around

like a corpse on everybody’s backs

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

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

whenever he walks on water without oars.

I’m the bottom-feeder that he abhors.

But I can take a handful

of the muck and decay of my starmud

and turn it into waterlilies.

I can make my perishing into something beautiful.

I can use death like a spontaneously renewable resource

and make things live

through the transformative power of my art

that are totally blameless

whether they be light or dark.

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

as if he were walking by the sea.

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

Women are attracted to me

like blood in the water

when they’re out far enough

to be thrilled by sharks.

I’m the zoo on the outside of the cage

that blunts its teeth on the bars.

He’s in it for the documentary footage

and a few convincing scars.

The sheep hunt tigers into extinction

and the goldfish are trawling

for grey nurses and great whites

to make sharkfin soup.

Even in hell

there’s a sense of proportion

almost a moral aesthetic

that goes unspoken

until someone spots a jackass

trying to lead an eagle around on a leash.

The distastes of a demonic imagination are not petty.

The taboo of the maggot

is not the rule of the whale.

So get behind me my shadow my brother self.

Don’t flash your lighthouse in my eyes

when the stars are out

as if I’m the one

that’s a few magnitudes shy of shining.

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

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

and forget who you are to everyone else.

I’ve never needed anything more

than the dust at my heels

to show me the way down.

I jump

and sometimes

I’m descending into heaven

and sometimes I’m plunging toward hell.

But what can you say about a man

standing at the edge of the bottomless abyss

of his own draconian absence

waiting for the flightfeathers of stray angels

with spare parachutes

to fall out of the sky?

I know you look so far down at me

from that overview

you’ve exalted like a balcony

that got it’s start in life as a pulpit

you suffer from vertigo.

But I could have told you little brother.

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

but I could have looked you straight in the eye

like a bemused king cobra

flaring over your nest like an unpredictable eclipse

or an umbrella somebody opened in the house

and diverted the luck of their lifeline

from the original course of its flowing

into a starmap for dice

pitted with eyeless blackholes

like the sockets in ivory skulls

lost in this wilderness alone

where nothing reminds them of home.

Alea iacta.

The dice are thrown.

You may be a better threshold than I am

but I’ve been crossed by the Rubicon

and I could have told you little brother

without even so much

as the penumbral shadow of a lie

to fall into your milk like a dragon.

I could have dipped

my other wing into your cup

as an antidote to clarify what ails you.

And as you drank up

I could have told you little brother.

The first shall be last

and the last shall be first

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

to antagonize the lowlife

with your insufferable highness

from your upper story balcony

as if you were always trying

to get something out of your eye

like me

who burns like a cinder

just to see if I can make God cry

to hear why

I would have told you little brother

even snakes can fly.