Monday, April 4, 2011


The nightwind is dancing with the leafless trees

under a new moon

as if they were crutches

that couldn’t keep up with its moves.

April night.

All potential.

Lilac month in the valley

and blue hyacinth soon

in the corners of forgotten yards

and for the first time today

down by the Tay where the willows

are going blonde

that bruise of a flower

that looks like a cross

between a broken egg and the moon.

A crocus

like a dab of violet paint

in the foreground of a drab impression.

The apple-trees are waiting for their brides like blossoms.

Saturn’s in Virgo

and I’m out for stars

on my hobby-horse of a telescope

that’s jealous of the easel I paint on

because it thinks it’s the unheralded genius

and can do more with light

than that other moron.

More Copernicus for the moment

than van Gogh

I cut through fields

that look like November all over again

now that the snow’s gone

to keep from being blinded

by the blazing of the town

attentive as a doe to the barking

of distant farmyard dogs.

I’m a one man band of snapping twigs

and slashing branches

moving deeper into the silence

away from windows and doors.

My telescope sneers at the vanity

of birches posing in the nude

because they’ve heard I’m a painter

into feminine nocturnal effects.

And I’ve been here before

looking for suitable subjects

but tonight I’m out for stars

and the wounded mystery of being alone

in a place that everything’s adapted to

but where nothing feels it belongs

to judge by the way they keep to themselves.

Wherever I am

the stars have always reminded me of home

as if this were the place of exile

and the testing ground

of life on earth

to see who makes it back

and I am stilled and mindbound

by such a commingling

of longing wonder and sadness

my blood burns like a lovesong

to the great absence that keeps us apart

and how much time and distance it takes

to abandon a heart that clings

like colour to the clouds.

How much darkness

must be intensified by a human

into black matter

before the ore

is prodigal with light.

All the good stars are going down with Taurus

though I can see the snakes

still flaring lethally in Al Gol

like the Medusa’s severed head

and there’s that poor man’s chandelier

the Pleiades

still enchanted with the charms

of Alcyone and her sisters

though like me

they’re getting on in years.

Longer wavelengths

Longer shadows

shifting into infrared.

All the blue-white fury

that was the frequency of my youth

the mellow yellow of the autumnal truth

that the seeing might be as ageless

as the perennial insight

into the beginningless birth of the mind

but my eyes are estranged from the light

like two drops of water on a starless night

ripening like bells

sweetened by thoughts of perishing

above the abyss below them.

Hanging from the tip of a blade of stargrass

they’re trying to remember

without crying

what became of the wedding

that wore them like an orchard up the aisle

before they’re lowered

like the eyelids of a crocus

and disappear

into the source of themselves

like a well that can’t hold back its tears

when it remembers

light on the mindstream

like a voice in a dream

they haven’t heard for years.

What can you say?

Life is a breathful.

And if I were to guess

it’s probably better that way.

Don’t wear the silver off the mirror

with too much looking

but glance at it out of the corner of your eye

in passing

as if to say under your breath

o.k. you’ve got my attention

what now?

You should stay alert to things

without crowding them out of their eyes

the way a snakecharmer

listens to the cobra

not his flute

and maintains his dangerous distance.

And don’t judge things by their magnitude.

Sometimes it’s the dim stars

like the pale one above the middle

of the brightest three in Andromeda

that can lead you to a galaxy.

But there too you have to look askance

even to see hundreds of billions of stars

shining at such a great distance

right next door.

When everything in the knowable world is relative

it’s because of the interdependence of its origins

on everything else

and blood is thicker than water

except when it’s not

but when all is said and done

we’re all the seventh son of the seventh son

of an identity theft.

Muddy Waters

there’s another mule

kickin in your stall.

Born of fire without smoke

you’re a jinn.

Born of water without ice

you shine like a sea urchin.

Born of earth without roots

there’s starmud on your boots.

Born of air without clouds

you’re welcome everywhere.

Born of stars without eyes

you come as quite a surprise to them.



In the eye of the hurricane rose

all is as calm as a bee

as my world is shed around me

like eyelids.

The racket of Canada geese

holding a political rally

high over everybody’s heads

a thousand feet straight up

as the economy returns like spring.

I know what it is

to be a phoenix of a tree

and lose your leaves

like a fire that goes out in the night.

I used to be a snowman

and purified myself

with my own disappearance

when things warmed up.

Now I’m a scarecrow

with nothing to chase away

except the farmer.

It wasn’t me

that held a grudge against the birds.

Everything’s wrong

but it’s all right

the chaos is vividly illustrated

with picture music

and I’m wearing my eye in my ear

and there’s a keyboard and an easel near

like a skeleton with a forced grin.

A painting a day.

Van Gogh on steroids.

But I can’t afford to eat my cadmium yellow

and they’re not handing out food for thought

at the back of the think-tank anymore.

I don’t know what to say

about all those people

who set out to be artists

and wound up being stores.

People eat.

People pay the rent.

Baby needs new shoes.

Benign reason can smother an artist

faster than the demands of a serial killer

in the hands of the pillow she dreams upon

and the tigers of wrath

who are wiser than the horses of instruction

who took so easily to the cart

as Blake said in his sayings from hell

soon learn that heroism isn’t smart

if you don’t want to be hunted into extinction

by judas-goats in the jungle

for your private parts.

And then if you get through the blackwater of all that

like a battered waterlily after a storm

that doesn’t have any respect for nuns

comes a swarm of dabblers and nibblers

like one of the plagues of Egypt

the blackflies the maggots the tapeworms

that pose like paper butterflies

on the lips of origami flowers

for Japanese tourists

into unenlightened North American haikus

about cherry blossoms

that never fall on dogshit.

The eternal sky

doesn’t inhibit the flight of the white clouds

and you can see that

as clearly in a dirty puddle in a parking lot

as you can through the eyes of the Buddha.

Life is a bubble.

A firefly.

A distant star.

A lightning bolt.

You don’t need to transplant

a plastic cornea

into the pineal gland of your third eye

in order to see like the Hubble.

You just need to gain some elevation.

You just need to break

the surly bonds of earth

and get into orbit awhile

if you’re looking for an overview

that isn’t just another footnote

in a Restoration play

trying to refine Shakespeare

by turning real diamonds

into zircon costume jewellery

that makes the light taste like junkfood.

I approach life

by putting the pedal to the metal

like an absolute constant

as if it were already behind me

like the light of a star in all ten directions

that stays ahead of itself

so that time cannot encompass it

like a fletcher turning freebirds into arrows.

There are no zeniths and nadirs in the void.

Don’t try to live like a curve ball on the straight and narrow.

Space isn’t mutable

once you’ve achieved ultimate volume and mass

and stand eye to eye with the universe

you don’t want to meet

until you can both sit down

on equal ground

and come to some kind of mutual understanding.

Don’t use a lie

to go divining for the truth

when the truth isn’t water

it’s a weathervane.

All things change when we do.

The first word ah blossoms into all others

and they’re all true

said some master I’ve forgot.

If it hasn’t got a womb

don’t listen to its myth of origin.

If it isn’t a lifeboat

don’t get in

or better yet

learn to swim on your own.

Writing poetry is like pearl-diving for the moon

at the bottom of your tears.

If you want to go deep

you can’t bottle an emergency atmosphere

like a backup breath

to keep Atlantis from drowning

when the fish are already swimming

through your windows

like new insights

into your fathomless past.

But if you don’t have the depth

to be a shipwreck

don’t keep an albatross on deck

a spider on watch

in the ropes of your mast

or mistake a siren

for the cutting edge

of a figurehead

and fix her to your bow

and expect to avoid the rocks.

It’s the loneliness of the moon

that makes the loon sing

on the lake

not a parrot that talks.

Poetry isn’t just a matter

of picking up the flattest stones

that wash up from your oceanic emotions

about what it was like

to go skinny-dipping with Medusa on the moon

to make them scan

skipping out over a sea of tranquil shadows.

Words are waterbirds.

Not flightplans.

They know where all the best mirrors are

to make a good landing

and which are blind and dangerous

but poetry isn’t about keeping the lights on at night

along your runways and starmaps

or tracking fireflies on a radar screen in a lighthouse

as the circling muse runs low on fuel

trying to get her wheels down.

You can’t grind inspiration out

and expect to be ambushed by a muse

as if she were a clown in a musical jack-in-a-box

and not the serpent at the well

when you go for water.

Where are the elixirs

where are the toxins in your voice

where are the fangmarks that punctuate your pulse?

Where is the lamia that shed your lunar skin

with a spiritual knife

just before she cut your heart out

at the top of a pyramid of prophetic skulls

without an afterlife to speak of?

If you’re still around to assess

what you’ve sacrificed

to the dead ends of poetry

you haven’t died enough

to make it live.

You’re still a highway not a river.

Roadkill in a crosswalk

not a mindstream that can talk to stars

with intensity

about the return of the great blue herons

to the prodigal begging bowls of last year’s nests.

Puppets dance to the strings of laughing liars.

Make kindling of them.

Make fires

and throw Pinnochio in

if you want to sit with heretics

that tell the truth

as if every word of it

were a death wish

the genies hear in silence

as the lamps

turn themselves down low

to maintain their decorum

as they bite their tongues like flames.

Words are to names

as visuals are to visions

and images are to symbols.

The first mean precisely what they say.

Accurate simulacra.

Clear as day.

A photograph not a painting.

But it’s the lense that mimics the eye

not the other way around

and when the telescope’s

brought down to earth

like seed is to tree

like light is to life

they’re both wide-eyed flowers

gaping at their own interpretation.

The mind is an artist.

The mind is a scientist.

The mind is a poet a postman

a baglady sorting through her own garbage.

The mind can paint the worlds

as the Flower Ornament Scripture said.

You can paint them yellow blue black or red.

Reality’s an atomic pointillist.

Reality’s the negative space

around an impressionist lifeboat

full of light

as the waves give chase to the children.

Reality’s a crazed expressionist.

Reality’s a forty thousand year old cave painting.

A fresco in a womb full of correspondences

simulated in the flesh of the great mother

who keeps giving birth to the animals

late at night

after everyone’s gone home

and the gallery’s closed.

Back to Blake.

What is first imagined is later proved.

You live in the world you paint

you write you carve you think you feel

you play like your father’s guitar.

You can paint it with windows with mirrors

with ion microscopes.

You can make a painting of a painting

and call it a work in progress

that improves upon the original

like a host is enhanced by a guest

or a ghost in a different dress.

Or you can minimalize the picture plane like space

and despise perspective

and hold it up to your face

like a mugshot to a detective

to see if you can recognize anyone

by the pattern of the blood spatter.

Tired of working with the light in Monet’s garden.

Cross the Japanese bridge above the waterlilies

over to the other side of the equation

and work with matter

as if you were ploughing paint

to plant potatoes.

But whatever you express

worlds within worlds within worlds

whatever your medium

be it stars or Mars black

heaven or hell

or the triune identity of earth

water land and sky

remember they all find their equivalence

in your creative energy

acting on its own potential

as if the abyss spontaneously

took matters into its own hands

and out of nothing

out of its own emergence

out of its own bright vacancy

and dark abundance

out of the synergic emptiness

of its own unidentifiable likeness

to everything that exists in your imagination and beyond

made this.



Late spring snow on its way.

Dead ochres and colourless greys

that have never heard of the impressionists.

It’s a landscape

it’s a mindscape

but it behaves like a still life.

I’ve been staying up late

trying to paint my way

out of my life

until dawn every morning.

The windowpane a ripening phthalo blue.

It’s compositionally deranged

to hear the birds singing

when you’re totally exhausted.

Mentally physically spiritually emotionally financially

gone gone gone altogether gone beyond.

All my happy endings orphanned.

A sum of depletions.

I’m living this creative life

scribbling down the notes of the picture-music

that doesn’t just run through my mind

but is my mind

colours and words

down on canvas and paper.

When I’m writing

when I’m painting

when I’ve wholly disappeared into what I’m doing

for a few holy hours of life

immensities open up like the multiverse

and I’ve got a window a wormhole

I can fly through

and out out out among the starfields

with the evanescence of smoke

or a bird

putting itself in the picture

as a finishing touch to the sky.

And I am free to explore the intensities

of my own creative peace

as I keep saying to myself

one eureka moment after another

turning into a mantra

no no I can’t leave that.

I’ve got to bring that back and show them.

They’ll be delighted with that.

They won’t believe it.

You’ve got to write and paint with an open hand.

Let the brush hold you.

Let the pen.

Then you’re the meaning

of what the words are trying to say

and it’s o.k.

you don’t have to look any further than that.

Sublimity slips into the mundanities of the world

by creative accident

and you stand down from bliss

and spend a reverential moment

in its presence

just looking at it

not knowing where it came from

or whose work it is.

And it’s the wonder of that depth of ageless being

expressing itself as a gesture of time

that’s kept me at it

for forty-eight excruciating years.

I get off this chain gang

where I’ve broken down more rocks than a junkie

or saxifrage in the rain

and the pain the labour

the enervating futilities

and terminal successes

of all those ambitions

that run counter to the flow of life like salmon

disappear from my bloodstream

like apparitions in the morning.

And I am more me

the less I grow aware of it.

When I consider the chronic agony of life

I sometimes think that God created the world

not because she was a hidden secret

that wanted to be known

but because she wanted to forget she was God

and lose every cosmos and atom of herself wholly in it.

Paint till dawn and you’ll know what that means.

As the great Zen master sort of said

you can swallow the whole of the river you’re painting

with a single gulp.

You can chug the well of the muses

with every drop.

And just when you think

you’re working in a medium of illusions

that are playing you like a gravedigger

that likes to get to the bottom of things

they all begin to taste of life.

The mirages water the flowers

in this desert of stars

and everything blooms.

You’re back in the garden again

before anybody knew anything but the names of things

to distinquish them from the angels

and life was too vital to need an explanation.

As you go to write

you can take all your dark energy

and intensifying it

by letting it empower you

bend space into a gravitational eye

that gives you a deep insight into

how even a blackhole can be creative.

How what’s been left out of the shadows and lights

says as much as that which was included.

Who you are not

is just as much of an artist

as the one who signs the painting.

And don’t think you can do things by half measures

one foot in the boat

and one foot on the shore.

Talent knows the tear

but genius knows what hurt

the feelings of the watershed that let it fall.

It’s the same in art poetry love enlightenment life.

You’ve got to let a mask every now and again

wear your face just to play fair

and see how things look from the inside out.

You’ve got to let the fireflies

make up stories about the stars

that haven’t got anything to do with shepherds.

You got to be free enough

to let the world be all kinds of things it isn’t.

You can only hex yourself

by taking a voodoo doll out of the arms

of a sleeping child

like the new moon out of the arms of the old

because you deny the darkness within you

its return to innocence

and try to separate the roses from the thorns.

Living your life

as if you were always

applying yourself to the world

like the task of the business at hand

is as destructive

as trying to pry the petals of a flower open

with a crowbar

because you haven’t got the time to wait.

Paradise is effortless.

It doesn’t have a gate.

It doesn’t have a custodian.

It doesn’t maintain a teacher.

Adam was born knowing the names of things.

Not how to keep books

on the comings and goings

of the saints and the miscreants.

The first lie out of a tempter’s mouth

is to ask Eve if she believes

she’s worthy of the truth

as if it were something that could be acquired

without her.

There’s more innocence

in running the risk of being left out

than there usually is among the deluded

who play it safe by dissing their doubt

to be included.

You’ve got to take your church your mosque

your zendo your synagogue off at the door

as if they were hats and shoes

when you enter a holy place

or you’ll track the world in

like starmud at your heels

and desecrate it with religion.

And this is as true of Druidic birchgroves

in an abandoned Westport field

with the wild geese flying overhead

just as the stars are coming out

as it is of a poet climbing burning ladders

up to his beloved

as if every rung were the vertical threshold

of a mutable transformation

that estranges and illuminates her face like water

as it changes his eyes.

Don’t add your feather of flame to the fire

like the flightplan of a faint-hearted phoenix

with ambulances standing by

in case things get out of hand

but light yourself up like a Buddhist monk in Vietnam

or a filial vegetable seller in the souks of Tunisia

who set the Middle East on fire

and consume yourself wholly

until there’s nothing left of the geni but the lamp.

When you let the way come to the end of you

how can you say you’re lost?

That’s where your freedom begins.

When the object of your quest

can’t find anyone to look for it

and there’s no one there to know

King Lear writes Shakespeare

and David sculpts Michelangelo.