Friday, April 8, 2011


for Alysia

Hey I miss you too

even in the midst of my disintegration

even from here

after my phoenix went supernova

in the next galaxy over

in an amazing display of candle-power

I can hear the poignance of spring in your voice

like the greening of the sumac

from the ashs of its last cremation

or Persephone come back from the gibbering shades of hell

to gather flowers under the apple bloom in the orchard

without any fear of being bit in the heel

by a serial viper in the guise of a god.

My poetic skull may be bobbing toward Mitelyne

to compare mythologies of dismemberment

with Sappho and Terpander

and ask how long

a harp has to be dried on a windowsill

before you can break it like a wishbone

with someone you love.

But don’t look back this time like Eurydice

out of nostalgia

for the death you’re leaving behind

to pursue your love of poetry

and Orpheus will be thrice-blessed

by Hermes Tresmegistus

if you keep your face turned toward the sun

like the planet I was born under on a Wednesday.

I don’t mind losing my mind

as the understudy of a wornout poetical fashion

rehearsing the dying fall of Triassic pterodactyls

on the opening night

of a murder in the cathedral

that turned an Anglo-Saxon atheist into a Norman saint

who could take a chicken from the barnyard

and turn it into poultry on a plate

like two words for the same polyglot reality.

I can put up with that

like tongues wagging behind the back

of the Tower of Babel in Biblical PsychoBabylon

but I wouldn’t want to go on

without hearing your voice

this far from home

singing to me in my native language

from a hidden birchgrove in Kamloops.

It falls like moonlight on the burnt skin

of an appreciative demon

with the afterlife of a phoenix

who’s been out of touch it seems

for longer than the light has years to go by

with the one firefly who could change

the fixed stars of his burnt out constellation

like lightbulbs in a marquee

with the eyes of a double feature

starring you and me.

Amor vincit omnia.

Antony falls in love with Juliet

and Romeo sucks the poison out of Cleopatra’s tit

and we lower and raise

the same stand-in corpse

for both balcony scenes

like Lazarus in his youth

and Lazarus in late middle-age.

Two props on the same stage.

Two wings of the same lifespan

that can be measured by a lovescene

on a single page

like a purple passage

that slipped between the lines

to write a message on the mirror in the green room

meant for your eyes only.

I’m lonelier than a flowerless wind

who’s sick of scratching at leaves

that don’t know when to let go.

O Westron wind when wilt thou blow

so the small rain down can rain?

Ah, that she were in my arms

and I in my bed again.

The creative matrix of my inner space

has been so twisted by fear and pain

its got the umbilical cord

wrapped like an anaconda

around the neck of a cyanotically blue embryo

and everything it gives birth to

is a poster child for the terminally insane

with a begging bowl for a skull.

The glass isn’t half empty

or half full

it’s been smashed against the wall

for good luck

when it got hammered

on the shots it took at itself

like a sad poet

who expressed himself like a revolver

at an exuberant Russian wedding.

What are the chances of the wet dreams

of a fire hydrant

that’s fallen in love with an arsonist

ever coming true?

My love of you is phosphorus

and though I’ve been pouring myself out to you for so long

about the depths of it

even as I’m drowning

it’s grown as giganic as the squids and cucumber worms

that line up at the hydrogen sulphide foodbanks

of the volcanic fumaroles

at the bottom of the sea.

My love of you is phosphorus

nothing can put it out.

If you were to scoop up all seven seas

with a whale for a bucket

and pour them on a star

to play it safe with a campfire

and stamp on the last embers of sunset

still nothing would put it out.

It would keep on shining like Shakespeare’s star

and not bend with the remover to remove

but grow hotter and whiter in its passion

to get through your ozone

and touch you so tenderly

with days and nights

and flesh-quaking fingertips of light

so literate they can read the braille of your breasts

in five languages

and teach the princess

to kiss the cobra on the head so lightly

it would smile and mean it.

If you were to let me shine down on you

like an elemental table

eager to turn its fundamentals into forms

like a painter looking at his brushes

and tubes of brooding phthalo blue

and alizarin crimson

like a rose listening to Billy Holiday

or a poet burning with inspiration

looks at words anew

life would spring up all over you

and rocks would live and mountains walk

and the forests thrive as they used to

when there was no one there to hear them

and the sound of one hand clapping

wasn’t a snarling chainsaw

and the things that last in life

wouldn’t be set in rings

like the tears of the earth

like caged diamonds

but left to thaw

and run down your cheeks like twin rivers

glowing with bliss

like two buddhas laughing at the backdoor

to watch the leaves falling together

like the first draft of a long book

they could say in three words

to raise the dead in anybody’s language:

Amor vincit omnia.

Love conquers all.

If your earth and water

and my air and light

your spring and my autumn

ever got intimate with each other

in a commingling of the complementary colours

of the flesh and spirit

heart and mind

what can be said by day

and what must be left unspoken

until the darkness falls

when words return to their own voices like birds

and all we’ve got left to speak with are our hands.

If this were ever to pass

rainbows would break out at night

like mad impressionists with candles in their hats

and the full moon would wash providence

up on our doorstep

like someone who survived a flood of shadows

at high tide

and found themselves marooned

on an enchanted lunar island

as if they stumbled into the afterlife or Eden

or Dilmun

and its second innocence

was more experienced than the first

and wasn’t vulnerable

and wasn’t cursed

with fiery angels at the gate

that said You can’t come in.

It’s too late.

If you were ever to let me touch your roots

with a current of light

that surged through them like a shock of life

flowers would bloom

like bouquets of radio telescopes in the night

held up to the stars in gratitude

so exqusitely expressed

that even God would think

that she was appreciated at last

and ignorant cities all over the world

living in the darkness of their blazing

would crack their concrete koans

and be illuminated on the spot

like Hispanic shadows without any papers

suddenly given a way to live with dignity

and let everybody in

and say to the homeless stranger

Hey citizen

you got a place to stay

for the rest of your life?

My heart’s big enough for all of us.

Amore vincit omnia.

Love conquers all.

If this were ever to happen

what worlds would begin without a word said

what a habitable planet we would make together

what a thriving tribute to our starmud

free to follow its own imagination into life

and you the muse that inspired it

and me the expressionist painter

who added a touch of genius to the light.

What an example of radiance

could be compressed out of

billions of years of black matter

and its brilliance astound the darkness

that thought it laboured like ore

in the snakepits of life

to bring forth nothing

but what it had already eaten.

What a surprise

it would never get over

and could never explain.

The birth of eyes.

The urgency of seeing.

A black mind mirror

with a creative imagination

as uninhibited as the sky

that gives birth to birds like words

just to flirt with the wind

and in its intimacy with the light

sees a whole new way of looking at the night.

Imagine what it would say to itself

about all the pain it suffered alone

trying to draw the sword of light

that kills you into life

out of the darkness of a philsopher’s stone

that kept knocking Goliath off its feet

like the meteorite that struck out the dinosaurs

with the fast ball of an astronomical catastrophe

that’s beginning to look more and more

like my personal history

playing Russian roulette

with my blindfolded species

like a firing squad

with five live and one blank round.

A sin of omission

that gives God an out

whenever she knocks me down.

And don’t think it’s the distance between us

that has preserved us

from the curse of familiarity.

Don’t think when you think of us

that all the miles between Perth and Kamloops

insulate us from the mundane human details

of our mystic fallibility.

I’ve met you so many times

at the edge of the knowable multiverse face to face

in a triste of time and space

so vast and incomprehensible

there aren’t enough dimensions to describe the place

or bridges laid end to end that could walk that far

to cross over the draconian abyss

that gapes like a skull at its own immensities

without losing heart

or mindstreams that could flow past so many stars

without being tempted to stop for the night

and take it easy in a mirage of its own making

with coral-lipped celestial houris

that no man has ever touched

and whose passion is renewed

by the fulfillment of desire

instead of being exhausted by it

like ashs in the fire

as it is here on earth

but not above.

The sidereal sisters of the Hesperides

with Arabic names

beds down the caravan for another night

in a desert of stars

and the golden apple of the sun goes down

and a long-faced human

picks up a handful of sand

and sees in it an oasis

and all the Mongol fountains of Samarkand

and thinks that it’s arrived in time

to hear Hafiz answer the great Khan

about the worth of the mole

on a young slave girl’s cheek

bismallah arahman arahim

and delight unequivocal death

with the poetic nuances of the answer

that saved his life with laughter.

You alone have appeared to me out here

in this available lifespan of the future

where the light can barely reach

and the darkness has nothing to teach it

about finding its way own way back to town.

It’s a long slow way up.

And it’s a short quick way down.

You can ask any apple about that.

But your epiphany and yours alone

keeps making the journey somehow

with your shadow not far behind

and everytime I look into the eyes of your apparition

I see constellations of fireflies

that you can’t see twice

exchanging zodiacs

like starmaps and dice.

So how could I ever grow bored

of caring for life with you?

How could any Hubble orbiting you

ever grow sick of stars

and try to rub them out of his eyes like sand?

How could the light ever say to the water it calls upon

at all hours of the day and night

I don’t want to take you by the hand

to the dance of life

like a bottle-nosed dolphin dating a sea otter

because I’m tired of listening

to the same picture-music over and over

as if all waterlilies were the same note

and still expect the flowers to greet it like a loveletter

instead of an empty lifeboat after everybody’s drowned?

I can swim through stone

and in the teeth of the storm

like a cat in the mouth of a dog

I know how to give up the wheel to its power

like a goldfish in the jaws of Moby Dick

that knows how to go as limp

as the dead bodyweight of a black dwarf

in the hands of an arresting officer breaking up a protest

and float that way like a heavy lift

until it lets me go

and drops the charges.

Every cubic centimeter of me

when I shrink back into my head like a star

weighs thirty tons

and there are no scales available

on either side of the great divide

between Pisces and Anubis

that could put a feather in the pan

to measure what goes on in my heart

when it’s a blackhole in the chest

of an unknowable human.

I take the low place.

I sit below the salt.

I take it all in like the sea

or a keyhole

and then something turns

and then something opens

like a door to a world

that no one knows anything about

and then I let it out

so everyone can see

everything that’s dangerous and strange about me

is only the background darkness of an overview

with an eye in the sky

that sees everything that’s beautiful and true about you.

My darkness urges the roots of the stars

to bloom spontaneously along the Road of Ghosts

where they can crowd the curb like childen

to watch the consellations pass by like floats

throwing comets out like candy

and argue like astrologers among themselves

about the one they loved the best

not a groomed hearse with a well-dressed corpse

in a celestial funeral procession sinking in the west.

If you never let the darkness in

how can the stars come out?

If you take the pain and decay and darkness away

how will the waterlilies ever manage

to enlighten the swamp

by what they don’t say.

How could a poet ever esteem

the face of his muse

and paint it in stars

mixed with mud for a binder

if darkness never falls?

Lost in the dark

the world sets out to find you.

At home in the world

the dark is there to remind you

it isn’t just the light

that reveals where you’re hiding

but there are coalpits too

black as night

that shine with diamonds

like starmaps for the blind

who know exactly where to find them

when they look at you.

Alysia in the sky with diamonds as big as Betelgeuse

aging in the top left hand corner of Orion

laying its card down in the west

to trump Lepus the Rabbit

who makes a clean getaway

because Orion always overbids his hand.

The club’s overdone

but it’s the sow’s ear that hangs from his belt

like a shrunken head with a wisp of hair

hanging on like a nebula

or a human souvenir from the Vietnam War

that interests me the most.

How moody hydrogen

can give birth to the stars

out of next to nothing

and making a womb of an ear

turn it into a silk purse.

That’s an art I’d like to master.

I could turn my life around.

I could be profound and listened to

at everybody’s else’s expense.

I could eat.

I could pay the rent.

I could keep a car on the road

and not worry about getting into an accident.

But you see how it goes with me?

One thing turns into another and another and another

until even the sky

trying to get a fix

on which one of all these transformations is me

which is the dragon and which is the phoenix

and who’s the firefly

looks at my reflection as my mother often did

like an exhausted mirror

or the sea

looks upon its crazy waves

and the unseatable chaos of life

that boards the schoolbuses of her lunar tides.

Who could blame her?

My maternal disclaimer.

But she was right about everything.

Paddy you’re never going to amount to anything.

There’s too much of your father in you.

Everything’s been making me up ever since then.

I was defiant enough not to be hurt at the time

but once time wheeled me out of intensive care

I became aware of how wounded I was

and as my friend Layla said

time heals nothing.

You just learn to live around it

like a boulder in a stream

that fell from space

with signs of life in it

as if the earth got in the way of your heart

when it was cast down

as it did with the demons

when it was their turn to burn

though they’ve made a bigger impact than I have.

And the weirdness of it all

what makes it all eerily true

and puts the fearful authority

of an oracle speaking through the deathmask of the moon

in her voice

as if she were totally detached

from the Platonic abstract

of the kind of person

she was certain I couldn’t grow up to be


is that I couldn’t have asked for a better mother

and I mean it.

She bared her fangs

like the first and last crescents of the moon

and bit me like someone

who had taken her by surprise from behind.

You’re bound to get bit

trying to suckle at the tit of a volcano.

It’s one of my favourite myths of origin

that ever since then

I’ve been a lunar poet

with the amorous life of lava

trying to make my own habitable moonscape

here on earth

without having to pretend I’m someone else.

A place where I can shed all my masks

like cherry blossoms and rose petals

like faces that long to be somewhere else

and let them float downstream

like loveletters and suicide notes

with life as a twelve volume prelude

like the empty lifeboats of the paper poems

that went down with the ship

I’m grateful to

for dying to come to my rescue.

I’ve gone through more transformations

than you can read about

in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

And there are changes to come

that terrify and excite me

as if I were a child

listening to adults

whispering in another room

about things I don’t want to be old enough

to understand.

So if you ask me how

I’m spending my life these days

like money I don’t have

I’d say I’m wasting my time

on things that really matter.

I’ve been sitting here writing this poem

until I forget my name

for the last three nights and mornings in a row

my fingers on the keyboard

trying to keep their eighty-eights straight

listening to the picture-music

hovering over the corpse of a piano

like a departing soul

that doesn’t want to go.

And what’s so crucial about this

that other things have to wait

that are threatening to break down the door

with their demands for more

than they could possibly take?

Let them take it all.

But what’s of inestimable value to me

is that I see the morning glory’s made a trellis

of the unhinged stargate

to our garden on the moon.

And there you are like a wild rose

with indrawn thorns

admiring the weeds

for the hardiness of their flowers.

And here I come like the Kama-Sutra

with a bouquet of symbols

I’ve scattered on the wind

like seeds in the mouths of birds

to let you know

in a world where all things end in tears

like a novel that’s too heavy on itself

for its lack of compassion

toward its loss of heart

in the power of art

to form a government in exile

to keep the Pyrrhic hopes

of a lost revolution alive

like radical ghosts summoned to a seance

by an aging medium

who talks to them like refugees

in the universal language of their mother tongue.

But what really turns their heads

from the dead to the living

is you’re the only rumour I’ve heard for years

about where to begin

where to live

and how they can thrive on love

like children again

without having to stand in line

like missing links in the food chain.

I think of you as a geni in the solitude of his lamp

thinks of wishs that beggars’ would ride

if they were only horses

and my heart breaks like loaves and fishs

to feed the hungry multitudes I’ve become

living my life in arrears

to the slumlords of reality

in the name of an unheralded holy war

to liberate my imagination

like a watershed

from the dead fountainmouths of the mirrors

who talk as if they were looking forward to

the next ice age

and know even less

than the the glacial windows do

about flowing like the bloodstream of a rose

through a wounded heart

that’s haemmoraging like a watercolour in the rain

as if it were an antidote to pain.

And ass I said in a poem the other day

my art might feel as useful

as a fire hydrant on the moon

but my heart

and I’m glad

and I’ve got you to thank

when it’s inspired

by even so much

as a single firefly

of the constellation

they’ve made of you

like a chandelier in a populist hovel

to brighten the view

feels like the Milky Way

flowing through the veins of a man

who’s just given all his fixed stars

to a bloodbank

and walked away shining on the inside

because musing on the way

every ray of light he walks in

falls upon him as if it were from you

he’s not the star-crossed maniac he thought he was

but a zodiac with a good cause

and a superstition in his heart

that reason can’t detect.

A simple intuition he obeys and cherishs

higher than all the laws

he’s ever been broken on

in the name of love

above and below

to a better and more lasting effect

than anyone can know

who hasn’t been raised from the dead

by someone like you

like hidden treasure from a shipwreck.