WAITING TO SELL A PAINTING
Waiting to sell a painting.
Cigarettes coffee food gas rent canvases paint
and if anything’s leftover
I’ll hang on to it just to walk down the street
with a little more human dignity
than I did last night.
At least once or twice.
I can see something glimmering on my event horizon
but I’m not sure if it’s a mirage or an oasis
A mirage is a dangerous hope
in this desert of stars
and an oasis
is an Artesian spring with skulls
that punctuate the caravan
like the end of one lifelong run-on sentence.
A place to dogpaddle for the rest of the night
and go skinny-dipping with the moon
like an uninhibited waterlily
before I’ve got to move on in the morning
and do it all again
like the ghost of a dandelion gone to seed.
It almost feels like Sunday outside
but I’m afraid of a black spring.
I should act my age
and stop trying to express myself
like a job description for the poor.
How much depends
upon a knock upon a door.
When God finds out
you’re an incorrigible idol worshipper
he endows you with an imagination.
But what I don’t like most about God
is that he never lets another god go first.
The least are last because the best are worse
and everybody’s cursed
by their place in line on the foodchain.
Wheat is sweet
but meat cursed Cain.
Two cans of tuna away from extinction
and a universe shy of survival
someone else can have mine.
I’m out of here like Van Gogh’s ear.
Or maybe it’s time to start eating my still lives.
Painter with chives and a bowl of fruit.
Or turn my whole world upside down
like a bluejay ass up to the winter wind
picking the last of the seeds
out of the mouth of a dejected sunflower
with its head hung down like a streetlight
wondering why even its own feet
pulled their roots up like bootstraps
and walked out on it.
Sunflowers were good enough for Van Gogh.
He ate them like chromium yellow.
He painted potatoes.
He wore his stomach on his palette
and I’ll bet there was a whole gallery inside of him
that no one ever knew about.
I try to focus.
But I’m not a lense.
I weigh the cosmic sublimities of a moment ago
against the feather of my soul
in the scales of the jackal-god of the dead
who asks me what happened to the rest of it.
And I point to a wishbone and a clean carcass.
But hey as the neighbours would say
at least it’s not
and I think how strange it is
that people feel better knowing
there’s someone else worse off than they are.
We’d both sit down and eat these feathers
if we had any tar.
Or even Mars black.
You can elaborate all the aesthetic theories you want
and go on about the integrity of the picture plane
and keep things flat
or ride the new tide
like a tax return to sex
because when things go flat
there’s no up or down after that.
Whether your hanging antibacterial watercolours
in a disinfected gallery
or trying to convince the lightbars
the flowers in your garden scenes
are realer than real
as it always has been
is hunting magic.
The lean looking for the fat
the way you paint
from thin to thick.
The mind is an artist.
Able to paint the worlds.
And keeping meat on your bones
is a kind of textural perpective.
I blue my hills
and establish my point of disappearance.
Trying to see the world in masses
when you’re trying to flesh
an underpainting out
when you’re hungry
is like trying to put tits on a skeleton
but I do my best to paint a bison whole
on the wombwall of the great mother
who keeps the pantry full
without getting hung up on it horns
like some amateur matador
who draws blood like a rose
but ends up being gored
by the demons in details of its thorns.
Back in those days
when everyone was African
there were roving bands of sacred painters
who kept everybody well fed
not by breaking loaves and fishs on a hillside
like a foodbank offering celestial returns
on earthly deposits
but painting the local wildlife in a cave
with carbon you sprayed from your mouth
like burnt bread
to block out the shapes of the negative space
that surrounded your prey
like the contents of an empty stomach.
Or an open hand.
What’s the difference between
braining mammoths in a cul de sac
using the gifts the great mother gave you
to live with cunning and style
and a hunting spear with a good eye
you can wield like a paintbrush
when you’re out in the bush upwind
trying to pick out the highlights
like the vital organs of a Grant’s gazelle?
Mine are Promethean.
I’m chained to a rock.
My liver grows back
like a magic mushroom at night
and the vultures are gathering
for a communal feast
like surgeons in Renaissance black
trying to explain my cadaver
to the operating room in a Rembrandt painting.
And I’ve already eaten my heart
like that of a noble enemy
to enjoin my art
to be brave and steadfast
behind this shieldwall of paintings
positioned like a Viking
on the ridge of another landscape
that keeps folding like a smalltown gallery
that was good at tactics
but didn’t have a strategy for defeat
other than to run like
I was raised by a sixpack of wolves
by the same bitch mother
high in the wild
to howl at the moon
coming up through the trees
of my last wildlife painting
like a lunatic
with more freedom in his crazy heart
than the American constitution.
It’s getting late.
The emergency can’t wait
but the reprieve doesn’t know
what it’s like to be a clock on terminal row
with its own death on its hands
praying for a last meal.
It’s easier to be more casual about time than death
when you’re not holding your breath
trying to digest it
as if you were down
to your last stale biscuit of ghostfood.
But trying to get to the moon
in a bubble of hope
is Apollo Thirteen
without life support.
Ground control to Major Tom
I’ve left the solar system
like a one night stand with a comet
that fell from my lightless halo
to make a hyperbolic pass at the sun.
I’ve gone gone gone altogether gone beyond
to catch up with a fat buddha
who makes a good living
poaching in the deerparks of
Given the nirvanic quality
of my enlightened life in art
I figure I know as much about emptiness as he does.
I’ve eaten as many desires
swallowed as many fiery swords
like hurtful words
in the marketplace.
What’s so bad
about having people
rub their noses on a full belly
for good luck?
I’ve meditated myself into a coma
as often as he has
trying to get more plenum into my life
trying to turn nirvana into manna
trying to squeeze milk
from a philosopher’s stone
as hard as a nipple on the tit of a Gorgon
that broke her baby teeth on granite.
I’ve got the rainbow body of a Tibetan rinpoche
whose corpse knows how to evaporate like light
but there’s no pot of gold at the end of it
and no word from God
like the arc of a covenant
he intends to keep.
I haven’ been chosen.
It’s getting late.
No one’s coming
to buy my passion
for the Zen trinity
of land water and sky.
No one wants to buy my starmud
like a third eye
and hang it up in their living room
like the original constellation
for the thirteenth house of the zodiac.
And the way I feel about death and time
whenever I paint a sunset
and put Venus in it
to express my gratitude for sex at least
when the lights went out
on those dark nights of my soul
and the music was over
and all that was left
was flesh and wine
lingering in the west
as if there were still time enough to shine
not worth a dime.
A man lives to eat to be hungry.
Like the vultures at my liver.
And all for what?
For stealing a little fire to lighten things up?
I’m this phoenix of a heretic
addicted to a stake
because I have a creative desire
to be spiritually and materially fulfilled
by swallowing these hard-boiled bird-brained cosmic eggs
until I sprout feathers in the flames
and rise up reborn
like a green-winged fern
from the ashs of a forest-fire.
I once lived on
and pickled fiddleheads
that tasted like the sour notes
of vinegrette violins screeching
like fingernails down a blackboard
for a whole month
when I lived organically in the country
painting en plein air with the
And every September
late in the month
the Ojibway would leave food and tobacco
at the eastern door of my burial hut.
Until my bones were dust
they couldn’t free my ghost.
thanks to the transmigration of souls
in the bodies of birds
I could get around like a Canada goose
or back to the West Coast
where I’m originally from.
Now I’m stuck here
like a deflated birthday balloon
or a used condom
waiting for someone to come
And doesn’t have a clue
what that means to me.
How the universe will change shape overnight
and space will turn its empty pockets out
like blackholes and belly-buttons
full of lint and tobacco crumbs
and all my energy will intensify into dark matter
multiplied by the squared velocity of light
leaving the theatre in panic on the first night
I asked the audience to put itself in my place
and try to imagine
just once for my sake
what it’s like to be me
trying to hold a mirror up to nature
like a moonlit lake
in full lotus
meditating on a koan
with my life in great doubt
hoping to break it open
like the sound
of one hand knocking on a door
in an earthquake.
But it’s been my experience
there’s more enlightenment
in the twisted wisdom
of the demented fortune cookie
at the side of your plate
that insists it’s a seashell
worth listening to
on a deserted beach somewhere
life isn’t waiting on a doorbell
than there is in the great ball of doubt
I’ve swallowed like the cosmic glain
of a petrified Pterodactyl egg
that hasn’t got the beak
of Rinzai master
to break through its shell
with a single liberating shout.
and put an end
to the pain in my gut
by eating me from the inside out.
The thing I like most about fortune-cookies
compared to koans
is that after you’ve heard your fate.
The buyer’s late.
You can always eat the messenger.
Half the world is grass.
The other half is grazing.
Grass turns into grazer.
Grazer turns into grass.
How can life be a food chain
if it’s always got its ass in its mouth?
If you are what you eat
and you eat nothing
who are you?
Where’s your i.d.?
Put an x next to the zero
beside your name
and move on.
Life isn’t a chain
it’s a food circle
and I’ve got
more wheels of birth and death in me
than Ixion in hell
or the rain.
The mind eats the thought.
The heart eats the feeling.
The eye eats the picture.
The ear eats the word.
The landlord eats the rent.
The Christians eat God.
And the world goes to bed at night hungry.
And I’m the last scarecrow standing
who mastered birds like words
to scare them off
but wasn’t prepared
by any stretch of the imagination
or higher education
or this life in art
for the famine and locusts
If you are what you eat
and life’s got its tail in its mouth forever
like a snake
then the opposite must also be true.
You are what eats you.
I’m consumed by a hungry heart
with an appetite for life and light
as big as the universe.
I set the table
like the composition of a still life
and I eat my own
like the stone Cronos ate
in place of Zeus
so Zeus wouldn’t take
in line at the foodbank.
I don’t know who to thank
for what I’m not about to receive
but you can see it on my face
like a blackhole
that hasn’t tasted a star in weeks.
My life in art
is a cannibal
that says grace
over an empty begging bowl.
I stick a fork in it
and swallow me whole.