Friday, April 15, 2011


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 Ethiopia

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

of neo-retro-representationalism

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

all art

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 Naples yellow.

I was raised by a sixpack of wolves

like Romulus and Remus

by the same bitch mother

that littered Rome

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 Benares.

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

than void

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

all that

the intensity

the mystery

the ambivalence

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 Jerusalem artichokes

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 New England asters.

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.

After that

thanks to the transmigration of souls

in the bodies of birds

I could get around like a Canada goose

heading south

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

who isn’t.

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 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.


Cat soup!

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

that ate Egypt.

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

Cronos’ place

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.

No sale.

I stick a fork in it

and swallow me whole.