Saturday, April 30, 2011


Because I don’t confront you

doesn’t mean this tree

doesn’t know how to stand up to the wind.

If I bend like a river reed in a current

I’ll still be here

long after the current has passed.

To the unenlightened it’s inconceivable

there’s nothing to win

because both opposites are empty.

Take empty from empty it’s still empty.

No reason to put a gun to your head to check it out.

Just because you’ve got a trigger

like the first crescent of the moon

doesn’t mean you have to pull it.

Three for three.

Blood and cartridges.

Strange lipstick.

But you’re still banking on the one that’s empty.

Those that have the power to hurt

but will do none.


Sonnet 94.

Lonely advice to those who never take it.

And it’s not hard to imagine

better things to do in the world

than trade barbs and stingers

with third world killer bees.

And there’s nothing unholier than a holy war.

Or a faith that festers

because it doesn’t know

how to clean a wound properly.

Even maggots make better nurses than that.

And besides

as unlikely as it seems at times

I’d rather be loved than right.

I don’t want to lie down with a woman at night

like a body count.

You say I’m not in touch with reality

as if reality were some kind of guillotine

you expected me to stick my neck out for

swanning on the block.


I don’t stay in touch much

with French executioners.

But I can see the world as you see it.

A snakepit with the occasional apple-tree.

You think of reality as a hard medicine

you have to wince like a lemon to take

but if you ask me

the way you put it

reality sounds more like a toxin

than the antidote to the snake.

If the kids don’t like it then neither do I.

The iodine you pour on things

hurts worse than the original scrape.

The cure is more delirious than the disease.

You see the black door of the prison

and you want to paint it pink.

You realign the constellations

like barbed wire around a concentration camp

and reality drives up like the commandant

of what you think

to announce to the inmates

they’re in the real world now

where iron rules

and the watchdogs never sleep.

What happy fool

bemused by watching his illusions

chase their tails

and play with snakes

is going to turn his delusion in

for something as stern as that?

An ideologue is someone

whose spirit is weaker than their intellect

and ideas pack like cholesterol around their hearts

and harden like plack on their teeth.

Someone who is terminally ideational

thinks of reality as a kind of rehabilitation

for the rest of us.

A man asks for water in a desert of stars.

An ideologue offers him bleach

as if he were redressing an incorrigle wino

for giving up on reality.

And when he talks of reform

it’s like listening to a dvd

giving step by step instructions

in how to turn a chameleon into an albino.

And I see something of the same in you.

Ideologues are appalled by the sloppiness of life.

They see it as something to organize

not something to create.

They hate the suggestible mysteries

that never quite come into focus.

They want to refit the Flying Dutchman

with real sails and upgraded astrolabes.

They loathe the Uncertainty Principle

at work in their atoms and their evolution.

They look at beauty as ornamentalism.

There’s nothing functional about a sunset.

Even out in the country

I’ve heard them scolding life

for squandering itself on a flower.

Wild asters and loosestrife

are merely a silly extravagance

and there are so many stars at night

you’d think life was running a casino.

When you tell me I should get in touch with reality

I feel I should be looking for some ultimate

behind everything

some ulterior way of understanding life

that illegitimizes everything under my nose

as mere phenomena and appearance.

The rat behind the arras.

The meaning of things

that makes things irrelevant

as if what my senses perceived

were mere wrapping.

When I look at things

as if there were no inside or out

to them or me

I see the creative contents

and events of a mind

that belongs to all of us.

And there isn’t a thought or a thing

that doesn’t express the whole of it.

Delusion and enlightenment

share the same nature I do.

The star is as much me

as I am the star

so when I say the stars have opened my eyes

to how exalted you can feel

when you’re humbled

by the sublime lucidity of life

my eyes have done as much for them.

You want to put life on a diet.

And time on a budget.

Usually when someone tells me to be realistic

I’m talking to a conservative

who’s in denial about the future.

Nature is nurture

and no one’s ever left the womb

but there are available dimensions

in the dark backward abysm of time

that’s been maturing us for the last

fourteen and a half billion years

out of our own inconceivability

like wine

not vinegar

into this sublime creative collaboration

which is the life of the mind.

Whatever we create

simultaneously and seamlessly creates us.

It’s a child’s drawing.

There are no flaws in it.

What’s unrealistic about a purple sun?

Lebanese cochineal shells

for the togas of the Roman imperium.

The emperor’s got no clothes.

So you dress him up in your nakedness

and paint his portrait in purples and blues

and ask Caligula to lend him some shoes.

It’s a dynamic equilibrium of transformations.

It’s a living cosmic harmony

that’s as mystically specific and intimate

as a snowflake melting on your arm.

The dead branch blossoms

like a witching stick

whenever it’s near water

and the magician’s wand sheds its skin

like serpent-fire on the wind.

These things are true too.

Anything the Inconceivable

does or reveals

is always spontaneous

because there is no way of predicting it.

Every drop of water

that opens itself like an eye

in the infinite sea of awareness

is merely water watching water

shift its shape into fish and trees and humans.

The river turns

and the zodiacal kings of the Etruscans

bow down to Vertumamnis

who will grow up to be kidnapped by the Romans

and raised as Morpheus the god of dreams.

Or Orpheus among the Greeks

if he dreams while he’s awake.

If life weren’t creatively inconceivable

we couldn’t have been born into it

to conceive of the unthinkable.

It’s the empty cup that pours the wine.

It’s the mystery

that all our answers are looking for.

When I look at the stars

though they’re arranged in constellations

to me they are never endlessly one thing

but radiant with beginnings

going off in all directions at once.

You speak of reality

as if it were the negative

of a photographic starmap

elapsed by time.

You’re an equatorial mount with clock drive

and a colour-blind spectrograph

where your third eye used to be.

Thirteen ways of looking at the same blackbird.

Meaning infinite.

And they’re all true.

I am.

And so are you.

And what’s a blackbird

if it isn’t the primordial atom

the many in the one

nuclear fusion

the muse and the inspiration

all the combinations and permutations

of the way it will continue to be seen anew

in every moment

as if it will always be the beginning of creation?

Six trillion miles in a light-year.

And Proxima Centauri 4.7 light years away.

The next star over unfencible time and space.

You look at the insurmountability of these distances

and you think that’s how far it is from here to there

and your isolation brings you to the precipice of despair

when your omnidirectional self

looks creation in the face

and mistakes humility for insignificance everywhere.

And you say to yourself

there’s no point or place

for a period

at the end of an infinite sentence.

And you make a brutal discipline of your irrelevance

and call it reality

and the dead begin to legislate for the living

and the blind for those who can see.

Van Gogh said it best in a letter to Theo.

Some people live their lives

as if they were walking to the stars.

Some take the train.

And some fly.

For the birds

nothing’s ever further away

than their wingspan

as it is with fish and fins.

And turning the jewel in the light

and looking at its infinite flashs of insight

without the glass eye

of a Cyclopean appraiser

cut it up atomically

like a butcher or a surgeon

deciding on where to make the next incision

I would add that like a star

even after billions of years on the road

whose light never really leaves home

because everywhere it goes

it’s in the doorway

on the threshold

because there’s no discontinuity

no distinction

no severance

between a ray of light and its source

between a way of life and its course

there’s a fourth kind of pilgrim

who just has to look up at the stars

or the sun and the moon

or Venus luxuriating in the sunset

if he wants to shine down on everything.

So if I don’t confront you like a bottom-feeder

on the floor of your thinktank

rising to the surface

like a scumbag to high public office

it’s not because I’m a coward or a fool.

It’s just that I’m enrolled

in this funny kind of school

where you learn through experience

to use your ignorance

as a teaching device

to enlighten the Buddha.

What’s water to the goldfish

is water to the barracuda

without and within

every wave of water light and life

the whole sea of awareness at high tide

the whole sky with all its myriads of stars

tatooed on the skin of a water droplet

that thinks it’s tough

to stick pins through the eye of an inkwell

like an Oedipal voodoo doll

with Medusan issues

because she never had a mother

who didn’t turn her heart to stone.

Water is fish.

Fish is water.

Air is bird.

Bird is air.

Earth is worm.

Worm is earth.

And fire is a phoenix that nests in its own ashes.

And you can ask the moon

if you don’t believe me.

Sometimes the water

makes a quick exit

and swims out of you

like tears and light-years of neap tides

but there’s never going to come a time

whether you measure it in lunar months

or waterclocks

or the wavelengths of a snake-pit

you’re ever going to swim out of it.