UP LATE AGAIN
Up late again watching the stars settle like dew on the grass.
I must have been a lamplighter in another life.
Or a firefly in an observatory.
All the windows have gone out but one or two.
of a Daddy Longlegs in the distance
and the tardy townhall clock
is still trying to reset the moon to full.
The gram-masters on the corner
of Gore and the universe
are too drunk and overly curious
for their own good.
There are some dark corners
you should leave to their solitude.
If you’ve met and killed the Buddha in the road
it won’t diminish your enlightenment
by so much as a shadow
to step on the occasional toad.
Delirious with clarity
is still only one side of the mirror.
When you’ve broken the spell of its mesmerism
it isn’t as if another world view comes rushing in
it’s just that another eye opens
and you’re clear about your delirium.
My thoughts are too much of a heavy lift for a coma
and I don’t dream much on the nightshift
and there’s a starless space within me
that keeps blowing all the candles out
everytime the power goes off
so I can learn to see in the dark
where I’m going
and where I’ve been
without carrying the light on my back
like vagrant insights on a mindstream on the move.
Alone in the world
but I never lack company
because the world’s simultaneously alone with me
but we’re both a little nervous
like a seasoned sailor alone with the sea
or a reunion of lovers with what used to be.
I’ve been watching the spring willows
dye their hair blonde in the
and now their roots are showing silvergray
in the pewter moonlight.
I like to go down and sit by the water
whenever I forget how to live.
I like the way the willows
pour themselves back into the river
like fountains of lemonade
and at this time of the year
they’re wearing see-through veils
like negligees of
made of spiderwebs
and fishing nets
like the star-crossed wedding laces
of their greatgrandmother’s constellations
passed down through the generations
for special occasions such as this.
And if they weep now
like young women in the spring
it’s only a light rain
but when they’re fully greened by the summer
it’ll be a waterfall.
But the world’s a snapping turtle
that won’t stay submerged for the night
like the id of the subconcious mind
and there are feathers of moonlight all over the water
where someone who felt
under-rated as a god
just raped a swan on drugs to prove it.
A serpent bites Persephone in the heel
and the spring is black with her absence
and death isn’t a crack in the void
you can easily heal
by sowing seeds
of Virgoan starwheat in the wound.
My prophetic skull bobs
like a horse chestnut
surfing its thoughtwaves
all the way to
but I’d rather be a cherry blossom
or the empty lifeboat of an origami poem
drifting down the
like a homeless loveletter
with nothing but
mystic black waterstars on my mind
instead of being blind-sided
by my last Maenadic dismemberment.
It’s not easy to get a gig
as a singer
or a stand-up comedian in hell
and even harder to make it big
as a court jester
when everyone’s into mimes.
You don’t raise the dead up to your lips
as if you were raising a bucket
from a wishing well
or your voice an octave higher.
Even if the music’s true
the lyrics can still prove you’re a liar.
And the Lord of Jewels isn’t a pimp
you can readily inspire
to sing along
with Sioux deathsongs at karaoke.
So down I go again.
with a wishbone harp
stuck in his throat
like a bird in a chimney
to see if I can charm death into letting you go
even if like the last time
you do look back in disbelief
at what you’re leaving behind
like a deathwish that came true.
River of fire.
River of darkness.
River of forgetfulness.
running backwards in reverse order upstream
because this is hell with hope
Hades of the gibbering shades
and pre-Socratic philosophers
in the thought-fields of Elysium
standing like Druids and wandering scholars
on a sacred hill overlooking their holy wars like referees.
And all the mirrors
write left-handed in invisible ink
like the smile of the Mona Lisa
to keep the living from knowing what they think.
Sisyphus got used to rolling
his heart like a rock up a hill
only to watch it roll down again in vain
but you were an avalanche in the
and now I’m trying to excavate
a blackhole in the
like a backhoe deprived of ls
to sing you back into the light
like a vernal equinox
among the daffodils and bluebells
that keep attending your funeral
over and over and over again
like friends of the family
meant to mourn your disappearance
by showing up early
to avoid the crowds.
A last warm kiss on a cold forehead
or a cold tear on a hot stove
and I can hear the cosmic hiss of the background dead
like the afterbirth of a foregone beginning
thanking me for not trying
to extinguish their fires
like torch bearing Roman dadaphores
in the waters of a Christian life.
My fingertips burned like ashes and urns
putting them to my lips then yours
as I turned sublimely
and walked away into the immense solitude
that followed me like the echo of your name.
Thereafter I could always hear you
as I do now late into the night
sitting by this snakey water
whispering dark insights into the black mirror
that keeps its reflections to itself
like a shadow with the voice of a nightbird
bleeding in a hidden grove.
No man is an island.
He’s a peninsula.
Guitarist for the
But one wave of you
washing up on the shores of my skin
and I can feel your breath and fingertips all over again
and the urgent way you used to kiss me
as if I were an emergency exit for pain
and my heart turns over like a full lifeboat
far out at sea among the icebergs
that float by like corpses in the
Blood-roses for the crocodiles.
Swans for the snapping turtles.
It’s not just the nave
of the wheel of birth and death
that keeps a person centered
but the rim and the spokes as well
so when the dead come knocking
I’m a good host
and let them in
like strangers on the Road of Ghosts
or leaves on the bamboo branch
of a sumi ink painting.
Guests of my heart and art
I don’t enshrine them
in the beatitudes of oblivion
but my house is their house
my life is their life
and what I see they see
on the same side of my eyes as me
because I don’t greet them
like the black sheep of the family
who were determined to go their own way
like a prison break on the outside.
I don’t play shepherd to the dead
and though I sometimes feel like a lightning rod
I’m not a cattle-prod in a hospital morgue
and they’re not Giovanni Volta’s frogs.
Some are true as worms to the dead.
And some are not.
But if you’re a spiritual fraud
the Zen thing to do
is not get caught
fencing hot gravegoods
in the living rooms of your friends.
When you’re walking with the dead
your means don’t justify their ends
and their space doesn’t bend to your thought
even if the likeness is remarkable.
Eidolon spirit wraith
waif on the wind
your simulacrum possesses me
like a bird possesses a rootless tree
that follows it around.
Water and moon.
And this incredible longing
that makes an eye in the moonlight
inseparable from what it reflects.
Let Rhandamanthus recoil in judgment of the dead
or Anubis awake from a nightmare in a feather bed
to weigh the worth of this afterlife
I’ve spent with you
like a grail I poured back into the watershed
I took it from
like life from the womb of the dark mother
who gives birth to all of us
in secret on the far side of the moon.
Sacred whore by the virgin spring
in the temples of the Iseum
sphinx and incubus
whatever sites I open
whatever windows I stare out of
however I channel the remote like a medium
you’re the banshee
the crone face of queen Mab of the Fey
the white goddess on the dark side of Kali
drinking blood libations
to each other’s spiritual health
from the skulls of their devotees
that comes in like a late-breaking wavelength
that jams the news of your unending death
on all two hundred stations.
I’m a creature of flesh and blood
and you’re into Platonic necrophilia.
Get thee to a nunnery
and I’ll sprinkle rue on the river
in our secret meeting place
where time was no friend to space
when the strong rope of our continuum unravelled
into tiny weak threads of fate
with severed Atropic filaments
for spinal cords and lifelines.
I’ve met you where the rivers meet
at every fork in the road
between your legs
at the junction
anywhere one face
could speak to the dead
through the mask of the other
without feeling estranged by their violet eyes
like a blacklight on the wedding dress
that drowned Ophelia in flowers
when they recovered your body
like a blameless sacrifice to an unknown river
I’ve been sitting by for hours
like the white nights
of a winter Saturnalian
or a lovelorn dragonslayer
wan and palely loitering
waiting for his lamia to show up
late to the seance.
You’re the python priestess
in a prophetic trance of magic mushrooms
that fills my Orphic skull
like a message in a bottle from the future
with inspired oracles of oxymoronic wisdom.
You’re the divine coincidence
of my contradictories
for the dress rehearsal
of my favourite incarnations.
Apollo will keep chasing Daphne
on the winds of time forever
but every moment’s a crossroads
where the dead intersect the living
like time and the eternal
like the mortal and the praeternatural
like the celestial equator with the ecliptic
at the equinoctial colure of spring
pouring out of Pisces into Aquarius
like the sea into a waterclock on the moon
where time stands still
and the midnight sun beds down with Virgo.
But this time around
you ditched the laurels
and turned into a willow
so I could run my fingers through your hair
in a whirlwind of lovers
like Sufi poets
and Paolo and Francesca
under the demotic breath of Dante in a dark wood
lost for good in his vision of Beatrice
like the ashes from the urn of a moth
caught in the updraft of a candle.
But then again
alive or dead
when were you ever not an inspiration?
Muse and atmosphere
I have breathed you in
like a fragrance of light
from an intimate eye
in a private garden
passing the time
flower by flower.
And I’ve blooded every breath
deep in this heart of mine
where the vine bloods
the darkest grapes with wine
and myriad meanings make one sign
of the two of us
like many streams flowing
under the name of one river.
I have lived with you for lightyears
in a house of the zodiac
the sun never enters
because it has no fixed address
and no one looks out through any windows
that don’t belong to the neighbourhood watch.
It has no thresholds
or doors to open and close.
There are no walls
no floors no roofs or cornerstones
no living rooms and long halls
where the mirrors sleepwalk at night
no stairs to climb
no skeletons in the closet
to remind us of better times
just you and I
urgent with life and longing
listening to the watercharms of the willows
rinsing their roots in the river.
You’ve been dead for many years
but you’re not a watercolour
washed out by the rain
or stained by human tears.
You’re not a ghost
that came back to haunt a tent
like a painter you once sat for
who’s packed up his canvas and easel
and moved on like a one man caravan
to the next well of the closest mirage
that wants its portrait done.
Death is undying.
And life is unborn.
So they’re both as ageless
as ashes and fire
and what was lost in the autumn
is found in the spring
and everything that seemed
voiceless mute remote
cold as the stars
shining down on the snow
suddenly begins to sing.
And though different birds different words
might change the lyrics and intonation
from generation to generation
once a muse always a muse
and there’s no expiry date
on the inspiration
that keeps me up this late at night
like an empty grave that can’t contain
the life that stirs within it.
Everything’s that gone gone gone beyond
like Venus over the horizon of a sunset
meditating on life and death
like Buddha under the Bodhi tree
or you and I under the willows
enlightened by the morning star
returns to a dawn without limits
not a blackhole in space with its grave-face on
like the unscalable summit
of the world mountain
founded on the back of a snapping turtle
with its eye on the moon like a swan.
It’s the silence within
that shapes the word without.
It’s the fish that jumps spontaneously
that articulates the stillness of the water.
The branch that interesects
the circumference of the moon
that amplifies its roundness.
And just as you have
these many years
it’s the dead
that intensify our lives
with the intimate absence
of everything that was near to us.
Voice within my voice.
Mindstream flowing into mindstream
though we think we drink alone from our skulls
it is not true
it is not true
that we don’t pass the cup to the dead
and say as we do to one another here
like a prophet in a bottle
or a message in a whale
drink the whole river in a single gulp
because sweeter than the waters of life
from the watersheds of the dead
are the tears we shed with them
and that delirium of awareness
that is neither spiritual nor material
neither now nor hereafter
neither then nor yet to come
that we share with them like crazy laughter.
Under the willows together
at this time of night
as the wind combs out their hair
and a snapping turtle
tries to bury the moon
like a cosmic egg in a sandbank of stars
as proof that it’s really a dragon
who can bring the rain.
No world other than this one
that includes all the others
like the boundless eye includes the stars.
The way I am included in your death
like an intimate familiar
from no other side than this
we’re all on
like our eyes are
and the stars in all directions
neither near nor far
where you are
and nothing’s ever missing
because now has never heard of life
and forever isn’t convinced it’s death
and you sweet one
nectar of grief
elixir of joy
that pours like gold and willows
from the pollen and ore of my soul
you are the belief that I’ve forsaken
as nothing more
than the schoolproof signage of fools
and you are the dream that wakes up in me
and keeps me from my bed
life after life after life
like the death in every breath I’ve ever taken.