you’ll make as good a poet one day
as you already are
but the things I’m really interested in
no one can say.
No one can think.
No one can see.
No one can feel.
A painting that’s more real than the model
who paints herself sitting there
like a palette of flesh-tones.
An interactive mirror
she holds up to nature
so nature can fix her hair.
It’s not that I don’t care about your writing career
or I’m not listening.
Attachment too is a Buddha activity.
It’s just that in the shadow of so much significance
swaying like a cobra to a flute
or a river-reed
like a semi-quaver in the current of the music
I’ve learned to kiss it lightly on the head
as a sign of respect for the dead
You want to get inside poetry
as if it were some kind of scene
featured in a Jenson highgloss art magazine.
You’re a sphinx in the kelp-gardens of a seawitch
but a riddle isn’t a mystery
even if you can’t answer it
and poetry isn’t a cadaver in a surgical theatre
someone stole from Leonard da Vinci.
Poetry makes an unfashionable entrance
but by the time it leaves the party
it can fake a real cool exit.
What fool sends the wind to dancing school
to learn how to move?
Poetry is your own human nature
not Jovian thunder above a tin roof
with a butterfly’s antenna
tuned into haiku like a lightning-rod.
You don’t want to tempt God
into meeting you unprepared.
It would be rude to meet your worst fear
and not be scared.
Poetry is a power node of sublime insanity.
What life’s got to say to you at the back door
that it can’t tell you at the front
because all the neighbours
have installed listening devices in their telescopes.
And when I do answer you
if I seem light-years away
it’s just that I’m letting someone
I haven’t been in a long time
answer for me
as if I were twenty again
coming down the world mountain
like a mindstream clarifying itself in the darkness like stars
so the late frost of what I know now
doesn’t scorch the orchard.
Timing is as important as content
in the conduct of life.
I’m not going to hang a green apple
on a dead branch in winter.
Or tear a page off a lunar calendar
and tell the moon
when to bloom
and when to ripen.
And what can you say about the Unsayable
that isn’t two minutes of a lie with a hook?
Just because it’s playable
doesn’t make it a good book
even if you’re gossiping
with back-stabbing gods
who treat every tidbit of information
like a muck-raking revelation.
is only the skin of the vision
the snake sheds
when it feathers its scales like wings
and the highest and the lowest meet
like a frenzy of gnats
and oxymoronic dragon stars
in the jubilant night air.
There are cave paintings
on the backs of your eyes
that have been there for thousands of years
like shadows dreaming in the darkness
of what they’ve seen and been
to the fossils of the generations
that painted them there
in ashes red ochre soot and silence.
Dream-catchers with the eyes of arachnid mandalas
webbing the threads of your lifelines
and table lace
that doesn’t say grace over dinner.
Trotsky was assassinated in
with a pen in his hand
by a man with an icepick in his.
The pen isn’t mightier than the sword
the moment it takes the sword for granted
or revolutionarily inevitable.
Don’t hang a pen over your head
like the sword of Damocles
and expect to write the truth
as if you had just submitted to a polygraph test.
At best all it will prove
is that you’re a good liar.
There are no border guards
or burning angels with swords in their hands
acting as if they were the hinges
of the gateless gate
that no one can enter
and no one can leave
that leaves nothing out
and keeps everything in
because it’s all around you
like the pathless space of the mind.
But don’t waste your time
trying to look into the future
of what I’m saying to you now
because however long and far you look
into the meaning of these words
you’ll never find the womb of the Unborn
until it kicks you in the belly from the inside.
I know someone raised on a diet of clocks
finds it hard to believe
but you’re the winged mother of time
with the seven ages of man
coiled around you like a helical snake
with the pit of its head above yours like a cowled chakra
or the pschent of an Egyptian pharoah
that unites within himself
the two genders of time
the past and the future
in the specious present
of this ageless moment now
this endless creative insight
this shy voiceless voice
that is always trying
to communicate you to you
as I’m trying to do collaboratively
in the panavision of a blind seer
with a child’s eyes.
by indirections we find directions out
so it’s okay to wander around
bumping into things
like dead ends on desolation row
or stubbing your head like a toe
on the rock of the world.
Poetry is a thoroughfare
in a labyrinth of cul de sacs.
It makes an emergency exit sign
of its inert passions
and passing a current of life through them
makes them glow in the dark
like fireflies in the mason jars
of Nikola Tesla’s lab.
Sometimes it’s God that says let there be light.
And other times
as the night comes on
and the stars are beginning to appear
it’s Lucifer the light-bringer who says
trying to get past his days as the morning star
Sight is a kind of love
but blazing is an eyeless man
acting out against his blindness.
The sun shines at
but it doesn’t put the stars out.
in the clear light of the void
you can still see the shadows.
God has two eyes
the same colour as yours
but the liars only one
like the singularity
at the bottom of a blackhole
or a shark without an iris.
The light crosses the event horizon
and goes in
as if it were being summoned to a seance
but only the random halo
of the occasional ghost
shines out like a candle at a black mass
and nothing is revealed.
I’m writing this to you late at night
so the darkness can intensify my seeing
placed next to these highlights
I’m painting in the air
to show you the stars in your eyes
are a constellation all of your own
waiting for you to come up with a good myth
that can embody all that shining
without asking someone like me
to draw you a starmap.
There’s no doorman
on the thirteenth house of the zodiac
no lamp in the window
to guide the moths
and no phoenix in the ashes of their afterlife
to teach them how to grow new wings.
But if you think of words
as the gravegoods of the great dead
who once spoke them in their sleep
as if they were channeling metaphors
and not living creatures
as integral to your mind
as cells are to your body
or the thousands of tiny animalcules
that graze on your eyelashes like cattle
you’re just another mummy
who hasn’t come out of the closet yet
waiting like a old shoe
you had to take off
at the threshold of a stargate
to relive the same journey
that brought you here in the first place.
Better to walk barefoot the rest of the way
whether you’re walking on stars or water
quicksand or earth
than cure your body like leather
and wait under the weight of a literary pyramid
like a post-mature embryo gummy with its afterbirth.
who needs to worry about living forever?
Carrying a candle through a hurricane
isn’t going to improve the weather
or impress the sun.
Poetry isn’t a nightlight you turn on
in a total eclipse
to keep the dragons at bay.
If the light weren’t alive
how could it have grown eyes?
If words weren’t living creatures
with our features
how could they express
the estranged voices
of so many different children
in the Babylonic intimacy
of their mother-tongue?
Language can be a whore
but she always acknowledges her children
by giving them a name
they can carry into exile.
And like the affable familiar
of this absurd harmony
I’m whispering in your ear
like the nightsea in a conch shell
with one earring dangling like Venus
from your lobe
I seed the wind
like a blue Sufi with an empty hand
giving generic names to the stars
And these are the oghams
on the breath of the last Druid
left alive in the sacred groves of Mona.
The mystery of grammar
about the roots of words
is not the abracadabra of a linguistic cult
exhuming dead metaphors
like the photogenic fingerprints of ghosts
through a new medium
of necrophilic forensics.
Reality tv is just a lie
you overhear in the hall.
Like a bird that can’t peck out of its shell
what most people call reality
is just another kind of coma
that can’t break the spell of its own magic
when it backfires in the faces of the liars
by coming true.
Don’t try to take the measure
of the wingspan of a cosmic egg
or the size of the sky in your third eye
until you’ve broken out of one yourself
smashed the mirror
dispelled the mesmerism of the self
with its own awareness
and disappeared out into the open
like the last bird of the dying day.
and bullshit walks
but money isn’t the root of all evil.
By their fruits ye shall know them
and money’s just a tree
that never comes to fruition
counting its leaves like cash
until the fall
when there’s no seed
no room in the lifeboat
no ladders at the windows of a burning house
to take all of you with it.
Money isn’t evil.
in the mouths of little magicians
when they stick like polyps and cists
to the vocal cords
of those who think they speak for God
barely an octave lower than she does.
Cast a great spell
like a fishing net out over the stars
without getting caught up in it
by expecting to catch anything
that wasn’t yours from the very beginning.
And the golden fish that swims from shore to shore
that eludes your grasp of enlightenment
will jump into the boat spontaneously
all by itself.
The heron is the second oldest symbol of a poet
but you’ll never see it out spearfishing at night
with a lamp in its hand
choosing its words as carefully
as a needle practising a cross-stitch.
Poetry is as easy as breathing
when you’re listening to the picture-music
like a submotif of its theme song
swept along like a leaf on the stream in the fall.
You only have to sweat the details
when your little mind’s lying
like a wave about the sea
to your big mind
and your big mind knows it
and cuts you off from your own depths
like the Burgess Shales.
And the rest is pre-Cambrian history.
The little mysteries might inspire you
to start looking for an answer right away
but the greatest mysteries of life
leave you so indelibly clarified by wonder
there’s nothing to ask
that doesn’t make a lie of the question
that isn’t amazed enough
to know immediately for itself
that when you perceive the whole in every part
like the reflections in the broken shards of a mirror
down to the smallest photon of a firefly
the entire sky and all of its stars
fit into it like the Andromeda Galaxy fits into an eye.
So here you are like an early spring
seeking advice from a late frost like me
and all I can do is throw myself like salt in the fire
do you see?
The moon blossoms on a dead branch.
And there’s an echo in the valley
but no voice.
When I was young
my teachers told me
I had to find my own voice
as if there were only one among myriads
that could fit my foot to my mouth like a glass slipper.
So I went looking for it
like a Martian chondrite in
trying to detect signs of life
like the amino acids
and fossilized proteins
of a dead language
as universal as Panspermia
in my own homegrown genome.
But I soon discovered
the little I had to say
was crowded out of the way
by the voiceless living and the vociferous dead
trying to express
their more urgent intensities through me
and if I had a voice of my own
like a brass doorknocker on the inside
how could they speak for themselves
if I were always at home in their space?
Which of all the breaths you’ve taken
and given back like water to the river
like migratory thoughts to the mindstream
wasn’t the last of the dying woman before you
and the first of the new moon in the arms of the old
that came after
through the same door
the last one left by?
And what of all you’ve heard
and will hear
wasn’t said first
by the prophetic dead
and the only distinction
between you and them
a thin skin pulled down over a hard head
like a spiritual prophylactic?
Be fruitful and multiply
like the lost tribe of a dandelion on the wind.
The seed sacrifices itself to the tree
and the tree makes a sacrifice of its apple.
and the wild irises that bloom beside the starstreams
like fortune-telling gypsies in their purple tents
reading lifelines like loveletters
that haven’t been sent yet.
Be grateful for the generosity of the void
that gives you an insight
into the black matter of the dark abundance
that fills the negative space of your skull with light enough
to find your own way through the night
whenever you open your eyes
like jewels that lay hidden in eras of ore
suddenly discovering the shadows they cast
like thoughts in a mindscape
were born of their own shining.
In any direction
in every direction
there’s a star that’s following you
as sign of where it’s going.
But you don’t have to worry your maps to death
because true north is ominidirectional
and who needs a compass for that?
Poetry is the enlightened awareness
that’s endowed upon everybody at birth
by the illumination of a world of things.
No need to sit at the feet of your own wisdom
to master what you already know.
Open your hand
and let the wind take it
like a gust of dust and ashes and stars.
Take the lids off your mason-jars
and let the fireflies go free.
Overturn the urns of your cosmic theories
and instead of asking the world what it is
let it tell you who you are
and listen with your life.
The universe is a polyglot ventriloquist
that throws its voice into everything
as if it were talking in its sleep
to you alone
and you were listening to it
like a conversation you were having with yourself
in the next room.
Poetry hears with its mouth
and speaks through its ears.
It isn’t a way of expressing
what you’ve got to say.
It’s the way
the listening expresses you.