Dirty winter windows
smudged by fingerprints and nicotine
the dawn looks like an old water-blotched sepia-tinged photograph
of someone’s fiance from nineteen-seventeen.
The shadow of a crow in a dolorous pine.
Sky the colour of apricots and opals.
Shades of Keats looking at it like a sick eagle.
I’m exhausted in the new light of day.
Vampiric blood too long out of the grave.
My heart Vesuvius
and my body Pompey
my mind the halflife
of some unknown element’s radioactive decay.
My life is a brown star setting in the east.
Too tired to shine.
Too forsaken to dream.
A wavelength shy of the light.
Too high frequency to sing.
I may be a synchronous happening
in a charged particle field
but nothing I do reverses my spin.
I suffer who I am
and the conditions of my life
as karmic retribution
for not being someone else.
I can hear the sound
of one hand clapping
like a koan slapping the wind in the face.
A heartbeat without a pulse.
Other people live
but I endure.
Other people care
but I’m the extinct species
of a unknown cure
in the slashed ashes of a burnt jungle.
Other people are happy
to throw a few coins into a wishing-well
but I’m a stem cell
for Promethean body parts
that grow back like salamanders
caught stealing fire red-handed from hell.
Other people are as clear and definitive
as copulative metaphors
but I’m haunted by
the more accurate simulacra
that approximate my likeness in similes
that suggest and enhance
but don’t make a stance
of the probable concourse of things.
My kind of clarity includes the clouds.
Metaphors don’t leave much room for individuality
and people and things are more like one another
than they specifically pretend to be.
Similes put out feelers
like dragonflies and witching wands
lightning tines and serpent tongues
to taste the atmosphere for signs
of what they’re looking for.
Metaphors are an imperialist kind of identity
that lays its eggs like wasps
on the forehead of the living host
until nothing’s left but the guest.
They enslave the brain like a foodchain.
So I live similically
like the missing link
among so many evolving likenesses
of the way I think
you won’t find anybody behind the masks
you could identify with.
I burn like a first magnitude star
not to be affixed to any constellation
not to be gilled or gulled
like the Circlet of the Western Fish
like a butterfly in a spider-web
to any compliant paradigm.
The quickest way to make a mess of your life
is to look for a design in it
you can stick to.
I don’t impose my mind
upon the creative chaos
of my changing nature
by overstaying my welcome.
Others are calm and serene
but I hurry on
like a tour bus
from Kitimat to
between an avalance
and icebergs in the
And if you were to ask my blood
what colour it is
it would say it was
a union of contradictories
between a rose and an ambulance
and show you the genome to prove it.
This morning’s it’s more like lava
coagulating into bloodclots
like islands in the stream.
Mu and Atlantis
submerging like submarines
with nothing but the daffodils coming up
to check the horizon for lifeboats and bees.
Space feels as heavy as a black dwarf
with its fist in my face.
And there’s no continuum to time
that isn’t T-boned
by the abruptness of eternity
at the intersection of now and then.
If space is curved
then time must be random.
I want to live longer tomorrows
and shorter yesterdays
I don’t want to wait
like cold dice
for seven come eleven
on a snake-eyed clock.
I want to strike twelve now
like a sword on an anvil
my heart can fall upon quietly
like an apple
when the time is ripe
not an alarm bell at .
You can’t steal your way into a dream.
And you can’t lie your way into the truth.
Reality isn’t a room in a house
someone you loved died in
where things are kept for years
like combs and mirrors
behind closed doors
just as they are.
It’s not a scar.
It’s not a fixed star.
and yet look how lightly
it settles like a waterbird on the waters.
There’s not much difference
between a wave and a feather to the moon.
Or the Byzantine leaf of a silver Russian olive
doing oldworld metalwork on mechanical birds
and watchs with dead mainsprings
that have passed on
Reality doesn’t put the is in existence
like a lithium battery into a camera body
just to get a few shots of you
for the family album in the funeral home.
Reality isn’t the stuffing in a teddy bear.
The inflammable substance of being.
You can’t grow towers of radio dishes like hollyhocks
and stuff the secrets of the Inconceivable
like cosmic gossip into your ear
and swear that it’s unrepeatable.
Once the primordial atom showed up
in its own good space and time
like the tree in the seed
the universe wasn’t inevitable
It didn’t look for a motivation
to express itself in stars and trees and birds.
It was inspired.
It didn’t choose its words sparingly
like a sparrow in the leftovers of a garden
It squandered them like a blizzard
where every single snowflake
is as original in the seed of the atom
as it is in the fruit.
everything looks like a beginning.
When there’s no outside to space
every grain of sand
is the cornerstone of a cosmos.
If you want to know the origins of life on earth
where are you going to find them
if not in yourself first?
In your own birth?
The peduncle may be lost in the ensuing phylum
but that doesn’t mean it disappeared.
If you want to know yourself as you really are
get rid of the mirror
you’ve been hiding behind for light-years
and all things will become as clear as the stars
to those who can feel them shining
in the nucleus of every cell of their eyes
like the sunrise of their own seeing.
And diving even deeper into your birthwaters
the new moon
of the black pearl
in an endless night
of nacreous and nebular beginnings
that sleeps in the abyss of your being
like an unborn primordial atom
and dreams that you’re awake.
As Chardin said
That’s why lovers are anti-social
when they first meet
and people feel alone
in their own mystic specificity
like a house-guest without a host
when they’re dying.
Chromatic aberrations of consciousness
around the rim of the mirror
where the stars step off into eternity.
As my dead friend Willie P. Bennet once sang
I wouldn’t be in this mess
if I could take my own advice
and I mosaically returned
the only vice I’ve ever avoided
so we’re here together alone again
trying to avoid rehab.
has to put the pieces back together by himself.
Union is Separation.
On the great journey of life
pilgrims on the winds of the starstreams
like doves released from sacred shines
not knowing what they’re the signs of
except that they’ve escaped being sacrificed
to the meaning of love once again
one foot’s always leaving
the other one behind.
But the same can’t be said for wings
when they sprout from your heels
and you’ve got a hermetic message
in an alchemical bottle
full of the eyeless wisdom
of the dark blessing
that lies deep in the heart of everything
like a compassionate answer
to its own wounded s.o.s.
The iceberg goes to the rescue of the Titanic.
When you can see the toxin and the antidote
in the one snake
striking at your heel
and not crush its skull
you see the lowest in the highest
and the highest in the lowest
you become a real dragon spontaneously
with the wingspan of the universe
into the ashes and urns of an old cold furnace
as big as the abyss
where big is as small as something that doesn’t exist.
And you can stand forever
in the flames of illusion
like a prophet in the lion’s den
the belly of the whale
the candle of a moth
or be tied at the stake
like a hapless heretic
in Bonfire of the Inanities
and nothing burns.
But you can hear in the words
that flower from your mouth
like poppies with solar flare
returning to the silence of their source
the unborn longing for the undying
as if one eye were seperated from the other
into the subject and object
and there were untraversible eras of light
Running Bear and Little White Dove
Hero and Leander
on opposite shores of the mindstream.
The extinctions and distinctions
of prehistoric hunter-gatherers
on the trail of themselves
leaving empty impressions
of their hands and feet in the starmud
they keep doubling back on themselves
like the retrograde motion of Mars
to follow later.
And you want to explain the optics of thought
and the cosmic dream-grammar
of PsychoBabylonic verbal expressions
to those who mistake words for thoughts
and talk in tongues in their sleep
like conceptual polyglots.
I’m not trying to give anyone anything
that isn’t already theirs
and I’m not trying to take anything away
that no one could possibly own.
I’m just trying to undo their locks
with a hairpin
as if my own escape depended upon it.
Rapunzel lets her hair down
like a navy seal
all the way to the ground.
But I’m not kidding myself about anything.
My third eye’s so wide open
most of the time
I feel like a Cyclops with nightvision
on a covert black ops mission.
And ambassadors martyred in chains
or barbecued by the Iroquois
like Brebeuf and his brethren
get better spin in this life at least
than the great heretics
who suffered the same agony
as they did
were immolated in the same flames
felt the same claws and fangs
tear their flesh
in the same ecstasy
the same mysterium
of orgasmic excruciations
like the eye of a hurricane
a boy with a telescope
hoping the clouds will clear long enough
to get a good look at the stars.
No difference between a sage and an ignorant man
except the sage knows how
to free you of his foolishness
and approach God
without losing your sense of humour
whereas the ignorant man
expects you to change into him.
Like the pseudo-morphosis of native children
press-ganged into Catholic reformatories in
or house-slaves in confederate
or refugees who change the names of their children
like chameleons in an alien country
to gratify the cauliflower ears of tongue-tied bigots
who approach every new sound
they can’t say
as if it were Etruscan linear A.
that wasn’t so hard afterall was it?
It’s not like you had to tell anyone
the secret name of your God now
And tomorrow we’ll work on your taste buds.
It’s the heretics
not the saints
the exiled and the demonized
the broken and unrepentant
the abandoned and hunted
the condemned and stigmatized
before they become next year’s perpetrators
and the great fools
with tears running down their face
to mask their laughter
who best express our human affinity
for a divinity that doesn’t malign us
with the unattainable slyness of its expectations.
If all else fails
you can always whip the horse’s eyes.
What you can’t do
though it’s been tried
is make a mule of Pegasus
and harness inspiration
to the death cart of your heart.
It’s hard to lay rubber in a hearse.
And all the phosphorescent algae in a red tide
shine though it might like a living galaxy
can’t do any good
for a dead starfish.
Inspiration grazes on a free range.
Even if you don’t burr stars in its mane and tail
or under its girth
and refuse to wear spurs
you can’t throw a saddle-shaped universe on it
and not expect it
to cast you back down to earth.
Heretics aren’t anti-orthodox
anymore than keys are against locks.
They just know how to open them
when opportunity knocks.
They know where the loose threads are
on the straitjacket
and how irresistible it is not to pull them
like a ripcord on a parachute
of someone standing in the doorway of a plane
when things that were looking up
seem a long way down
and they’re afraid to jump.
Their brains scream at the abysmal lack of solidity
though its clear to anyone who’s been there
the cornerstone of the atmosphere
is obviously the earth.
You can stub your heart
and fist-bump your forehead on it
like the kissing stone in the Kaaba
or the meaning of Peter’s name
they built the
if you don’t think it’s solid enough.
Or you can jump as if your life depended on it.
In any case.
Things aren’t solid.
Not fight or flight.
But fly or die.
before the fact
whether you’ve got a parachute on or not.
Some fish one day bluffed its way out of the sea
whether it had a leg to stand on or not.
Are we so much less
we won’t even linger in the doorway
of a dangerous medium
that adapts to us as intimately
as our next breath?
Daring said feathers and falling took flight.
How did you learn to walk
if not by falling forward
and learning how to catch yourself
with the next step.
There’s more dignity in jumping
than there is in falling
or being driven out of paradise.
The first time I did I liked it so much
I did it twice.
Now I’m addicted like an Olympic gymnast
or Hart Crane off the coast of
after a change of heart about sex
to swan-diving off the back of the Titanic
as if I were the constellation Cygnus
plunging into the Milky Way
with style and grace
and a touch of demonic glee
just to add a little shadow to all this lucidity.