SO USED TO THIS
So used to this
the pain is almost normalcy.
I’m more attached now
to everything that has gone
than I ever was when it was here.
How could so much serious potential
turn into such a laughable past?
And yet what part of it don’t I cherish?
I am a Canadian poet.
Fire in a cold country.
I burn like a glacier.
I think like the Burgess Shales.
I feel like the
Baby-boomer from the sixties
that took up all the air in the room
and sucked the future out of us
though we didn’t know it at the time.
Now I’m as original
as the singularity at the topless bottom of a blackhole.
And the ashes are as fascinating as the fire.
My eyes are diamonds wishing they could cry.
I’m freezing to death in a blizzard
trying to convince myself it’s a choir.
Or the down of angels in a pillow fight.
I live in an apartment with three windows
and my goldfish Toke
where the floors are so warped by time and tonnage
you’re either wobbling like a drunk
or taking dramamine to keep from getting seasick
on your way to the kitchen.
And it smells
like someone died here before me.
Turn on a tap
and the pipes knock and groan
like an extinct species of dinosaur
coming back to life.
And yesterday the toilet
mistook itself for a fountain
and flooded the bridal store downstairs.
I try not to get too excited about things
hoping to use the unwanted wisdom
I garnered from my tragic errors
but I keep getting carried away.
Like fire in the night air
I expend myself on nothing.
But squandering it
is the only way I know how
to honour life
as if life were a beautiful woman.
Though even that might not be important.
I’m a good wolf
and know how to turn a porcupine over
without getting any quills in my nose
but I’ve never approached a woman on her back
without walking away
with icicles plunged through my heart.
It’s the discipline of this long effortless art
to learn to thaw my way out of them
but I don’t blame women for being water.
When they cry
they put the dragon out
as easily as blowing out a candle.
Now I’m a little black monk of a wick
waiting for the resurrection of wax
like a fly in amber
for the end of the last ice age
or an astronaut in suspended animation.
But I keep walking
though I’ve run out of road.
I keep writing these poems.
I keep painting these pictures.
I keep hustling a buck
so I can buy a little time-share
in the eye of this hurricane of razor-blades
and shake awhile with the shock
and patch the slashes
with the Atropic threads
of my severed life-themes.
These aren’t the lines of a poem
they’re the seams of the stitches
that are sowing a wounded mouth shut
so it doesn’t bleed to death
pouring its heart out
like blood on the snow
that doesn’t turn into wine.
I’m just a man talking to himself like barbed wire.
My flesh is torn on the plinths of a star
that digs into me like a Spanish spur.
The snake bites the heel
and the heel bites back.
Not much of guide
but sometimes it’s all I’ve got to go by.
And when it’s not that
I’m all three wise men
following any firefly that blinks
in all directions at once.
But I’m sick of messiahs
that don’t come looking for me.
By the time you’re salvage
it’s too late for salvation.
I can’t remember the last time
I sang like a fountainmouth
crazy with words
washing their wings in my eloquence.
Now the poems pour out of me
like blood through my pores
and my eyes weep acid
like an antidote to the elixirs
that once tasted so sweet
when they bloomed like flowers
and perfumed the night air
with the flavour of stars.
No one to rely on but myself.
No one to suffer my downfall but me.
No one to endure my rising again
like the Summer Triangle
with more than a hundred and eighty degrees.
I’ve always pursued an earthly excellence
from as far back as I can remember
gold stars at the top of my essays in school
but perfection isn’t a direction
any fool can fake like a Japanese plum blossom.
Comes a time
when the only thing
a cosmic compass can do
to save face
like a course correction
is to gut itself on its own needle
like a spur disembowelling Pegasus.
No one to fear for me but me.
No one to hear me but this autumn wind
that keeps talking over everything I say
as if I’m not there
like a bookend to my own posthumous works.
In a world of electrical guitars
I feel I’m trying to play rock and roll
on the bagpipes
or meditative flute music
for insomniac cobras.
I’ve put sensible shoes on
and tried to walk the way other people do
but the wings on my heels don’t fit.
And whether I walked barefoot in chains
and called it liberty
or kept my boots on in bed
so I wouldn’t meet the dead unshod
I’ve never greased my feet with reality
to cheat on the long firewalks
that tested me to see if
I was worthy of my initiation
into the cosmic inflation
of my own pain thresholds.
I’ve done my time standing up.
I’ve stared at the same immensities
as my simian ancestors.
I’ve eaten my own ashes out of a silver spoon
and drunk my blood out of a cracked skull-cap.
I’ve read the linear A of my Etruscan scars
like the dead language
of the hidden thirteenth king of the zodiac
who was delegitimized like the new moon
of an unpredictable eclipse
on an ostracized lunar calendar.
I’ve broken bread with jovial evil
at a table in a snakepit
free of all mythologies
knowing neither of us would do
the other any good
and a Pyrric victory
wasn’t worth the liberty we took
to shed our skins
and spread our wings
like an old truth that didn’t fit
the cosmology of the moment anymore.
Evil bought into the legend
and I didn’t drop a dime on its farce.
When two opposites meet
in an hospitable truce
on either side of the table
they greet each other
as if they were both
dangerous and scarce
and observing a propriety
befitting the rarity of the moment
they pass the salt
both agreeing that if it spills
it’s no one’s fault.
I’m the gene for moral immunity
that separates the wolves from the sheep.
I’m so nacreously poetic
that if you put a grain of dirt
on the oyster of my tongue
I’ll expand it into the pearl of the full moon
and pointing my snout at the sky
like the holster of a gun
some lunatic ran off with
to shoot the stars out
I’ll howl like Pushkin in
You give me a spoonful of ashes
and I’ll give you back Joan of Arc.
Real means full measure
and the multiverse beside.
You study the stars
as if they weren’t part of you.
I look upon them as family.
You look for extraterrestrial life out there.
I reverse the spin of my electrons
and explore alien biology right here
in every encounter I have with myself
by the deep starwells of my own cells
where I drink the light
that turns into water blood and wine
knowing there’s nothing more alien
than this intimate life of mine
that keeps trying to prove I don’t exist.
Know thyself long enough
and you’ll eventually become
a stranger to yourself.
You’ll wind up sitting in a room like this one
listening to a single mother with a child
playing country music in the apartment next door
as if she were the last one on earth
to know what a broken heart means anymore
or what it’s like to be a virgin
that gave birth to her own abandonment.
And the floors are as warped
and muscled as potato chips
or the space-time continuum of starfields
in all eleven dimensions at once
by the exertions of local blackholes
that have no respect for the integrity
of the picture-plane
anymore than pain does
for the red velevet curtains
haemmorhaging like roses
on both sides of a cracked windowpane.
Or as the Sufis say
if it’s only water that falls from your eyes
when you weep
and not blood
it’s just another lover’s tale.
You haven’t failed yourself deep enough.
You’re still looking for gold
in the abandoned mines of your bones
long after the canary has died
and the wolves have lapped your marrow
like music from a flute.
All is Void.
All is Silence.
And when you speak
you’ll speak in the voices of all humans
who were born missing a root like a parent
and making a virtue of a vice
a ubiquitous absence into a god
talk to it like empty cupboard doors
that won’t stay shut.
The departed and far draw near.
The blackhole turns into a seance
and summons the star to channel
the ghost of its grievance.
And a stranger keeps arriving
like a warning that came too late
to remind you of who you are
when you’re sitting in an apartment
as old and spent as a maxed-out quasar
with Daliesque floors
and overflowing clocks
that don’t flush like toilets.
And over and over and over again
like a cliche of enlightenment
like a cosmic insight
into the orbital nature
of your own madness and pain
looping everything else in the universe
like a deerfly that flew in through
an unscreened window
expecting a different effect
from the flyswatter
of a Zen master
who rejects it
like a false interpretation of a koan
with the sound of one hand clapping.
Over and over and over again
that every moment
is a death in life experience
as immediate as the velocity of insight squared
when you’ve run out of lies of your own
sitting in the pharoanic chaos
of your pyramidal afterlife
alone with a goldfish
in the rubble of your last incarnation
your vital organs
stacked around you in cardboard boxes
as you wonder where they put the dope
so you can get philosophically stoned
on your abandonment of all hope
that there’s any pattern god reason law cause
or unifying field theory
among ten thousand theses
to the saturation bombings
that keep changing your life
like a species of warm-blooded sauropod
into these nuclear winters
of degenerate starmud
waiting like a wild Arctic strawberry
to ripen quickly in the midnight sun
like the heart of Canadian poet
in the stone dolmens
and arboreal totem-poles
that stand up to the inclemency of the weather
like a red poppy of blood
pinned to the chest of a snowman
on memorial day
like a veteran human
that will be long forgotten by the spring of the year
like tears shed in a bad dream
you never wake up from
to the way things were
before your scales turned into fur.
Before your poetry turned into a great fire
that burned the forest down
And you sit like a phoenix
alone in a homeless apartment
as if your heart were the urn
of the ashes of the Library of Alexandria
waiting for the first green leaf
of your next poem
to prove you’re still alive.
And though every breath
that feathers it into flame
is a nameless passport
to a familiar nowhere
you thrive on the wind
like a root embedded in everywhere.
You stare out of the window
like one of the membranes of M-theory
torn like an old blind
or a ruptured hymen
that broke like a primordial bubble in hyperspace
and you wonder which is worse
to never know your place in the scheme of things
or see all the permutations and combinations
of your infinitely sad-eyed face
in the disappointed features
of the creaturely multiverse
seeking shelter from the storm
in an old circus tent
that houses more content
than it can conform to
like Homo Heidelbergensis
in a grubby apartment
he’s trying to warm to.