Thursday, June 23, 2011


Generous to a tragic flaw I have squandered myself on noble gestures to keep something alive that’s crucial to the human spirit. Or at least mine. I have acted in proportion with the stars. I shine but not by design. A lethal tenderness overwhelms me whenever I meet someone who’s suffered so long they’ve forgotten what it was like to be astounded. Not social work. No morals. No ethics. No five-year plan. Just a man trying to make a good memory for a worse day as if to say you see it’s not all relentless. Remember this. Yes there are pitfalls and impact craters but there are parachutes and airlifts too. Unexpected boons even among the unlucky who keep being snake-bit by the dice just as they’re about to cross the Rubicon. Making a gift of a gift is the true art of life. But you don’t have to discipline your spontaneity to master it. Just open your hand your heart the eyes in your blood and let go of whatever you’ve been holding on to as if it only had a value in relation to you. Give the drunk who asks you for a quarter twenty-five bucks occasionally and tell him that your only condition is that he goes and spends it on booze. Why make a liar of the man and and a hypocrite of your gesture? Give him the money as if it just fell out of his pocket and you picked it up to return it. A man’s body asks for water. Don’t offer him bleach for his soul. And don’t walk away pleased with yourself as if you’d done something enlightening about your shadow. But for the grace of God or the Zeitgeist there go all of us. You don’t know how time and circumstance and pain may have twisted the space around him into some kind of blackhole he can’t get out of. The way things are so interdependently original here he may have been born to entertain one random thought on an uneventful morning before the bars open that the whole universe turns upon without his knowing it. He may have thought of someone like you he didn’t believe in coming through with a few bucks. Stagger his incredulity by coming true in a way that doesn’t abuse the wound you’re trying to heal in passing. And however estranged you are from his unkempt rendition of human dignity because more people are familiar with yours than his don’t pour weed-killer on his dandelions and expect him to admire your roses. You can kill a human deeper than you can with a knife by the way you give them something that their life depends upon. Giving is a beauty-based power not a power-based duty of soul that militates against the ugly and poor with beautiful stratagems of charity. Take the low place like the sea that everything flows down into and you’ll be closer to heaven than the mountain that seeks its place among the stars. Give as if you were grateful for the privilege. And not just money. Not just the heartfelt concern of a decent progressive humanist purging the tragic with pity. Don’t let the critic step out from the chorus as if there were an answer to the way humans suffer the way we do. Beyond fault beyond blame beyond judgment opinion or reflexive habit of thought we are all mystic specifics of the same mind. Distinction can change the picture frame but it can’t lay a brush to the view. It’s a lame self-portrait that can’t catch the likeness between him and you. In the need. Not just the gratification of it. In the seed. Not just the fruit that comes of it.

I’ve met people in life standing in estranged doorways hugging their hearts close to their chests like eggshell urns full of the ashes and acids of orchards scorched by napalm. I’ve stepped over people in the street lying like corpses in a war-zone of steel and concrete and glass that stared back at humans as if they were from the wrong class of perfection. I’ve heard the poppies scream out in their sleep that the ambulance doesn’t know the address of their homelessness and all their emergency exit signs are beginning to panic like a run on a bloodbank in a severe depression. Sleazy lovers made savage by love licking the toxic arrowheads they pull out of their own wounds to taste what they’re dying of. I’ve seen a wise man stand like a jewel foundationstone in an avalanche of fools buried up to his neck in their skulls like the broken rosaries of full moons that forgot the names of God. And what can you say to the cracked mirror with wrinkled skin about why she unsilvered her beauty like a chandelier on cocaine when you know from the puncture-wounds in your own heart that there’s nothing illicit about pain? I’ve attended lectures in a street school for unmanageable solitudes given by the insane to a conspiracy of traffic signs that rewrote the golden rule. I have watched the ingenues of the spirit perverted by wannabe Buddhas and forsaken messiahs deciphering light and reason as if they’d just broken the code to the enigmatic subterfuge of their own self-promotion. I’ve seen death close the eyelids of those adrift on the great nightsea of subconscious themes like overturned lifeboats that returned to their dreams like watercolours flowing into their mindstreams. And I have marked their likeness to Japanese plum blossoms and then detested myself for sugarcoating their deaths in distractingly beautiful simulacrums of mimetic coral when I know for a fact they had the hulls of their hearts ripped out on the reefs of their brains like the moon at low tide. The moon drops anchor like a lockmaster among shipwrecks she can’t exhume. You look at a human and you see right away that pain plays the chameleon. That suffering isn’t the effect of illusion. It’s protean. It envelopes itself in its own coils like space. It slowly seeps into a child’s eyes like a watershed without rainbows and irises when she cries. The features of her face begin to go awry and you can see another one coming through like a wisdom tooth. With that dumb blank stare of a human looking down into her eyes like wishing wells that didn’t come true. Asking why there are no fireflies in her lunar landscape any closer to her than the stars. Agony of mothers kicking their breastmilk cornucopias down the road like an empty soup can that fell off the bumpers of their honeymoons. Nightshifts of jellyfish tangled like kites in the downed hydrolines hissing like lightning in a snakepit because they don’t know how to holster their neurons before they empty their gun on the guilty bystanders. Shadows that have grown paranoid of the people who cast them. People who were defeated by everyone they ever believed in and went around preaching despair as if the word hadn’t already come to all of us in its own good time without screaming like an air raid siren to take immediate shelter from oncoming comets butterflies and stoned Mayan calendars predicting the end of the world though they didn’t anticipate that they wouldn’t make it to the end of their own. And from cradle to grave for every living thing death has never been any further away than their next breath. And whether you’ve packed a backup atmosphere for a parachute or not or you’re just freefalling in a cosmic starfield like some anticlimactic Icarus who’s just been washed like a cinder out of God’s one good eye. Fear smells like death to us and a vast darkness reveals to us what’s uninhabitable about all we behold. Living on earth is like being homeless with a roof over your head. We’re all faithfully waiting like cornerstones with nothing to build on. Even the dead who excavate their names like masons with time on their hands.

I have seen the despair terror the fury the hate. The machine-think of calculating minds in their white knight armour of chrome and tinfoil who like to be known for their largesse with big numbers provision an army of children with violent video-games to make up for their lack of creative vision. The incubator on the night ward full of baby rattle-snakes that were born as toxic as their parents. In the great war of the logos against the icons it’s easier to kill something you never think you’ll be than it is than it is to learn to live with the difference like one of your own eccentricities. It’s not even enlightened self-interest to ignore the fate of the woman and child sitting next to you in the same lifeboat with solar-powered oars rowing toward Vega down the Milky Way in a full eclipse of the sun. And singing in the choir isn’t going to feed the children of Darfur or stop rape in the Congo from becoming a military tactic of war against the womb. Anymore than this is. Radioactive outrage in the humiliated heart. The obscene gigantism of unseen olegarchs casting their shadows upon the earth like the gaping Martian canyons opening up like the gaps between the rich and the poor. Who owns the air the water the food the cure? Obese spiders importing fireflies like databanks on the optic fibres of the worldwide web tearing under their weight like a safety net the poor rely upon. The enslavement of knowledge. People summoned like ghosts to the seances of virtual avatars to be re-educated in an upgrade of their simulacrums. Innocence corrupted by children. Experience revered like a warcrime in trying times as the last alibi of a demonic adult in front of a firing squad of his peers. But sometimes the bullets take lightyears to get there if the history of the victors is rewritten in the blood of the victims who are as loathe to pull the trigger as they are to face the fact. You can’t dupe a jackboot into believing its out of fashion anymore than you can impress a Nazi with compassion. Liberty isn’t red white and blue a cracked bell fifty-one and a half stars or a maple leaf. That’s a flag of blood blowing in the wind like Isadora Duncan’s scarf. That’s a head wound. That’s a fatal shot. The poppy that bloomed from a musket ball. The scarlet bunting of Ouzi machine-pistols redecorating the highschool dance. Can’t you smell the reek of formic acid advancing over the distant hills like a conflagration of red army ants inspired like pill-sized runts of fire to destroy greater things than they ever dreamed of coming true in their vision of a coma? You can look in the eyes of the pumpkin-skulled candle-holders any wind can blow out for lightyears and still never see a comet on a grailquest looking to quench its thirst in tears. And wash its hair in the light. Most people speak a universal language they’re born knowing but they’re as possessive as an apostrophe-s after their names. The fire’s free but they own the flames. Everyone’s free to express themselves but don’t trespass on the false claims they lay on the history of misdeeds like an alibi to justify the new moon of blue blood stuck like the dumb-bell of a sacred syllable through their ancestral tongues. And it’s a small matter of aesthetic indifference whether you bleed like a red ribbon on a birthday surprise or a bottle of wine with a message to the world that he doesn’t want its help washed up like a drunk in the gutter. If you hang out in Babylon long enough you might communicate like the polyglot tower of Babel but you’ll end up trading your human accent in for the high rhetoric of a different class of jargon and you won’t be able to speak of left or right-handed holy things without a stutter. The skulls of old men mutter under their breath to the aeons about their loss of face in history and the young lions are spayed on the threshold of a zookeeper’s philosophy of rendering caged ferocities impotent. Lightning rods and weathervanes pulling the fangs of the storm out by grounding it like a snakepit to an antidote. War offering sweetmeats to the poor to go off and spill the blood of the poor like the flag of another country no one wants to belong to anymore except the slumlords that depend on the poor for a living and are willing to defend themselves with their deaths for it. Politicians like pot-bellied guitars with blackholes in their guts and tapeworms for spinal cords and strings. And it sings an octave higher than a spider-web but it lies about the lyrics just like the vox populi lip-synching the words to the national anthem. Just another bass guitar trying to pretend he’s a man of the people who could rock with the best of them in sensible shoes. And feigning the humility of a humorous failure at hitting it big in the music world is willing to run like a band on the road like the lead singer of a country that beats the drums for war. Government has no fury like a politician scorned. Frustrated sex is sublimated into power politics. A select few are elected to reject the will of the people for the good of the nation. The lineaments of satisfied desire are martyred in the fires of sexual frustration.

Good can quote chapter and verse but evil doesn’t even have a table of contents because it doesn’t go by the book. The light might have a better bedside manner when things fall out but it’s the darkness that lives on forever and ever as if nothing happened of any consequence. Like water after someone’s drowned in it. Like the silence that follows the telling of a story where heroism doesn’t stand for anything and the villains are all victims of circumstance. Everything you give isn’t a winning lottery ticket. It’s just a chance. A way to tweak evolution in someone’s favour without thinking of it as a course correction in the direction of prayer. Luck loads the dice with two of every kind like snake-eyes in a casino. A random neutrino arises like the full moon on the event horizon of a wavelength that still thinks of itself as a particle in a unified field theory. Flood myths from the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates lose their significance like waterdroplets and tears in a shoreless sea if you make your frame of reference big enough to include more than 180 degrees in your triangles so you don’t have to do an about face when you’re scuttled in your final resting place like an ark on the top of a mountain in Turkey. But even if you’re as cold and hard and adamant as a diamond about seeing things clearly you don’t have to thaw like a snowman to be a radiant focus of fire. You can warm things up like a thief of fire. You can steal industrial secrets from the gods. You don’t have to curse the crow to exalt the dove. As above so below means that enlightenment is omnidirectionally true for all of us and to know that is to render yourself homeless at all times and places like Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. No locus fixed in space. No place at the table. But plenty of camels and tents on their way north on the Perfume Trail so the Queen of Sheba can dazzle the King of Israel with the Lion of Judah like Bob Marley with a thorn in his paw making up redemption songs like Ya’s asmatographer to ease the pain of his abandonment. Giving is the greatest irony of all in an absurd universe that takes what it wants without regard to the consequences. Babies are torn from their mothers’ arms like apple blossoms and those who lent a helping hand to the local villagers just as often come home dismembered like stale breadcrumbs as whole and golden as a silo of wheat at peace in their hearts. Thirty pieces of silver. Thirty nights of the moon. Or a school bus in Bolivia. And Jesus Christ is repatriated to heaven like an illegal immigrant and Che Quevara’s bones return to Cuba forty years later. To address yourself to the need of the multitudes means you have to learn to feed your assassin’s children with no regrets. Your flesh. Your heart. Your art. Your mind. Your means. Your dreams. Your blood sweat and tears. Until you’re an emptiness that even God steers clear of for fear of not being able to fill it like a vacuum she abhors. The night is not a reward for shining and space isn’t the inner lining of a crusty robe of jewels meant to entrance the onlookers with the blazing of their blindness. Giving is coming across something ugly and painful and making it beautiful and whole for a moment as a matter of taste like you just sewed another button in the eye of the doll to take the lost one’s place. And it wasn’t a law or a reason that made you do it. But the look on a child’s face when you give it back to her repaired and she stares at you like the first letter of the alphabet trying to put words together out of the silence of her astonishment that even a poet can’t. Giving is a way of saying thank-you for flowers to the flowers and stars to stars. Water to water. You can’t keep what you won’t give away. And the only place you’re going to find a stone to lay your head on for the night and dream of every threshold you’ve ever crossed as the last step of the return journey home is less of a place than a way of seeing how unjustifiably bright everything is. Giving is a way of handing out poems like one of a kind pamphleteering snowflakes to people standing in line at the foodbank no two alike to remind them that the ore might be pitted and dark like a Martian meteor that had the bad luck to fall out of the tropics into Antarctica but it’s still as full of the gold and diamonds and lottery tickets of life as it had sewn into its lining when it left home. And then to offer one of them your Joseph’s coat because it’s cold out and say keep whatever you find in the pockets. And not revel in the realization that you can change a species with the slightest impact of the tiniest thing you’ve ever given away. That every atom of our bodymind starmud is the unborn beginning of a new universe that gives it all away in time like a secret that was hidden and wished to be known. Giving is a form of self-expression when there’s nothing left to say to the emptiness inside about why hundreds of millions of children go to bed hungry every night. Why one man floats on an inner-tube in a swimming pool on a hot day and another drinks his own tears like a mirage in a dry wishing well in southern Sudan. Feast and famine. Beast or human. Yeast in the whole wheat bread of the summum bonum rising like the intimate smell of home cooling on the windowsills of heaven whether we imagine it or not just to make it happen like a good guess or the hospitality of the lampshades and urns of Auschwitz and the ashes of bitter broken burnt unleavened loaves of millions of corpses rising from the ovens like the six-horned spark of a phoenix ascending like the first sign of karmic life in a nuclear winter where lizards are feathered like birds in a tree where nothing sings. Giving is a way of depleting yourself without diminishment. Of defeating yourself by celebrating the victory of the outcome as an encounter with the demon or the angel in your way you never walk away from weaker. Even when you’ve given up believing in the lies in the eyes of a seeker. And there’s nothing to illuminate and nothing enlightened in the stars over head that shine down on nothing like a nightlight in a morgue that closes the eyelids of the dead like the petals of a rose in full eclipse or white peonies of moonlight shedding their feathers like a rape of swans on a newly tarred asphalt driveway that’s trying to run them out of town like the hidden god of the KKK even though they’re both dressed he same way. And those are seashells that were their eyelids. So no one can tell the difference between a burning cross and the immaculate crucifix of Cygnus in the Summer Triangle migrating down the Road of Ghosts to nest in the west like the souls of Ojibways Persians and Pythagoreans bottled like a message from an island universe in the bodies of birds. Like the man who stands behind these words like the red-shifted wavelength of a distant echo in the shadows of the starfields who doesn’t think there’s anything holy about being a ghost but hangs on to it like the last known identity of a sentient transcendental life form singing like a secular nightbird in a sacred grove of trees as if all he had to give was the memory of a new insight into an old lucidity. And to go on believing without a single shred of proof that wherever we walked upright in the tall grass to get a better view of spotted leopards in our surroundings is the holy ground of our common humanity. Not a golden chariot driven through a slum but things sitting full lotus like a windfall on the flying carpet of the earth waiting like an airlift in the desert like manna from heaven. The bread of life shared in the midst of danger and pain and want not nuclear missiles of apocalyptic serpent fire with alternative interpretations of the same revelation. But the extraordinary ordinariness of our natural genius for decency and compassion to invite the Whore of Babylon to join the choir without making a liar out of her. Either that or we’re all immoral oxymorons trying to keep a lifeboat afloat at high tide in a snakepit that threatens to overwhelm us like a last sos on the same wavelength as the approaching sunami we’re trying to avoid like Atlantis. But giving it all up is the code that breaks the enigma of the fortune-cookie like a run of good luck against the odds of not being sunk by our own lies like a wolfpack of periscopes on the moon. It is the generosity of the human spirit within us that will save us from the obscenity of our own lovelessness and the insanity of our pain. Not the spoonful of ashes we make of our native tongues when anyone asks us what we’re doing on earth and we don’t know whether to reply like houseflies that taint the meat or dragons that bring the rain.