OLD LOVERS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR
Old lovers in the rear view mirror
though things may be closer than they appear
you diminish us
when I see
what you’re not ashamed to be
the cunning and the greed
the unenlightened cynicism
the panicked arrogance
of everything you are not
afraid of being caught out in the open
like a fraud before God in a thunderstorm.
You come on like a lighthouse
but I liked you better
when you were barely a nightlight.
You talk like a lightning rod
with a new revelation
that’s going to save the world
but I can’t help feel
to the same old weathervane
that’s always been twisting in the wind
like a rooster without a big enough propeller
for take off.
You can’t be the clarion call
of the morning’s bugle boy
and still lay cosmic eggs.
What’s the difference
between being born
a sexy Anglo-Saxon hen
and wanting to make
a grand French entrance
dressed up as poultry
on William the Conqueror’s table?
You’re going to get eaten either way.
But I can remember when you
opened your legs like a tuning fork
that put everything in harmony
that was human and wrong and endearing about us
but by the way you walk now
I can tell
they’ve been broken like a wishbone
that didn’t come true.
And there’s a crack in your liberty bell
that can’t be fixed with superglue.
Once I was bewitched
by your spell-binding cosmetics
like a chameleon in front of a mirror
that never wore the same face twice.
But now I look into your eyes
and see white-out on the typos
in the spirit of the law
you follow to the letter
like a counterfeiter
in a game of scrabble.
I was diamond when you met me
but you treated me
like an uncarved block of marble
and you were Michelangelo
who could see what I could be
if I just let you chip away the rough parts
and I was happy to let you shape me any way
you thought you could
as long as you were pleased with the work.
But you couldn’t find a chisel strong enough
and it was always you that broke and ran
and me that ended up thawing
like a snowman
who thought he’d been too hard on you.
Now I see
you’re a palliated woodpecker
the bird of Mars
a jackhammer in a concrete relationship
that says it’s willing to die for you
like a Roman aqueduct falling
on the gladiola of your sword
if you ever break up.
After you slept with the jeweller
I had traded the rings off
for six large paintings
you asked me
if it was okay
after we broke up
if you melted them down
into a twisted symbol of us
you could wear around
like a mutant embryo on a necklace.
But I can remember
when I thought
you were the shape of the universe.
Never felt I belonged anywhere
as if I were living my life on the run
but I don’t know what from
I think it might not be a place
but someone I belong to
like space belongs to time
I find myself being left behind
like a fingerprint
at the scene of the crime
as if I were a witness
to my own identity theft
to pick myself out of a line-up
of well-known shape shifters
with records the length of my arm.
And I hear you flew out
to tell my mother
what a clown I was
but she stood up for my womb rights
and said no
as long as she’s known me
I’ve been a brilliant idiot.
You can admire it or pity it
or learn to love it like an oxymoron
but my son makes a point
like a starmap
you can’t quite put your finger on.
Like a key to an unknown door
you’re never quite sure
you can afford to throw away
so you put it in a drawer
and let it stay
until you remember one day
what keys are for
when you’re dying in prison
of your own isolation
like a fish beside fresh water.
And then in an unexpected turn
of an impervious phrase
your event horizon
is no longer a cage
in need of a key
and your freedom
grows up to realize
that compassion is the fruit of insight
and how much you creatively owe
to everything you’ve abandoned.
Some hang on a cross.
Some hang on a key.
But I can remember hanging
on every word you said
as if you were some kind of female Jesus
whispering into the left ear of Lazarus
to come forth from the dead
and enjoy great sex.
And I remember the night we broke up
and you said
you were sick of trying to be famous
standing in my shadow
and I felt like some great evil failure of an eclipse
as you went on
telling me what was wrong with our relationship
like a swan in an oilslick.
And I honestly do hope the full moon
sheds your flightfeathers in clearer waters now
and your path to heaven is laid out for you like the Milky Way
and not the Road of Ghosts
with its sad autumn geese
bearing the souls of the dead southwest
and there’s still more creativity in your art
than there is in your name
because I remember a nobility of soul about you
that used to put me to shame.
A first magnitude dark star of savage superlatives
with the most paranoid heart
that ever killed her biggest fan
out of jealousy.
I’m not all that bitter anymore.
The disease has given up looking for a cure.
The eagle doesn’t derive its personal myths
from the rumours of houseflies
and I still find
there are fewer lies
when I look into the eyes of a serpent
that there are in the startled stare
of a doe with stagefright
caught in the glare of the headlights
of the oncoming future
like the ghost of yesterday’s roadkill.
And I’ve learned to have
a lot more respect for my masks
than I used to
and let them go
like new moons and apple blossoms
with deep gratitude
for the pain of lost beauty
I embrace like a memory
I would rather be hurt by
from the taste of crazy wisdom
that has come to fruition in me
with the urgency
of an estranged loveletter
I’ve been writing ever since.
The way I read it
you’ve got to wince and cry a little
before your eyes can adjust to the light
and dream up a new alibi every night
to explain to the darkness
when it overwhelms you
whose tears those are
on the pillow beside you.
And as for the delusional nature of love
I’d rather think that love
was a super sensible iridescent soap bubble
blown out of a gust of time in hyperspace
like a crystal ball
that wasn’t too fanatical
about its sphericity
letting things take shape as they will
without keeping an eye on the future
as if it were something you could prophecy
without having to experience
than a diving bell
sightseeing the shipwrecks in hell
as if it had a navy
and I were first admiral
of all the mermaids in uniform.
But it would amuse you to know
how content I am more frequently
nacreously pearling grains of dirt
I took out of the burning eye of hell
into a succession of moonrises in an oyster-shell
as things have cooled down
since the early days
of our last attempt at a solar system
that wasn’t the center of the universe.
Have you heard
they’ve been looking for signs of life
in the saline seas
under the ice of Encelaudus
one of the fifty-six moons of Saturn?
I remember looking into your eyes
like the return address on a loveletter
that spelled things out
like a cosmologist on a seeing night
as clear as a telescope full of fireflies
wanting to make contact
with intelligent life on another planet
that was more conceivable
than the insight they had into this one.
And it’s sadder than a starless November sky sometimes
when I realize
I no longer need a muse
to ignite the wick in the inkwell
like serpent-fire up my spinal cord
to bend my mind and heart out of shape like
gravitational eyes in space
when it so evidently appears
by the way the light is distorted
in this hall of warped circus mirrors
called the mind
where everybody looks for enlightenment
as if it were the flipside
of blankly staring into an abyss of delusion
some were born
in the sterling image of God
to a fucked-up imitation
of the image of Creation.
I no longer make a grailquest
of looking for the source of my illegitimacy
as if that were going to give
every misbegotten misshapen
bitch and bastard in the world
a better birthright
than the untouchable one
they already belong to.
On the hierarchical wheel of suffering and change
in the caste system of chaos
that preconditions the Buddhas
where everyone’s enlightened at birth
it’s the lower orders
rooted in decay
that bloom like waterlilies on the mindstream.
As if the earth
had something crucial to say to the stars
about the nature of life and love
they’ve been overlooking for lightyears
that receives the most attention
from extraterrestrial seers
with tears running from their eyes
like mirrors on the same wavelength
as the simulacrum of life they’re looking at.
Like a homeless addition knocking on a door
from inside the thirteenth house of the zodiac
on the wrong side of the tracks
from all those thresholds we had to leave behind
like the double-crossed children of the gods
denied the human divinity
of their cosmic heritage
on the stairs of an abandoned orphanage.
I can’t remember now
if we thought it would provide them
with a better future without us
than the extinction we were living
like the half-life of the radioactive isotope
of an undiscovered element
too unstable to found a life upon.
But I’ve never meant
to the living or the dead
I swear it
because I know
I’m fire-walking in a sacred place
full of stars and thorns and shattered mirrors
that still cut after all these years
like a crystal-nacht of chandeliers
that couldn’t quite keep up
with the constellations
they were trying to replace
with black market knock-offs
of theosophical swastikas
and racist armbands.
And it’s holy and quiet here
as if someone had died unconditionally
for something truer than love
and deeper than meaning
that wasn’t trying to set an example
by dying to live up to anything
you could follow like a logo on a running-shoe.
And it’s true
we’ve all gotten older
and probably pay more attention
to the candle holder
than the flame
or who lit what in the name of
the little we could see in the dark once
of what we were all convinced for awhile
was love with nothing to hide
from the blood brothers and sisters
we made like strong alloys of our solitude.
But the length of the shadow
isn’t a measure
of the intensity of the fire
that casts it.
And though dreams might pass away
the dreamers stay
lingering over old memories
they keep to themselves
like strangers around a fire
no mirage can put out
even though we’re up to our necks in it
because even among these phantoms of water
desire is the white phosphorus
of the inextinguishable radiance
in the glass eye of the diamond
that inspects the stars for flaws
and sees that everything worked out
perfectly for the best
when everything was allowed to break up
like one ancient continent
beside one whole ocean
like a fortune-cookie in love with a seashell
that didn’t get the message in time
to stop the new paradigm of things
from drifting apart
like species at variance
with the evolution of the heart
along individual fault-lines.
And as long as it’s been
since we last shared the same genome
I still look back in unaffected gratitude
to a time when
deserts woke up beside monsoons
like a sexy climate change
in the manic weather
that kept us together
in the early Jurassic
long before evolution
panicked like a seismic catastrophe
into a new food source
for gigantic warm-blooded dinosaurs
smart enough to wonder
if the distance between
the brains in their heads
and the brains in their tails
were the same distance
that could be measured
in the angelic flightfeathers
between them and us
as a direct function
of the demonic wingspan
of our scales.
Or as the homeless highway said
trying to explain the Grand Design
to a wandering river
drunk on the wine
of the Great Delirium
you’ve come a long way baby
but it wasn’t in a straight line.