NOT ANGER NOT SORROW
Not anger not sorrow
but the stillness of things enduring along with me
as if there were nothing single-minded about purpose.
Use is another matter.
I see my illuminated star globe
reflected in the open thermal-paned window
and I feel just like that reflection.
The understudy of the Milky Way.
A street cleaner hisses and swishes by
clearing the gutter of the long weekend.
Forty-seven years of writing poetry
and I still feel like a chandelier in a meteor shower.
The Alpha Aquarids.
I’ve been painting most of the day.
Making lewd decisions about colour
that are mystically suggestive
to a potential audience of holy men.
Now the night is hot and humid
and I’m sitting here in the glare
of my computer screen’s one-eyed page
trying to come to terms with my age
like a bad burn that left a scar
in the likeness of an affable death-mask
inside the urn of my heart I scatter like ashes on the wind
to keep things perfectly clear and empty.
Ready for what comes.
I haven’t heard a car for hours.
I don’t wish to be young again.
With all I’ve learned about burning
I don’t think I could survive
the acid rain
that scorched like tears
a second time.
Once was enough of a bad neighbourhood
where I wore my starmaps
like prison tats on my sleeves
so no one would fuck with my solitude
as I reached for stars nobody had ever touched.
I hear from the philosophers
that a lot of bad breaks can make you stronger
if you know how to weld them back together again
but just as often
as the angel in the way let’s you go
to transcend your character like the Ubermensch
it can leave you crippled for life.
I know people who didn’t get up after the first blow
and maybe it was stupid of me
not to squat on a comfortable footstool
in the corner of my coma
but I didn’t want to throw the fight
win lose or draw.
I didn’t want to make a career of betting on the wrong man.
Now its all dirty windows and deserted streets
and watching the daffodil lamp posts
shine as they might
trying to open their buds like love letters
that never come to full bloom.
Well past as Mayakovsky would say
for nine lines more
before he picked up the revolver
and declared the Russian Revolution dead
in keeping with the kind of heretic he was
and the reactionary nature of love.
Lost on the vast night sea
without the blessing of
after your ship’s gone down
it isn’t the flare that comes to your rescue.
It isn’t the darkness that blows it out.
It isn’t the depths that drown the captain.
Things just happen
when you strategically retreat
and turn the wheel over to the storm.
God bless you Mayakovsky.
I cry a watershed of mirrors
that don’t break when they fall.
And there are birds dropping seeds
like poetic airlifts
on the new islands of life
you left like afterthoughts
in the widening wake of your volcano.
But you knew as well as I do now
that things just take their course in life
like skulls and rivers and revolutions
and if you live them out to the bitter end
everything you ever dreamed of
that was beautiful and luminous and free
turns into the black farce
of a prophetic heretic
burning at the stake
in no one’s name but his own.
Nine lines of poetry past
and it wasn’t as if you’d run out of things to say
you just realized
as we all have since
that no one was listening from the very beginning.
A bullet hole.
Poppies of blood spatter
spreading like gypsy wildfire
among the Queen Anne’s Lace of the curtains.
It’s not the windows
but our eyes that thaw like glass
in the intensity of the clear light of the void.
Any welder will tell you
the hotter the flame
the lower the candlepower.
When you’re burning perfectly
You become a black mirror of dark energy.
Indelibly invisible ink
you have to hold up
to the stars to read.
Some people look into it
and don’t see anything.
Nothing but lamp black.
Others tremble like divining rods
above the watershed
of its dark abundance
and feel free to be what they want.
Appearances are only deceptive
because of what you believe.
They’re the fall guys of the truth.
They’re the scapegoats of what you conceive.
They’re the illegitimate children of reality.
They’re the martyrs of a misspent youth.
They’re scarecrows on a makeshift crucifix
that shoot themselves in the head
with snub-nosed words
to scare away the birds
who think they don’t mean it.
It takes the spunk of a drunk poet
with a downed powerline
and a short circuit
to shoot out the stars.
I’ve heard it said
that poets love the pain.
That it’s the wound
that drives us insane.
But I don’t think it’s that way.
We hate the scars
that make child’s play of our nightmares.
We hate the clock on the wall
and its whirlwind of scalpels
that tells us all things are healed in time
like those old one-eyed one-armed house wells
we used to draw from
until they were capped
and taken out of circulation like a tree-stump.
The betterment of human kind.
Rimbaud said be thoroughly modern.
You agreed like a locomotive of poetry
on the wrong gauge of track
and died for the oldest of reasons.
A change of heart.
Deeper reasons the party would disavow.
But when and what did they know about you anyhow?
A revolutionary can’t afford
to have an identity of his own.
Wasn’t that the point all along?
All for one.
One for all.
But millions of people
can’t fill the absence that one can.
You lent them your emptiness
and they filled it like a hall
with politics and poetry.
Eventually the people
will make holy relics
of the hands they cut off
for the usual reasons.
Someone tried to help them too seriously.
The wolves are tolerated among the flock
as useful sheepdogs for a while.
But wolves don’t pant for praise
from their master’s hand
and sheepdogs that want to run with wolves
don’t last very long.
and I can hear you up above the timberline
howling like a mountain at the moon.
But I don’t think it was love that killed you.
You were thoroughly modern.
It was getting late
and you didn’t die a moment too soon.
You weren’t the content of the revolution.
You were the timing.