Thursday, August 25, 2011


Things might be drifting away

like an empty lifeboat

with nothing left to save

but the memory of moonlight

on the rush of a wave of the heart

that rose and fell

like a bell of insight on the night watch

that said all’s well all’s well for the night.

And so it was for a while.

Time might seem

that it’s overstaying its welcome

and you’ve become the estranged guest

of a bad dream

in your own bed

in the thirteenth house of the zodiac

where the dispossessed

shack up with the misbegotten

and the ghosts of everything you’ve forgotten

don’t give you any rest

until all that you’ve cursed

out of anger and need

has been immensely forgiven and blessed.

And perhaps it appears

you’ve been the rogue star

of a sign in long exile

far away from now

and that might account

for your misplaced trust in mirrors

and your lack of confidence in star maps.

Happiness just happens

like good luck and grace

and the creative inspiration

to rejoice in your time and place here

as if the purpose of your voice

were always to praise

even on the darkest of days

when the only thing

that shone in your eyes

weren’t the stars you kept

locked away in your tears

like the face paint of clowns

or the crown jewels of the Pleiades

but a bitter farce of black holes

in the veils of the mirage

that eclipsed your enlightenment

with a starless night

it’s impossible to get beyond.

And so it may well be

for those who’ve been

as far gone for as long you have.

But even the blind are shining

though they can’t see it

and the deaf are still singing

though they can’t hear it

and the dead are still living

though they can’t feel it.

And those who have given up seeking

still find what they were looking for

like a loveletter with a return address

and an open door that recognizes them

like the prodigal threshold

of a homeless human

about to cross one more

like the last step of a long journey

that lost its way back in all directions

like the radiance of a star in space and time

that never took its eye off the past.

We cherish the flowers of summer that bloom last

more poignantly than those of the spring

because we feel our own hour of farewell

in the progress of their passing.

The sadness of an earthly excellence

fulfilled and surpassed

we see in the shedding of the aster’s petals

and in the lowering of the wild rose’s eyelids

and in the lengthening of the black walnut’s shadows

that move like cool water

across the dry grass of a late afternoon

signs of the same night approaching us.

And we know it will be dusk soon.

We’ll look up at the blue moon in late October

and whether the silos are full or empty

wonder if every harvest

wears the same death mask we do

with the smile of a scythe on its face

or if the goddess of the grain

bears true witness to

the perennial innocence of death

in the way she enhances

the white spectre of the first frost

to shock the garden down to its roots

with the same koan she uses

to enlighten the dew on the stargrass.

And you might dread the coming excruciations

of the scarecrow immolated on the pyre

of its own substance

like the short straw of flesh

that once sustained it

lost in a draw with death.

And come to scorn your heart like an urn

filled with ashes in the aftermath

of the same fire that once filled it

so full of desire to bloom

it could no more contain itself

than a seed can keep a secret from the spring.

You could see it that way.

And who among those clinging

like a blue atmosphere

to this homeless grain of dust

in the vastness of these sidereal immensities

within and without

that animate us like starmud

to join in this dance of life and death

like a legacy of shining

that can’t be washed out of our eyes

though tears have fallen for lightyears

on the root fires of what we’ve loved and lost.

Who among these

could say you were wrong?

Because no river’s flowing

the wrong way to the sea

in this reunion of arrivals and departures

at the stations of our afterlives

on this wheel of birth and death.

We’re all going to make it back

to where we came from

one way or another.

Some like rain.

Some like ice.

Some like snow.

Some like the lingering ghost

of morning mist on the lake

that’s gone before noon

and some like water on the moon.

The flowing of the river

summoned by the sea

to the source of its coming and going

is the calling of life everywhere

to transcend itself

by passing into the unknown

like the available dimension of a future

that’s no further beyond us

than the past is

in the light of distant stars.

The sword doesn’t wound itself.

Fire doesn’t burn itself.

Water doesn’t drown in itself.

And life doesn’t bleed out of itself

like the dream of a fortune-telling poppy

or a water clock that’s run itself to ground.

The eye isn’t the seeing.

The ear isn’t the hearing.

The tongue isn’t the tasting.

The skin isn’t the touching.

The voice isn’t the saying.

The brain isn’t the thinking.

The heart isn’t the feeling

anymore than life

is the carrying in

and death is the bearing out.

The darkness isn’t a lack of light

and the light isn’t the absence of night.

Death is unborn.

Life is unperishing.

Formless in a world of forms.

Two wavelengths of the same awareness.

You say you can see night gathering

under the door you’re afraid to answer

long before anyone knocks

and though you dream by your own light

you don’t know who’s casting the shadows.

Is sorrow any younger in the heart of a child

than it is in the memory of an old man?

Joy any less vivid in the eyes of an old woman

attending to the flowers in her garden

than it is in a girl having tea with her dolls?

Is this day not as new to the widow

as it is to the newly-wed?

Experience is the capstone and dunce-cap

of the sum of destructions

that made us who we are today.

And in life it’s the brilliance of our failures

that throws more light on the dark matter

of the issue before us

than all the star power

of the blazing successes

that blind us to our own shining.

You step out of a backlit doorway

into the dark

and slowly the darkness grows

the eyes you need to see the stars.

And maybe death is like that.

Nothing to look at but black

until we blow the candle out

that’s been misleading us all the way.

Maybe that’s why the jaws of skulls

are always caught gaping at something

that’s more than they can say.

But look at the expressions on their faces.

Maybe their eyes

are too overwhelmed by what they’re seeing

to want to get in the way.

You could see it like that.

You could see it through the eyes of the rain.

You can taste it on the tongue of a candleflame.

You can read it from right to left

in the Kufic script of the wind.

You can hear it in what the stars are whispering

through the keyholes in the pyramids.

You can feel it all around you

like bubbles of skin and air.

Like empty rooms with atmosphere.

As many ways and roads and rivers as there are

that flow into it down the world mountain

back to the sea

back to the same undifferentiated watershed

of these myriads of mystic specificity

and who could number them all

as many as the stars

or all the grains of sand

of all the deserts and beaches on earth

as many as the dead of every kind who’ve come and gone

all that blood mind passion dream and imagination

all those tears all that despair lucidity and apprehension

love and familial affection

all that waste and hatred and emotional sewage

dissolved wholly back into the sea

like a watercolour left out in the rain

like a name written on water

by a poet who died young

in a foreign language far away from home

just as birth arrays the universe before us

and says make of it what you can

so death approaches no less a peer of life

than we are in our relationship with all things

and offers us

the same great creative opportunity life does.

Green bough.

Dead branch.


Moon rise.

The hidden night bird alights

on either alike

and folding its wings

like gates and books

and the eyelids of those who dream

at the beginning and end

of a long dark radiant journey




In Perth Ontario tonight the willows are drying

the new born pearl of the moon with their hair.

A small town in the dark is feeling smaller

in the enormity of the universe

that reveals its mystic intimacies

and then just as sublimely ignores it.

An East Indian family

is arranging the all night fluorescent lotus

of Mac’s Milk at four in the morning

the way I’ve seen ants

supervise the budding of white peonies.

Fuzzy’s ghost is scrutinizing

the sidewalk and parking lot

outside the Imperial Inn

looking for lost wallets

cash drugs earrings and watches.

He once amazed me before he died

with what he’d found after the bars close

and I could tell by the intelligence and passion

he infused into the search

and the revelation of how good he was at it

and how lucrative and lucid it was

to be a scavenger

that he was incorrigibly nocturnal

and this was his enlightenment path.

A long train whistle like a bawling calf

stuck in starmud down by the Tay River

where the loosestrife and goldenrod

fight it out over the wetlands

like complementary colours.

The smell of autumn stars on the wind.

The brittle petals of beer bottles smashed on Devil’s Rock.

I rejoice under my breath

in the bleakness of my solitude

as I make my way through the arsenal

of wooden pikes

and the masts of toppled birch

shipwrecked along the shores of the river

scouting out the best places to paint and stargaze

because it always makes me feel

one step closer to the absence of God.

Eyes gleam in the darkness

like arresting flavours of light.

Racoons muskrats and feral cats.

We have no business with each other

but we’re aware that the other’s there.

We freeze in a moment of mutual apprehension

and then get on with it.

The seeking and the need.

This emptiness that refuses to be full

in the midst of so much it could hunger for.