Saturday, August 27, 2011


Black night rain.

As if someone had taken off their mirrors

like lingerie

and thrown them out an upstairs window.

The asphalt shines.

The cement sidewalks weep like watercolours

that wanted to be painted in oils.

The cool air is having a conversation with my skin.

Serpentine rainbows easing down the drains

like the flashback of a sixties acid trip

that got high on my brain

almost half a century ago

and never came down again.

West coast vertigo.

But even the pigeons under the eaves know

if you want to fly

you’ve got to get off the train

even if it is transcontinental.

And if it isn’t worth the trip.

Don’t go.

I went

to see what I couldn’t conquer.

Some went back the way they came.

No shame in that.

One mile east is one mile west.

You do what you can

and call it your best.

But I never found a return address

and where it’s all going

is still my second guess.

A teenager in a doorway bums a cigarette.

It’s too wet to look

for butts and roaches in the park.

For a moment we check each other out

as if we were both involved

in this same insane accident called life.

I say there’s a severe storm warning out.

She says she’s not afraid of the lightning.

I say that’s an enlightened attitude

and ask for my Zippo back.

She says sorry. I say the best of us are

and walk away cooly

like something unruly

but self-contained as rain

into the deepening desolation

and Maenadic frenzy of the night.

Apres moi le deluge.

But even among these billions of water droplets

I can feel her eyes dripping down my neck

like ice-cubes of Orphic anti-matter

in the sweat lodge of a prophetic skull.

And then the inevitable.

Hey mister can I walk with you awhile?

You don’t look dangerous or insane.

And I don’t like to be out on my own at night.

I say my dance card is full

but walking’s ok

at least part of the way.

Where we going?

I say isn’t what brings us both together

on a homeless night like this

the fact that we don’t know

and I’ve got the cigarettes?

She says I know you’re a poet

but I bet I can tell a better lie

than you can tell a joke.

I say it’s an occupational hazard

of learning to sing

without a punchline

or two minutes without a hook

as irresistible as jail bait

to the bottom feeders.

She says you’re way too serious.

I say for who

you or me?

This is just the down time of the mystery

when my personal history

feels like a snakepit.

She said do you think I’m mysterious.

I say no

you’re just curious

about how I can keep dancing

without getting bit.

No one’s afraid of the lightning

until they get hit.

She says what makes you think I haven’t?

I say you’re walking with me.

She says yeah

you may be a stranger

but I’m not the one who’s in danger.

And besides you’ve got the windproof Zippo

and stash of native cigarettes.

Can I have a dry one?

Mine’s drenched.

She says you got an old lady?

I say no one in mind.

She says do you think I’m a crazy bitch.

I say you have the potential.

She says I like you

you’re funny and kind.

I said there’s no point

in tying our shoelaces together

when I’m wearing cowboy boots.

She says you can always take them off.

I say only for a muse.

She says don’t I inspire you?

I say you’re bobbing for skulls

in the summer of life

when you should be

trying to take a bite

out of a windfall of apples

that are happy to lie at your feet.

She says most guys don’t like me

because I’m too honest.

I say lies that heal are true

and truths that wound are lies.

She says you really believe it?

I say I’m talking to you aren’t I?

She says is that supposed to be

some kind of poem?

I say no

it’s just the flow

of the xylem and phloem

of a tree that’s been struck by lightning

more than once.

She says can I make a suggestion?

I say don’t ask a deceptive question

and expect a straight answer.

She says you want to go down

to the willows by the river

and have a good cry.

I say I’ve already disembarked

from that ark

when it left me high and dry

on the top of Mt. Ararat

with two of every kind?

She says what kind am I?

I say the latest mutation.

A whole new species unto yourself.

She says is that good or bad?

I say no

just kind of lonely and sad.

She says what makes you say that?

I say the peduncle is lost in the ensuing phylum.

She says you mean you don’t know?

I say you haven’t lived enough yet

with desire or regret

to be seeking asylum

in the Burgess Shale.

She says first impressions

are the ones that last the longest.

First come.

Last gone.

I say that’s something

you should keep your eye on.



If you’ve come this far

by the very fact you could

your solitude is marked for exile.

Those who sustain

are threatened by those who enhance.

There’s a soft night breeze

blowing through the open window

and a chandelier trying to teach a mobile to dance

and a man looking up at the stars

into the abyss beyond

wondering how to be grateful

that chaos took advantage of random chance

and he’s here

amazed by the accident.

Being without intent.

Meaning without a basis in fact.

And a passion for darkness that surpasses the stars.

His longing must have reached them by now.

His compassion must have brought them to tears.

Wavelengths of insight can burn for light years

like fireflies with astrolabes

trying to get a fix on their event horizons

as if their own shining

were the only lead they had to go on.

A mirage in a desert of stars

when you’re lost

can give you a sense of direction

to the watershed of your radiance

as well as any other approach to the vastness can.

He picks a few yellow leaves off a green plant

in a bone-dry apartment

and for a moment he’s Adam in the garden again.

He realizes that promoting life

is his way of cherishing his own.

And then he ruminates on its perishing

on his way to the garbage can

to dispose of the heart-shaped leaves

like phases of the moon

on the pages of an obsolete calendar

with pictures of the scenic past

inviting you to come and visit.

What’s a guest to do by himself

when there’s no one else

in the light house

to play the host

but the ghost of God

wandering like smoke along this lonely coast

trying to make the sea stand still

knowing that’s the one commandment

it can’t fulfill

and probably what got him killed?

Prayers are more sincere at a seance

than they are at church.

Widow watch in a dark tower

long after the search has been called off.

He lights a candle.

He blows it out.

He sits down at his desk

and listens to the raging rant

of a heart-broke drunk outside

smashing the love letter he meant to write

like an empty whisky bottle

in the indifferent street light

on the rocks of a lip-syncing mermaid

who’s just jumped his shipwreck

for a lifeboat that likes her singing.

He gets the message.

He’s not one of her new friends.

The man at his desk

reassesses his loneliness

and decides one bodymind

a lifetime

might be a brighter lamp

than any two a genie could wish for.

New lamps for old.

But the fire doesn’t change.

Desire takes root in its own ashes.

Two birds perch like hinges

on the door of a grand entrance

to a Janus-faced New Year

though it’s only August

that looks both ways at once

at the valley its just passed through like a death mask

and the view from the peak

of the mountain it’s on

speaking to God face to face

as if there were no come down to the future

of its unhinged celebrants.

Is love the long binge of a periodic alcoholic

who can’t remember

the damage he’s done

to the weather of a loved one?

Or is there something more to it

that greets the heart

with everything that’s missing from the mind?

An inexplicable mystery

that reveals a starmap

of fireflies for the blind

that no one can follow

like the white cane of a tall ship

witching for water in hell

like a lightning rod.

And in heaven

a bloodline that isn’t wounded

by a grail of sad heavy wine

that cures the ailing kingdom of its symptoms

but not the longing of the disease

for the delirium of the dream

that broke it

like a water clock with a fever.

More heretic than believer

a crow balances

like a black umbrella

on a power line outside his window.

Looking at it

he sees an eclipse of the moon.


No exit

but time

maybe time.

Even the darkness must pass.

He takes it as a sign

that if he’s come this far

the future is well behind him.

He’s a star beyond shining

and there’s no way

even if he’s recalled from exile

even if he receives a look from someone

he can return to

they’re ever going to find him.