BLACK NIGHT RAIN
Black night rain.
As if someone had taken off their mirrors
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.
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?
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
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.
I say that’s something
you should keep your eye on.