MY SOLITUDE IS TAKING ME TOO SERIOUSLY TONIGHT
My solitude is taking me too seriously tonight.
Space shrinks like Saran-wrap
tightens over my face
turns to glass.
I want to scream.
Maybe if I screamed loud enough
the fly could get out of this amber womb
that sits like a paperweight on my heavy desk
by shattering it like a wine goblet
from the inside out.
The stone would roll away
from this rented tomb
and I could poke a finger in my wound
like Caravaggio’s portrait of Christ
showing off his scars to his disciples.
No doubt that would hurt.
Cool night air after the rain.
A bigger silence than usual
looms over the town like an iron bell
that won’t have anything to say till Sunday
unless it’s interrupted by a funeral.
I think this poem
just might be the finger
Doubting Thomas stuck in the wound
to prove Caravaggio’s likeness of Christ was real.
I know it’s not Michelangelo’s depiction
of God’s magnificent digit reaching out
to animate Adam.
Or maybe I’m slashing my throat
on the shards of broken mirrors
trying to get rid of bitter memories
that have lied to me all these years
about being an honest reflection
of the way things are and used to be.
It’s a long shot
but maybe I’m more innocent than I thought
and the people I have tried to love
as if each were a discipline I was apprenticed to
were a lot more gullible and culpable
than I could have known at the time
given how much I needed to believe in them
in order to make my own delusive self come true.
It’s hard to discover that you’ve loved a lie
and harder even still
to embrace the truth
that commiserates with you like a messenger
that wants to be the new friend
that takes the old one’s place
like a cutting wind takes a garden in the fall
leaf by leaf
face by face
blossom by blossom.
Emptiness is difficult enough to adapt to
but now this vacuum.
This mini black hole
in the center of my solar system
that’s replaced the sun with nothing.
I try to cling to the intimate things of the earth
to keep them from flying off into the great abyss
as if they were all I had left to cherish
after the passing storm
of the afterlife I had planned for myself
comprised of all those things and people
I had loved in the past.
This too will pass.
King Lear might shake his fist at the gods
but it’s his fool that I pity
because I know how it feels
to be the dupe of your own ideals.
To praise your own assassin
for love generosity loyalty compassion
and mistake the fangs of the rattlesnake
that coiled under it
for the thorns of a rose
that kept its worm well hidden
in the folds of its breath-taking beauty.
I suppose I could get righteous
about my loathing and hatred
and start a cult of killer bees
like the Old Man of the Mountain
enshrined in a hive of houris and hashish
coming down from his cosmic view
because he saw what you did
and he knows where you live.
But we’ve got Al Qaeda and the Taliban for that
and I can hear the horses
of Hulagu and his Mongols from here
like distant thunder over the Lanark hills.
And soon there’ll be a mountain of skulls
outside the gates of
to explain the terms of surrender.
But vengeance is a redundancy
when you take it out on a corpse.
And those people I would like to sit down with
and play Russian roulette with the most
blew their brains out a long time ago
without taking the risk
that would have made them real heroes
instead of logos on the chests of their comic books.
They never learned how to get out of the way
of their own richochet
and they’re roadkill to me now
though that’s a harsh thing to say
for a man who’d rather be soft and supple
than brittle and hard.
Let his emotions bend like river reeds
in the mindstream
or the big heart-shaped leaves
of the basswood trees in the wind
as it’s coming off the fields it silvers in its wake.
I still hope nature abhors a vacuum
for my sake
because the only way
to get this grave robber out of my tomb
is to deepen my emptiness until even death
can’t find any room to maneuver
and everything comes back to life
moment by moment
breath by breath forever.
Though that wasn’t meant to be a prayer.
More a way of not getting sucked in by nothing
in the name of nothing that matters anymore.
I cross highway seven
and walk by the cemetery up on
and notice how the wind
has toppled the mason jar vases
and scattered the flowers chaotically
all over everyone’s graves
as if it didn’t matter
whether they had a favourite or not.
Usually I’m afraid of reading their names
for fear of finding my own
but tonight I look specifically
for those of people I’ve known
like flesh of my flesh
blood of my blood
bone of my bone.
And I want to say
something intimate and forgiving
that might ease their sleep a little
whisper something in their ears
so sincere and magnanimous
it would take root in their dreams
like an oasis in a desert of stars
and we could all shed tears of real water
into the well of a mirage.
And I can feel my heart
pleading with me like a grave stone to stay.
To bury myself with them
like a sword in an old wound
that couldn’t heal any other way.
But thirty years of living in the wilderness
like a judas goat that was driven out
to cleanse the temples in May
and the infectious sins of the tribes
and I’ve become enamoured of my solitude.
The bleak honesty of it.
Because when you’re truly on your own
there is no one to do the lying
nothing to lie about
and no one to lie to.
Just the desert kicking dust
in the eyes of the stars.
And the stars leading their caravan
to the oasis where I sit
to wash it off.
I’ve learned from the wind
to rejoice in the mobility of my homelessness.
My heart pleads with me
like a lonely grave stone to stay.
It’s only a short walk through
the corridor of sumac bushes
parting like the
There was a time
when I would have been happy
to die among these
who have found a place here.
But the wind was always
a better friend to me
than these here interred
under the weight of their names.
And I say to my heart
though it sinks like a stone to hear it
be generous and pour blessings on their head
as you must and should.
We’ve known the days as the Irish say.
But we’ve cut the pictures
out of the months of the year
and who so ignorant of their own strangeness
they judge yesterday
by today’s calendar?
You see that star up there
flashing between the flying clouds
sailing by like Shelley in the
into the face of a windstorm?
It’s trying to tell us what hour it is.
It’s time to walk away.
without regret or rancour
and leave this to what this is.
and intermittent stars
from the mouths
of toppled mason jars.