Tuesday, August 30, 2011


My solitude is taking me too seriously tonight.

Space shrinks like Saran-wrap

tightens over my face

turns to glass.

I want to scream.

At whom?

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 Samarkand

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

for nothing

in the name of nothing that matters anymore.

I cross highway seven

and walk by the cemetery up on Dufferin Road

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

and demonized

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 Red Sea in the streetlights

down Dufferin Road back to the highway.

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 Gulf of Leghorn

into the face of a windstorm?

It’s trying to tell us what hour it is.

It’s time to walk away.

Walk away

down Dufferin Road

without regret or rancour

and leave this to what this is.

Scattered flowers

and intermittent stars

from the mouths

of toppled mason jars.



I’ve had electromagnetic sexual attractions

to women I didn’t even like

and as I got to know them despite myself

felt I was mud-wrestling

in a squalor of mutual disrespect.

And I was the one who loosing.

Anacondas squeezing me in a heart lock.

I’ve seen root fires burn underground

through ten miles of cedars for a week

down the whole length of a valley

and no one know for sure

if they’d finally been put out.

And I’ve often thought

growing up angry bored and deprived

and caught in the emotional crossfire

of my father’s and mother’s annihilation

in an era of clashing Titans

and cannibalistic ogre fathers

on the look-out for Olympian sons

they could swallow like a swaddled stone in a single gulp

the reason I dared the thrill and danger of breaking taboos

my Icarian plunges into seas of awareness

was that it was a revolutionary’s way

of acting out against the authority of my own mind.

Light a candle in church for me

and I’d blow it out

as if I’d just gotten into bed

with the forbidden key to my freedom.

More of the immensities and intensities of human life

are encountered in the dark

than are met on the street in daylight.

Dark dark dark they all go into the dark.

Yes. T. S.

But for a lot of different reasons.

Mine was the desecration of old idols

myself among them.

Outlaws pariahs misfits and heretics.

It’s ironic now to look back and think

if you weren’t an outcast of some kind

you were cast out

like the shard of a broken mirror

that didn’t fit the puzzle

of a slowly evolving vision of life

where the whole was less than the sum of its parts.

You weren’t a grand master

in the dark arts

and ardent discipline

of disobedience.

You didn’t know how to obey in reverse.

Your childhood hadn’t progressed

through the initial seven stations of futility and despair

so you didn’t know how to keep faith with the faithless.

I sometimes think that’s why

so many of my relationships ever since

have been misalliances of dark matter and light.

The parities of mass and function might look the same

but you’ve got to check the charge and spin

before you can be sure that this is love

and not annihilation.

Synchronous happenings in a charged particle field.

Or love playing chicken in a hadron particle collider

at nearly the speed of light

But hey that’s not to say

that there aren’t some women

worth evaporating in a Wilson Cloud Chamber for

like a God-particle in a mystic cloud of unknowing.

Vapour trails and skid marks

that leave their mark on the world

like comets of cosmic graffiti

spray-bombed under a bridge

by gangland trolls

to warn everyone whose turf they’re on.

An urban form of land naming.

The writing on the wall.

And what’s annihilation anyway

when you turn the jewel in a different light

but the unsung beginning of another universe

that couldn’t be any worse than this one?

Hail to the dark muses behind the veils

of my most ferocious inspirations.

Evolution consults the mutants to know what to do next.

For some the dice are loaded like chromosomes and genes.

For others they’re hexed

like dead albatrosses

caught in the rigging of shipwrecks

that have been down so long it looks like up to them

if you can remember what happened to Richard Farina.

Killer-whales in the Oak Bay Marina

making a big splash for the tourists.

Killer-whales waiting for baby seals

to slide off the rocks like careless mermaids

or hookers in rehab.

Maybe it’s just a matter of taste

and learning how to say grace

whether you wear a neck yoke

or stay underground like a missing link

when everyone’s enslaved by a food chain

for reasons that are as far beyond them

as Jamaica is from the Ivory Coast.

The difference between a domestic pet

and an exiled species of wildlife.

And maybe that’s why I often think

poetry’s just a loveletter

you’re writing on death row

to someone you’ve never met.

O firefly!

O synteretic spark!

O fairy dust mingled

in the soot of brooding chimneys

like the birds that keep getting caught in their throats

like songs they were meant to sing

words they were meant to say

but didn’t

I can taste the sun shining at midnight

and the eclipses that have freaked your honey

in the hives of killer bees

with the fragrance of a dangerous elixir

it’s a greater madness than wisdom to resist.

Lao-tzu says a sane man prefers heaven

but it’s heaven that courts insanity.

Sane long enough

and the fountain of youth grows old

waiting for Ponce de Leon.

The darker the muse the deeper the insight

and the further you have to go for stars

to keep the night happy and high.

Forbidden people like forbidden things.

No danger in the writer

and the reader’s got nothing to fear.

But it’s the one percenter death’s-head patched

to the executioner’s hood of the cobra

the hourglass on the black widow’s thorax

and the irisless eyes of the great white shark

that don’t make a sound

that catches the ear

and sends a shudder through the blood

like the poison and the potion

of a dangerous love affair.

It’s not the cause of the injury

but the depth of the wound

that’s the measure of whether

you’re just another

superficial predator in a petting zoo

or your feelings went deep enough into you

it’s less painful to leave the arrowhead in

and learn to live with it like a second heart

than it is to take it out.

If the rose lacks thorns.

If the mountain goat

has lost its figs and horns.

If the lines of a poem don’t sting

like a lover’s scratches on your back

or the striations of passionate glaciers

across the Canadian Shield

who can make love to you for years

submitting to all your desires

for fur and fire and food

without ever once yielding

anything of themselves

but tears and lakes and rivers of farewell

when things begin to warm up.

If the wolf isn’t mauled by the moon

it’s not high enough on the mountain

to be inspired by its wound

to intrigue the indifferent muse

on the far side of its agony

with the odes it writes

to the lunacy of its longing.