Thursday, September 8, 2011


There must be some star somewhere

that can give me an insight

into what I’m doing here

on a habitable planet

it’s getting harder and harder

to live on anymore.

God is dead.

Long live the landlord.

Just finished the underpainting in burnt sienna

of an autumn scene I’ll work on in the morning.

My ornamental goldfish Toke

swims above the blue stones

at the bottom of his aquarium

in underwater moonlight

sometimes like a comet

sometimes like an orchid.

sometimes like the Bolshoi Ballet.


But I don’t know why.


But I don’t know of what.

My palms are covered in paint

and I feel as if I’ve got

the blood of Swan Lake on my hands.

I study my star globe

and wonder how many eyes it took

to work its iconic constellations out of chaos.

The ecliptic will intersect

the celestial equator

at the equinoctial colure

in a little less than three weeks.

And I’ll be sixty-three in less than two.

I imagine the stars hooked up

like neurons in my brain.


Dream catchers

and medicine wheels

talking to spider webs

in a vast nervous system of light

that keeps breaking into intelligence.

And I imagine more than a few of the arteries

that supply my mind with oxygen

have had their apertures narrowed enough

there must be black dwarfs

and the gravitational eyes of black holes

all through my brain by now

bending light and space

like apparitions of what they used to be.

Time turns the telescope around

and looks at the astronomer

as if he were further away than ever.

And if you were to examine

most of my wavelengths

through a spectrograph

they’d still be an emission spectrum

but shifted toward the red.

The T Tauri stars in the Hesperides

are aging like a windfall of overripe apples.

I’m in the autumn of my life.

The sumac is burning like a phoenix.

If I didn’t need to make a living

trying to catch the light

of a moment in passing

I’d finish my painting in the morning

and true to life

throw it on the fire

like an immolation

that might lead to an Arab spring.

As it is I have to sell

the way I feel about what I see

just to pay the rent.

But if I were rich enough to have my way

I’d let the wind take them like apple bloom

or Japanese plum blossoms

or the leaves of the maple tree

with a palette of strychnine and arsenic

to complement the photosynthetic greens

or if they were moon scenes

the petals of white peonies

and scatter them across the lawns

upon the stairs

and along the gutters of the streets

just to say I grasped what beauty is

and let it go.



Lightning storm in the morning
upstages the dawn.
Snake flash.
A flickering tongue of light.
And then the walking thunder
of a rolling barrage
in the no man’s land
between the trenches and Vimy Ridge.
The leaves a darker more frenzied green.
The rains whips the windowpanes
like the eyes of a shell-shocked horse
up to its chest in mud and blood.
Hysterical alarms sound off
like a squad car full of thieves
pleading their innocence like church bells.
The dripping patter of small arms fire
from snipers in the eaves.
Perth and Pearl Harbour
bombed by the Japanese on a Sunday
but it’s still too early to tell
until the lights go back on
and the dawn gets over the trauma
whether it’s a day of infamy of not.
Lightning rods with heroic nerves of copper
lord it over the weathervanes
who lost their heads
when the weather turned round
for running the lightning to ground
and saving the barn like an ark
in a deluge of water and fire
from drowning or burning down.
And the fire hydrants on Foster Street
feel ashamed of themselves
for being so stalwart and useless
in the face of a pre-emptive emergency.
And the flower barrels
are pulling their dishevelled hair out
like petunias that didn’t see it coming.
The air flinches
as if it had just been grasped
by the karmic revelation
of an avenging ghost.
God’s trying to kill a sinner.
Everyone listens to an inner voice
like the numbers of a lottery
to see if the dice
turned up snake-eyes
or lightning struck the jackpot.
The storm rolls over the horizon
like the rim of a Tim Horton’s coffee-cup
that reads like the happy aftermath
of the last man standing
under a tree in an open field
to get out of the rain.
Please try again.



Anxieties like drones, deer flies, turkey vultures circling my head watching every wrong move I make. I couldn’t afford the bomb so how could I be a terrorist? Or get it over with. I’m sick of the wait. I’m standing in front of God’s firing squad in front of a no smoking sign. Should be out looking for a job that doesn’t exist like Parsifal and the holy grail. Should be finishing off three paintings for a quick going out of life sale instead of sitting here writing this. I’m tempted to go off like an air raid siren at Pearl Harbour but I’m trying to keep my composure by being creative. Creative. My small boy’s sixties heroic notion of doing some good in the world to make up for being the useless shit my mother when she was understandably angry with my father thought I was. It was either that or become a fighter pilot, transfer to an American aircraft carrier, get recruited by NASA and leave the fucking planet. Poor boys are encouraged like base metal to turn into gold with a vengeance and golden boys like to drive their triumphal chariots through a slum. How can the eldest son of a welfare mother who sacrificed her life like a pelican to raise four children against all odds ever put anything on the altar that could ever give back full measure and a bit beside? I’ve tried. And I’ve failed again and again and again. No grail. No fiscal elixir that’s going to turn the ailing kingdom into money. No lily white maidens blooming in the swamp of the Fisher King. And I’ve been thinking though my mother loves me enough to deny it that she really does deserve a better son than I am. The lost prodigal of the life of the mind and it doesn’t look as if I’m ever coming back. Black sheep. But the shepherd stayed with the other ninety-nine. I carried the sins of my father on my back like a scapegoat driven out into the wilderness and I’m too much of a heretic (it comes from overthrowing myself every day of my life) to carry anyone’s banner but I share some dark Renaissance characteristics with Azazel whose eyes look like two eclipses at both ends of the telescope at once. And it’s rare and scary but I like to stare into the dark clarity of his intelligence sometimes the same way I like to be immolated by the stars when I’m feeling especially black. Creative. That word again. That shibboleth, that mantra, that hidden name of an unknown god that makes its absence felt like nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum, that eyebeam projected from the pupil of a black hole in my third eye I keep leaking out of like an hourglasss in tears. Braille starmaps of the heart. Cosmologies of feeling on the other side of the shattered mirror that isn’t whole in the sum of its parts. But can’t find a metaphor or simulacrum to reflect what’s missing. Look at all these wrecked fire kites I tried to fly like some kind of image of myself that bore some slight resemblance to the stars whose indifference didn’t strike me as the death mask of a deep-seated bias against shining of any kind. That was definitely a west coast sixties aspiration, chromatic aberration around the gravitational lenses that were convinced they could bend light and space like a rainbow. See what I mean? Even if you’ve uprooted yourself like some metaphysical Mandrake man from the creative seed bed of the sixties, your hypothalamus never forgets.
            That’s why I’m looking for asylum in this poem. That’s why I’ve jumped the embassy wall like a social democratic exile wanted for starting a revolution among ingrates. For the first twenty years of writing poetry to touch hearts and minds like the light touches flowers to what was humanly inviolable and mystically factual about their own abused divinity hoping it might slowly become apparent to them like stars emerging from the darkness, no two alike, seemed radiantly feasible. The message might not be but right now the messenger feels ridiculous. And for the last three decades almost every painting that tries to picture me, every poem that blooms in the duff of my decay always makes me feel I’m writing my last appeal to a hooded executioner about to drop the other side of a two-bladed lunar ax on the nape of my neck like a new moon in full eclipse at harvest time. I finish typing. And then I’ve got to wait for several hours before the muse repatriates my fingertips for crimes against the inhumanity of human to human, for spreading seditious literature that agitates the heart like hives of killer bees to turn into secret cells of compassion. No more bulldozers in the fields where the skylarks lay their eggs. You hear me? No more children fed like live hamsters to the hydra-headed succubus of Medusan corporations that turn them hard as rock even before they have a chance to learn to read their own gravestones. If poets haven’t hung around universities too long to forget how to curse like a Druid cease and desist or I’ll turn your trophy chicks into inflatable sex dolls that stick it to your prick like a pin cushion effigy in a fashionable voodoo ritual. And the karma of every day for the next ten thousand lifetimes turn into the chronic reckoning the poor know every one of their godforsaken nights on a planet where all species have been forced to line up every morning at a foodbank for global resources. If you refuse to read the writing on the wall I’ll deliver the message to you in comets that will smear the mirror of your point of view in red slug lines of blood guilt. Oligarchic obscenities of human lovelessness in the board rooms of Sodom and Gomorrah. See how easy it is to talk like God when your own house is on fire? But I’m an old growth conflagration from the northern cordillera of B.C. and I know how to put fire out with fire without getting burnt by the inspiration. God’s a lot more intense and enflamed since he last talked to Moses like a burning bush in the valley of Tuwa. Either that or people have grown so insensitive it takes a forest fire to keep anyone’s attention long enough to deliver a message to pharaoh. Magician in a snake pit. Sitting Bull revives like a ghost dance that’s been outlawed by one too many treaties. The long flowing locks of Custer’s honey gold hair flying in the wind have been over run by killer bees that stick to it like flypaper. It can be dangerous to mistake the truth for a treaty.
            And I’ve broken all of mine because they weren’t worth the paper they were written on. I’ve kept my word but the word hasn’t kept me. Creative. Black farce in the dead ends of tragedy. Creative. How to live orginally and die like a cliche. Creative. Nothing less than everything all the time. Creative. Living like hydrogen but giving birth to stars. Creative. Mongoose to cobras that don’t dance. Creative. Who could have guessed how much dying goes into it? Creative. No one there to hear it when the tree falls. The sound of one hand clapping for applause. Creative. Imagination truing the laws of its own origination by oxymoronically disobeying them. Creative. When the mirrors turn black and you can see all your afterlives walking on stars like somnambulists all the way to this one. Creative. Projecting humanly habitable symbols like planets into the available dimensions of a highly suggestible future. Creative. Anathema, antidote, antimatter to the destroyers. Creative. Living life as a sum of destructions that ends in a creative breakthrough. The eclipse as much of an insight as the light that’s blocked behind. White candle. Black candle. Same flame. Creative. Your life such a sin of omission the world comes pouring in on you the way the moon fills its empty cup to the full.
           Ask any Greek. Ask Sophocles. Ask Shakespeare. Tragedy is best expressed in broad daylight. It’s comedy that’s nocturnal despite appearances. Fools thrive best by night and my whole life I’ve refused to be an exception. Once you stop letting the darkness use your head for therapeutic voodoo by sticking hot needles of insight like a snake pit into your eyes the night might not be a reward but it doesn’t feel like a vendetta against anyone who took their space and time and life as their birthright in the first place as if it were a freedom, as water and light and oxygen are free without discrimination each according to their need. And you’re just as free to enslave yourself to something, keeping in mind that attachment too is a Buddha activity, as you are not to. Sometimes liberty doesn’t feel real to people until they can feel the weight of chains on their back. And truth to tell what is it that holds most people on a leash like a kite on a spinal cord if not fear of what’s dangerously unknown about real freedom and love of their misery as if there were some kind of entertainment value in it? They see a blue rose and they admire it for its thorns. The ignorant guess their way into tried and true principles they drive through your heart like a stake. While the enlightened buddhas all attest to the fact they don’t have any more of a clue about what’s been arrayed and illuminated before us by our own shining anymore than lightning and fireflies do. Is it the darkness that befriends the star or the star that befriends the dark or do you see them like blue-eyed homicidal equestrians like Custer do as enemies at the opposite ends of the same broken arrow? I see the beak of an arrowhead and I see the fletcher’s tail feathers and a long stick of rigid intent but where are the wings where are the legs? What kind of bird is that can’t hit a note right without being launched from a one-stringed harp that makes it sing as if it were born with only one vocal cord? Or a man who shoots his mouth off as if he’d just fit his tongue to his dick like a trigger? And how can the picture-music ever take hold of you if it hasn’t got a leg to stand on? A branch, a powerline, a sacred birch grove, for the red-winged blackbird to perch on? Whether it’s the Taj Mahal, black and white, or a big dumpy apartment like the one I’m in trying to dissipate my solitude in the company of the insane strangers words can be when you don’t let them have their way with you as if you were just along for the ride. That’s why I’m trying to disappear into this poem as if it were an endless night sky that doesn’t wash the birds out of its one good eye like specks of dust looking up at the stars. You can save face behind a lot of masks and debilitate almost any nightmare that keeps coming back like a ghost to a seance if there’s no one there to scare in the first place.