Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Sometimes the clarity comes too late

to realize there was never

any need for forgiveness

and nothing to expiate

about the way we made our gracious farewells

into works of art

that would go on hurting forever.

We had a genius back then

for making death seem more beautiful than it is

because we lived on the edge of things

and not their surfaces

and o if we’d only felt all those things

that made us weep at the end

dying in doorways that were more cruel

than any threshold we had to cross to stand there.

If only we could have felt those immensities of good-bye

from the very beginning

what reason would we have had to cry like candles

when the wine turned back into water

and the roses wiped their lipstick off on their leaves?

One goes out.

One goes in.

Because severance

no less than the dance

takes two to make a difference

and as the years go by

the silver flakes off the memory of the mirror

and you can see clear through to the other side

experience is just another log

you throw on the stars

to keep yourself warm on a cold October night

by a small fire out in the open

where it’s easier to sublimate

the intensities of fate

by opening the cages you keep them in

and burning your loveletters

like the flightfeathers of half-forgotten songs

to spread their wings in the flames

and give them the freedom to rise higher

than the nest of ashes they were born in.

History isn’t the muse

the immeasurable mystery is

and if you don’t learn to let things go

you’ll never know

how to live lyrically alone in the wild

unbounded by your solitude

by the side of a river whose flowers are dying.

The green bough hisses and blisters in the fire

but the cracks in the heartwood

burn far into the night

and give off way more heat in the autumn

than the pre-emptive lightning strikes of spring.

It’s a rite of passage as old as migrating geese

mournfully bearing souls south

whose bones have turned to dust

to take all my prophetic skulls like moon rocks

out of the house of the dead

and arranging them into the ring of a firepit

stand in the middle like the eternal flame

of an unrepentant heretic

to rekindle the dance

even among the skeletal shadows

of a persecuted romance.

Even in sorrow.

Even in the silence

of the great distances

that add their aerial perspective to time.

Not to call ghosts back to a seance

as if they could tell me anymore about death

than I’ve already lived through

but every year at the second full moon in October

after the harvest is in

and the scarecrow has come down off his cross

and left it to the ravens of nevermore as a church

I lay a blue violin on a funeral pyre.

I stretch my heart out like a skin on a drum.

Dressed in the plumage of solar flares

I enter a trance of firebirds

that have long since disappeared back into the sun

and like Icarus in eclipse

or the last grasshopper

who didn’t take the advice of the ants

to drag the leaves and wings of things

piecemeal into a shelter

to prepare for deeper separations yet to come.

I take my chances by the hand out here in the open

and I dance.

I dance with heresy.

I dance with the angels and the demons

that were martyred in the name

of what is unforgiveable about my human nature

and yet more sacred than the rain I dance for

to put the war I dance for out.

I dance with whole asylums of noetic visionaries

who went insane

trying to explain me to myself

like the origins of life on another planet.

And I dance again to the music of the women I’ve loved

whether in pain or bliss

whether I was hung by the tail

like a plague rat over the abyss

of my cannibalized emotions

like a famished snakepit

or I fell sidereally under the spell

of the fragrance of summer stars in their hair

I dance not as if it were all worth it in the end

but something inestimable to celebrate

that gives the chartered undertakers pause

about what they do for a living

when they see how a poet can dance

to the picture-music of the crazy wisdom

that sings the dead up out of the earth to their feet

without looking down from the mountaintops

or back at the valleys behind

to take the measure of their heart

to see if it’s empty or full.

I let the new moon

feel the old moon’s arms around it again

like the bright vacancy and dark abundance

of what’s joyfully absurd and playful about life

whether its doing a sword dance with words

or dancing in blue heron feathers

like a shaman among waterbirds

longing for enlightenment

like a tantric star map

to break the jinx of their prayer-wheels.

Or dancing to bullets like a greenhorn

in the main street of nineteenth century Dodge

or like me out here in the country dark

alone with six thousand visible stars

eleven miles outside of Westport

spreading my wings under the sign

of the Eagle and the Swan going down in the west

to add my phoenix to the feathers of the burning sumac

and grabbing the lightning lance of the thunderbirds

like a serpent from their talons

hold it up to the stars to the east and the west

like the wavelength of a crazy insight

into the dark word of the living light

that makes me dance my way

out of time

out of place

out of my mind

without leaving anyone or anything behind.