AND THE WILLOWS DOWN BY THE BANKS OF THE TAY
And the willows down by the banks of the Tay
whisper through their veils
like ladies of the lake
where autumn walks like fire on the water
or the marriage bed of a Viking funeral ship
as the sun goes down like a ferry
into the underworld of the west
and all these words of passage I say like birds flying
high over head with the souls of the dead
I lay down like swords in tribute to the river
as if I were returning tears to the mirrors they came from.
Maple leaves scratch like the quills of bat-winged scholars
at the parched manuscripts
lying everywhere at my feet
trying to trace their ancestral bloodlines
back through a lineage of zodiacal kings
while the Library of Alexandria burns.
All scholars are arsonists at heart
as flammable as naphtha in birch bark.
If God were to talk to anyone now
right here in Perth Ontario Canada
it would still be through a burning bush
that would sound like the voice
of the phoenix in the sumac.
Mystic immolations of an Arab spring
spreading its wings for a poet or a prophet
to jump up on Pegasus or Buraq
and fly as if you had a star under your saddle
and not a spur or burr of discontent
that makes you feel tongue-twisted and petty
beside abject comparisons with Icarus and Aaron.
Stars soon to add some glamour to the sky
as the willows turn their weeping veils
into the shawls of grieving widows.
I’ve got nothing in particular to cry for
but I admire the eloquence of those
who’ve still got something to lose
like daylilies that can’t afford a face-lift
or the shell of the baby turtle on its back
like the sun disc of a Mayan calendar
that was destroyed by boyish malice
before it could live long enough
to be old enough to be doomed
by its own self-fulfilling prophecy.
Autumn is a seance of long-forgotten fragrances.
Oceanic elixirs and and sad sad wines
trying to keep their chin up
like wild grape vines against the weather
that sends their bruised amphorae to the bottom
with heavy eyelids and tunnel vision.
The air is sweet and thick and pendulous
as a bell in a burning church
that’s been to one too many funerals.
Bring on the night
like the deepest inspiration of the light
in the nightbird’s breast
and let the lost harvests and unfulfilled longings
that stretch for light years out over the abyss
like the strings of a cosmic guitar
or the harp I made from the wishbone
stuck in my throat like a sacred syllable
that goes witching for water on the moon
in the watersheds of my voice.
Bring tears of blood to my eyes
raised up out of the well of my being
and holding my horned skull up to Jupiter in Aries
let me drink to the hidden beauty of the singing
and all those oceanic veils of seeing
that fall away like the eyelids of roses
the starmaps of asters
from a beautiful woman’s face.
Old enough now to celebrate
things I know I’ll never know again.
Young lovers jay walking across a busy street
hand in hand as if
the other were the other’s missing link.
The wide-eyed stargazers
with no scars or bruises on their telescopes
elevated now by their amazement to sidereal heights
who will later be deepened by it
as the darkness grows more sublime than the light
and radiance sways into ripeness
and the candles go out one by one
to clarify the long autumnal way home
like nightwatchmen just before the break of dawn
having done their rounds
sit down at the crossroads
where the celestial equator
intersects the ecliptic at the equinoctial colure
and opening the gates of their lanterns
let the stars and fireflies out of the mason jars
that were the only light they had to go by
that kept the others lit.
Even as the utilitarian chandeliers
of the streetlamps come on
like a constellation of runway suns
that light up in unison at midnight
to give our long departed gods somewhere to land.