Tuesday, October 18, 2011



note: Azazel was the name of the scapegoat the tribes of Israel would transpose all their sins to and drive out into the wilderness once a year. May, at the time of the cleansing of the temples, if I remember correctly. Over the millennia, Azazel was personified into being a Renaissance demon of broad experience and knowledge, master of all evil, and eventually Satan’s standard bearer. Over the last forty years he has come and gone from my poetry as the persona of a kind of anti-self that allows me to address themes on the dark side of my nature with a certain clarity of ironic insight into my own and the human condition that was otherwise unavailable to me. At first encounter dark, troubling, and dangerously clear, after all these years, to use Shakespeare’s phrase, he has become more of an affable familiar to me. And for those of you who are huddled around your night light afraid of things that go bump in the dark, I am no more Satanic, at least to my knowledge, than I am a born again Christian.

The darkness.

The darkness of a child.

The darkness of a child who isn’t old enough

to know what darkness is

yet it clings to his skin

like something that won’t come off.


For what?

By whom?

The darkness that made his childhood seem

like a foregone conclusion

he was fundamentally bad

just like dad

though he never got the chance to call him that.

Flint-knapped like a chip off the old block.

O yeah before I get too confessional

I guess I should mention

the night rain is shedding its scales

like pine cones and snakes

in the tar pits of the mud puddles outside.



Now we descend down into the interior

where the metaphors emerge from back alleys

and flash knives of insight

that seem to move like moonlight on water.

Shark fins waxing romantic about death.


But it keeps your wits sharp.

Danger is an antidote to death.

Danger slides its stone along the blade

of an event horizon

like the wingspan of a sword

and the last word of the cutting edge

is drawn across your throat

to see what you’ve got to say for yourself.

Not much

when you’re giddy with insecurity

and all your cornerstones have turned to quicksand

and it’s hard to take your fate seriously

when you can electrically imagine

the page three sluglines you’ll make in the morning

given the immediacy of the moment

as if you’d just found a cobra coiled under your pillow

like a jack-in-the-box serial killer.

Flint-knapped like a chip off the old block

Azazel remembered his father hitting him

and with every blow he was sure his father

was flaking off bits of diamond

from a raw chunk of coal.

Childhood hopes of getting the better of his old man

by his own hand raised to strike

like a psychotic god above him.

A kind of childhood judo that taught him

to use another man’s demonic energies against him

by playing the part of the victim

that ran his abuser to ground

and pulled him down into a darker nightmare

than anything he had the imagination

to wake up from afraid of what he’d become.

Things turn round and round and round

like the little red lighthouses on top of a cop car.

Azazel cultivated his mind like a stolen switchblade

in the waterclock of bedrooms

he kept being poured out of

like a primordial ocean

of experimental life forms

as his single mother moved from house to house.

Each the womb of a different incarnation.

Azazel mastered them all

like the tantric tulpas of a Tibetan rinpoche.

Like the naguals of Yaqui Indians on peyote.

Dark abundance.

Bright vacancy.

He was the unhinged Janus-faced doorway of both.

He had the mood swings of a chameleon in a paint-store.

He knew how to outdo the Etruscan shape shifters

like a snake pit of kundalini fire.

If this feels strange to you

you can always enquire

but Azazel’s baby teeth

were the calderas of sacred volcanoes

he put like keepsakes under his pillow for the snake fairy

to swallow them whole like the moon.

Azazel in his youth

embodied the shadows of excellence

thinking love and approval might follow their example

and a light would come out of the darkness

and shine kindly down upon him

and everybody would see that he was just a kid

who liked stars because nobody else did.

But he was born on the wrong side of a promise

and no matter how well he kept it

he was mistaken for a threat.

Two cosmic eggs.

One a bird.

The other a reptile with wings.

When he’s hot he’s a dragon.

When he’s not

the earth goes docile

and sinks into a coma

like the Pythian oracle at Delphi

trying to divine the seven kinds of ambiguity

by cutting every one of their hydra-headed prophecies off

with a knife

as if she were gathering flowers

and arranging them into Medusan bouquets.

Too late to accuse.

Too late to convict.

Too late to forgive.

The hour of stone is upon us

like a sundial at the graveside of time.

Azazel woke up from his childhood

like a dream in which he died

and tried to live on the nothing that was left.

The rain outside has stopped.

Just mirages in store-front windowpanes.

The streets belong to the wind

talking to the leaves

as if they’d just had their tongues torn out

like the sacred syllable of the kataba worm

in a tequila bottle that spoke with an accent

but broke just like everyone else

when it was empty

having delivered the message

and there was no money on the return.

Ut pictura poesis.

Azazel always wanted to paint poetry

not photograph it.

Even on the astral plane

you’ve got to have some kind of a likeness

before you begin the search.

Metaphors have always seemed

too fanatical and absolute for his taste

once he understood Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle

was the best alibi at the time the atoms could come up with

to explain their whereabouts.

Similes give you more of a chance.

Cut you a little more slack.


Don’t say.


Don’t copulate with equals signs

like parallel lines that never meet.

Metaphors staple wanted posters all over town

among the rusty thorns

and wounded corners of paper

of those that were taken down

like Jesus removed from the cross of a telephone pole

advertising a local play

with dramatic significance

and then making a universal getaway

like too much ado about nothing.

Azazel is inspired to write

obscure occult holy books

people can keep beside the bed

to secure their footing in the dark

like night lights and supernovae.

Sententiae from the dark side

for people living in eclipse.

Azazel has oxymoronic lips

that answer the prayers of broken stone

that have no where else to turn.

He’s no more concerned

about what form is to content

than he is in what ashes are to urns.

Burn he says to the fireflies

if you’re serious

then scatter on the wind like Sufis

in a state of annihilation.

Don’t bring a cult of weathervanes

to the crossroads of creation

to ask them the direction of prayer

when it’s nowhere and everywhere at once.

Ah, Faustus, why this is hell;

nor are we out of it.

No entrance.

No emergency exit.

Just this space dilated like a black hole

in a gravitational eye

that bends the light

to its interpretation

of whatever this might be.

Help yourself to as many thresholds as you need

to build your stairwells up to heaven

like thermals under your wings.

But if you choose to go by ladder

don’t put your full weight

on the burning rungs

for fear of falling through again

every time you get a leg up on your ascension.

Remember when you get to the top

there’s no extension.

People who are religiously inclined

start out with a good beginning

that utterly fails

because they don’t know when to stop.

Get off the celestial omnibus

and whistle the rest of the way home in the dark alone

as if a happy man were impregnable to predators

and a sad one doomed to tragic circumstances

outside the box that we all return to

without a forwarding address

whether we’re cursed or blessed.

Fear can make a coward of a man

but it’s his joy that makes him vulnerable.

A street artist learns to draw

by making chalk outlines

around corpses on the sidewalk

with no regard to composition.

He topples the still lives

and let’s the shell casings fall where they may.

Azazel learned human anatomy the hard way.

Astronomical catastrophes make a big impact.

He saw what happened to his mother.

Women were punching bags and prostitutes.

He knew what happened to himself.

Men were volcanic dissolutes in handcuffs

that tried to forge your cell tissue

into the steel they say it takes to be real

by putting their fist down

like a hammer on the anvil of a mushroom.