HIGH IN THE Y SHAPED BOUGHS
High in the Y shaped boughs
of the nude wrecked marsh wood
a gathering of abandoned herons’ nests
that look like a colony of lonely vaginae
that have done their work
and were put aside
when everything went south.
Crowns of thorns
on the heads of crucified saviours
no one ever bothered to take down.
Or you could see in them
the beginnings of new fires
the tinder and the kindling
waiting for someone to strike a match
or come down like a bolt of lightning
on a tuning fork
and burn the witch at the stake
for heresies of love she won’t forsake
and a vow of silence she took before the mystery
of her own dark science that she won’t revoke.
Pyres and sky burials and begging bowls
as if they were orphans asking for more
or humbled celebrants beseeching the stars
to receive the little they have left to give
and add their nothing to the nothing that is.
To judge from the number of taboos at the gate
shrunken heads atop the lodge poles
of an Ojibway village that abandoned its gods
and moved on when the river began to rise
and left it to the sky
to cover their nakedness with the whole cloth
of a tent that doesn’t keep the wind or the cold out
like the unpetalled stems of the black-eyed Susans
spreading like a cult along the banks;
to judge from the apprehensive signage of my instincts
that it isn’t death but life
that’s as dangerous and near
as my next step is to falling in
this must be a sacred place
the animals come down to
like totems at night
to revel in their starmud
and give thanks
the stars were brilliant enough
to root their pure radiance
in the mutability and muck of decay.
The wombs of the milkweed
have exorcised their ghosts
and the paint brushes of the wild irises
are no longer loaded with violet
and stand uninspired in a blue canning jar
in the corner of the deserted studio
of an artist who just woke up one day
and disappeared without a word of a lie
like a crow into his own mindscape
as if he had finally achieved what he was looking at.
But if the moon doesn’t fear walking here
nor while I.
Startled wavelength of a black watersnake
fleeing like dark energy
across a supple mirror of stars
and there on the withered eyelids
of the lily pads
the hold out bullfrogs
disgruntled in the aftermath of their boom times
by the lack of insects
and their loss of sexual appetite
like the mythically inflated rhetoric
of bellows that can’t get the fire to light.
The Clovis point arrowhead of a jumping trout
hits its own bullseye from the inside out
and embeds itself in a flank of wounded water.
Among so many nemetic affinities
you could lose your heart
like a waterbird
that nests in its own reflection
to a snapping turtle around here
where the swans of moonlight
for all their enchantment
hold no more sway
over what’s beautiful and not
than this parliament of necrophiliacs in the dark
ready to pull them down
with their parrot beak vise-grips
into the carrion beds of the house rules
that say even the Taj Mahals must rot
and Leda’s just meat to the gods.
Forty-three years later feels strangely
like I’m back in my old neighbourhood
and this marsh is its emotional life.
Peacock blue green sky closing its eyes
to see the stars better in the dark
Taurus and Gemini up
and Cygnus a lost crucifix in the west.
I step on the trunk of a fallen birch.
It gives way like a leper whose flesh
is as dozy as a bowl of wet cornflakes.
My foot slips down into the ooze
as if a hand had reached out
and grabbed me by the ankle.
And then lets go with the pop of a suction cup.
And besides among shipwrecks
I’m just a birch bark canoe not an ark
and this is not Atlantis or Mt. Ararat.
This is the low spot.
This is the drainage ditch of afterlives.
This is the boiling pot
that everything runs down into
like the effluvium duff and detritus of the mindstream.
This is the meditation of a Zen master
who isn’t appalled by anything
and embraces all as it is
with indiscriminate compassion.
This is the scum and the froth
and the fizz and festering of creation
in the Vas Hermeticum
of a biodegradable alchemist
throwing flower seeds on the shit
like tiny chips of a the philosopher’s stone
to turn the shit of base metal
into the golden petals of the elecampane.
Four amino acids open
and one protein molecule blooms.
This is the catacomb and bone box
of an early Christian buried next
to the Via Cloaca of Rome
waiting to rise like an enamel-painted buttercup
or nuns of the wild columbine
meek among the towers of the common mullein
the Algonquin used to use
to line their moccasins in winter.
This is the matrix of the dark mother
fouling the waters of her womb with life.
This is the cauldron.
This is the crock pot
that simmers the flesh off the bones
of the deer and the fox and the rat together
with an eye of bat and the briny legs of the frog
and reeks like a corpse flower
in the bridal bouquet
of a wedding party of Elizabethan witches.
This is the dismembered body of Kingu and Tiamat.
This is the consecration of the desecration of the flesh
made whole again like the wafer
of the rising moon
that’s waxing to full on my tongue again
as if it hadn’t learned by now what a pagan I am.
This is the filth we were born from
to serve the gods
if you’re Sumerian enough to believe it.
This is the one-finger salute of the staghorn sumac
to the October wind that plucked it like a phoenix
after showing up
to blow its green wood into flames
like a flight path for the fires of resurrection.
This is the primordial id.
Cannibal stew made into a soup for leftovers.
And no one not invited to the table
above or below the salt.
No one’s fault.
Not a moral issue.
Just the way it is.
Starmud and cell tissue.
As above so below.
Heron’s nests in the crotches of dead trees.
Mermaids that ran before the prow of the ship like dolphins
and wooden figureheads parting the waves
like the cleavage of their breasts
now in slingshot bikinis high in the crow’s nests
among the masts of a sunken navy
on the lookout for a northwest passage.
But I’m not fooled.
I’d be a drunken sailor
on this or any other ocean
from here to the moon and beyond.
On the great radiant sea of awareness
on the third watch of the night
I’d drink stars from my skull
until I slumped down in a coma of insight
that showed me my way through here
like a life boat through a northwest passage
with an oceanic view of things
even when it’s scuttled in a swamp.
Goblet cup or cranium
It’s the heart you pour the wine of life into
that determines whether
it’s a poison or a love potion.
Death might be the medium
and this swamp the rite of passage
of a drunk through his delirium.
But whether it’s full or empty
a loveletter or an s.o.s.
life is still the message.