Sunday, November 6, 2011



He kept saying to himself

it’s not that hard to know the truth.

The truth is what you see

when there’s no one else there

to witness you witnessing it.

When your nakedness lets you be you

without worrying too much

about who that is.

He kept saying to himself

the truth is the infinite elaboration

of an archetypal fractal.

Keep it simple and austere.

The truth is a subatomic shapeshifter.

When you look at it it acts like a particle.

Turn away and it’s a wavelength beyond comprehension.

The swords of the cannoneer cattails

banged on him like a shield in passing

as he covered his eyes

to bull his way through the underbrush

heaving his mud-caked legs

over the hurtles of the fallen birches.

What animal ever moved

with as much clamour and damage as this

as it nosed it way along the soft lakeshore at dusk?

He kept saying to himself

since when has the silence

ever needed anyone to speak up on its behalf?

What idiot spreads a starmap out on a table

to show space where it’s located

or tell time what hour it is

though neither of them have asked?

He kept saying to himself

like a swamp that reeks of enlightenment

now watch where you step

as he monkeyed himself up

a jawbone of grey rocks

to a thin pate of yellow grass

that looked as if someone

had bleached their hair too much.

He kept saying to himself

as he lay upon his side on the ground

and watched the wavelets on the lake making jewellery

and spotted the two great blue herons

on the far shore

standing like gatekeepers

among the dishevelled palisade

of dead trees with its stakes all askew

like an abandoned Iroquois village

that was content to forget what it knew of pain in silence;

he kept saying to himself

because his thoughts were as inter-reflective

as sky and water

nothing needs to be here

none of this

not the herons the lake or me

and yet here we are large as life

each facilitating the other’s interdependent origination

whether we like it understand it embrace it or not

everyone’s the matrix of everyone else.

The waters of life have made a waterclock of the womb

and the day we stop being born

is just a short bridge of water away

from the next bucket of being

that pulls us like a rabbit

out of the top hat of a wishing well.

His eyes tweaked by the occasional glimpse

of the silver eyelash of a star

in the blue-green sheen of the peacock air

breaking through the Persian silks of the sky

as the sun goes down with Venus in its wake

he kept saying to himself

it’s all picture-music without meaning

you can hear in your blood

with your eyes

at your fingertips

on the nape of your neck

like the breath of a friend

or the breathless scent of an enemy

who’s finally caught up with you

like loveletters and death threats from the past

that forgot what they were going to say

when they were given a chance to speak.

He kept saying to himself

as he watched the aerial ballet of swallows and bats

swooping down low over the water

through the starclusters of frenzied gnats in ecstasy

over their fifteen minutes of fame in the after light of the sun

bleeding out on the horizon

what could it add to their bliss

if everyone of them were to have a star named after them?

He lingered in the ruthless beauty

of the spontaneous inconsequence of all this

and felt even less employed than they

as a witness who wasn’t called upon

to provide an alibi

for his awareness of the creative liberties

and impersonal risks life takes with itself

like an isolated imagination

with no more motive or purpose

than the wind when it plays

with the waves and the leaves

and taunts the the autumn willows

to drop their veils

like rotten curtains

blowing ghosts out the windows

of an abandoned one room schoolhouse.

Nothing to learn.

Nothing to teach.

Nothing to conceal or reveal.

No paradigms of spontaneity

out of reach of the mind

that grasps at them

like air and light and water

he kept saying to himself

as he felt the darkness

alert his eyes to a deeper vigilance

opportunistically alive in the woods

watching the anomaly of his presence here

from deep within

like a snapping turtle looking up at waterbirds

like a pair of wire-cutters

sticking out of a tool box

at a no trespassing sign in peril

of taking its purple passage too literally

to heed its own warning to drop everything

and take to the air

before it’s pulled down under

like Cygnus into the starmud of the cosmic Id.

Here self-reflection comes to die

like a third eye in a graveyard of mirrors

that can no longer recognize their own seeing

in whatever appears before them

as the unlikely similitude of a sentient being.

He kept telling himself

you can’t raise a phoenix out of a sumac

when its flightfeathers are falling all around you

like Icarus out of the sun

and expect to find your way out of here

by asking a fire pit of ashes and smoke

how far to the next manger

with a star overhead

before it gets too dark to see where you’re going.

He rose to his feet

as if they had somewhere else to go

and followed a deer path up

through a thicket of excruciating hawthorn

that raked his skin like the needles of old record players

screeching across all 78 rpms of the celestial spheres

trying to torture the truth out of him

like petty inquisitors who had all the right answers

to a man who had forfeited his soul

for the courage to ask all the wrong questions

as he kept saying to himself

as if he were standing in front of a mirror

and not by the shore of a lake

if you take the dark glass away from your eye

everything will become clear as night.

If you take the dark glass away from your eye

everything will become clear as night.

He saw the Summer Triangle capsizing in the west

and the Pleiades like a profusion of insights

at the tail end of Perseus

holding the Medusa’s severed head

up to the mobs of enlightened ghouls

gawking in in a bliss of bloodlust

to discover that the light

was no less heartless than the dark

when it comes to blooding its abstractions.

He walked through constellations of spiderwebs

the sun had moved out of

like a jewel out of the house of a dreamcatcher

so far beyond repair

it forgot timing was as important as content

and expired like an out of date calendar

with nothing left to celebrate.

And he kept saying to himself

nothing lasts forever

not even time

and there are holes in the nets

the Circlet of the Western Fish could swim through

like hanged men who fell through a noose

toward paradise

as easily as threading their blood

through the eye of a needle.

No more rites of passage.

No more luminous renewals.

No more transits of nadir and zenith

in chains forged from unlucky horseshoes

or the triumphal wreaths of olive emperors.

The feast of life a mere table of contents

after a long prelude of taboos

that weren’t worth the menus they were written on

once the real dragons were sedated in zoos.

The trespassers not up to their own temptations

and even the great desecrators and idol slayers

indifferent to their salvation through sin

just so many snakes sewn into a bag

and drowned in the river with Rasputin.

And rarer still that atrocity

that can trouble a child’s dreams

who lullabies a voodoo doll to sleep in her arms at night

because today’s passive victim

is tomorrow’s active participant.

He heard the chronic lapping of bare-footed waves

stubbing their toes on the rocks below

when they tried to walk across the lake without a lifeboat

and went down with all hands aboard

and he kept saying to himself

when the wind dies down

only horses and slaves are drowned in the doldrums

and the rest are left to endure their grim continuance

watching their sails wither like waterlilies at anchor

moored to the docks of an empty-handed port

like a return voyage that never left home.

And he kept on saying to himself

be a good explorer and mount

a northwest expedition through death.

Grind your way out of here if you must

like the visionary glacier that once

gouged out the eye-sockets of these lakes

as if they were milling starwheat on stone.

And let the tears you’ve shed

to absolve yourself of yourself

he kept on saying to himself

over the course of a lifetime thaw and gather here

so that the crow the beaver the muskrat

the shrew the mole the bear the deer the bush wolf

the pike the trout and the small-mouthed bass

can drink from their own reflections

as they appear and disappear in your eyes.

And let the Algonquian women beat the wild rice

into their laps and the prows of their birch bark canoes

under a full moon that buffs their stealth with laughter

ride low in the water with the bounty of life.

As he pulled his foot out of the cleft of a root

and regained his balance

by putting all his weight on the other

like a heron when it’s spear fishing on the moon

he kept on saying to himself

you don’t have to go as far as the stars

to discover the origin of everything

when fireflies are a lot closer to home

and their light is infinitely more intimate.

A fish jumps at the stars

as he makes a path of least resistance

through the junipers and basswood trees

and the lake dilates with ripples

like a mind at peace with itself.

Dark energy accelerates his eyes

at the same velocity as the expanding universe

and looking into the starless voids ahead

he keeps saying to himself

one more insight one more insight

one insight more

like Venus in the dawn

and everything will break into light

like gold pouring out of dark ore

like life sprouting out of a dead stump

like a nightbird with a wounded song

falling like a feather of feeling

out of the immensities it encompasses

within its wingspan

as if that alone were enough

to tip the scales of life and death in its favour.

He steps into a clearing like a red-tailed hawk

into the eye of a storm

where some unknown local

had planted a secret garden years ago

that had gone on growing without them

far off the gravel road where the cars

growled by like bears

and no one could see it

and he keeps on saying to himself

if I’m not meant to be here

even in this happenstantial kind of way

for whom did these flowers bloom

and these rocks flint knapped from the Canadian Shield

be gathered here like Stonehenge

so that time could sacrifice its virginity

to the spring equinox

and the last of the wild geese high overhead

returning the souls of the dead

like water to its watershed

and the swallows and Monarch butterflies

who paused here to add their inflections to the palatte

know what hour it is?

A billion pine needles

from as many lost compasses and clocks

softens the ground he walks on

and pungently greens the air

with the fragrance of thick dolorous tears

running down the bark of old love affairs

that never stopped bleeding out.

And there the New England asters

who batted their violet eyelashes

at the stars all summer long

to catch their attention

hags of the last frost that killed them

like the cold shoulder of a disinterested universe.

And he keeps saying to himself

like a mantra under the duff of his heart

it doesn’t matter whose ghost

was meant to be summoned to this stranger’s garden

like the memory of some cherished intimacy

long past the point of no return

slipped under the door

that’s hinged like the earth is to the sun

to our exits and entrances

like a parting note of farewell

as profoundly poignant as autumn in passing;

all that matters is that someone anyone

however lost or overwhelmed by despair

however helpless or alone

however far from the nearest fire

makes their way through the dark

to a moonlit clearing in the woods

just to sit by a secret garden of their own

and watching their breath

like a wraith on the cold night air

answer it like a prayer

that went off into the unknown

like a thread of smoke from a dying candle

without appealing to the stars for anything.

Just to sit there without saying anything

no razor to your wrist

no complaint

no prophet in your belly

no spiritual lost and founds

looking for the lost innocence

of their missing children

no protest

no surrender

no serpent fire

burning up the ladders of your spine

until you’re frantic with the crazy wisdom

of realizing how much you can’t

and you’re looking for water on the moon

to quench your fever for life

no rejections or rendezvous

with fire-sprites or witchy manitous

no reason to be here

no reason you’re not

the silence not expecting a response

and the sound of life on the nightshift

while everyone else sleeps

and only a solitary watchman

to shine the occasional light

through the windows of their dreams

where what is and what appears to be

is reflected on both sides of the same translucency.

No muse to inspire an elegy to an unknown human

as if the earth itself weren’t enough of a headstone

to lay your head down upon

and listen to the deep underground voices of the dead

rooted in a garden that outgrew its sorrows

like the blood of a wild rose

left untempted in the wilderness

transcends its thorns with the beauty of a wound

that only a human exalted

by the spearhead of the same event

that humbles him to death

could suffer and celebrate in the same breath.

No mixed passions of starmud

that slip like Indian paintbrush and chicory

out of the palms of our hands

when the painter falls asleep

and the landscape finishes itself.

Just this small gesture of a shrine

this tiny enclosure of the heart

to some foregone human divinity

that once made it shine

like enamel buttercups

and scarlet columbine

tinkling in the spring rain

like wind chimes above the moss.

The ululations of a delinquent loon

couldn’t make the night feel

any more lonely than it already was

as he kept saying to himself

real not real

life is art.

Art is life.

The reality of delusion is art.

The delusion of reality is life.

There are toys in the wrack

of the worst catastrophes of life

and serial killers in the toy boxes of art.

You make it up like trout lilies and loosestrife

as you flow along with your own mindstream

like a leaf on the theme of your heart

whether you’re falling

into billions of individual degrees of separation

and the strong rope you were trying to climb up to heaven

frays on the edge of the world

into a million weak threads

of monadic drops of lonely water

working out the lyrics to go with the music

like wild irises in a secret garden that’s gone to seed.

Or you’re weeping like a chandelier

whose candles have gone out in a palace of light.

Or you’re the free-spirited genius of rain

the dispirited wizard of a starless night

or the nymph phase of a waterlily on the moon that died young

as the man said of the things

he just couldn’t keep to himself.

The mind is an artist.

Able to paint the worlds.

As someone here once saw something

that inspired them to paint

this prolifically sad human heartscape

like a bouquet of local wildflowers

and when they were done

and their eyes had gone with the light

from their vision of life

where a black sun always shines at midnight

and sets at dawn

left this palette of complementary emotions

like the fire pit of a phoenix

that’s flown south for the winter

with the spirit of the autumn leaves

that leaves us alone in a place like this

to add a few touches of our own.

Less blue in our longing for death.

More moon in the auras of life

and over there where

the ruby-throated hummingbirds

added their highlights like whole notes

to the picture-music of the wild grapevines

a deeper more loving delirium of stars

like the royal jewels of the underworld

inspired by the darkest muses

that ever shone a light

into the depths of the night in the eyes

of this most human of mysteries

burning in the crowns of the disrobed trees.