THE MARTYROLOGY OF A MORPHINE MESSIAH
Azazel sends a black sheep out into this desert of stars to look for you. Even at forty, though less of a stepson now and more of a friend, and light years away from the sunny planet where I stayed for awhile with your mother, you still belong to the people in this life who love you, and you hope that’s blood, but just as often as not it’s a mix of holy oil and violated water. So let’s be clear as starmud about this. I love you. And that’s a mix of mosh pits at the Nuremberg rallies and jazz. And something softer that I can only listen to one side of because the other side makes me weep. Sometimes I look at you like the dragon that guarded it must have looked at the Golden Fleece on hot August afternoons when copulating flies were the only thing that was happening. If I’ve been the scarred warhorse for the last twenty years of your life, you’ve been the radiant gazelle in a blond savannah of long hair, blue-eyed and artsy, a little flossy, sociopathically paranoid of the female principle of the world, because you are the son of a single mother, that insists counter-intuitively that you become a woman like Tiresias the blind prophet every seven years or so just to see that they’re as humanly fallible as you are and get more pleasure out of sex. And being mortal means you’re as susceptible as anyone else to what you’ve been spreading around without showing any symptoms yourself. Your flying carpets are infected with a spiritual disease that ties whatever wavelength you’re on into gravitational eyes and knots in the heartwood of a birch tree, because that’s what you’d be if you were one. Leaves trembling in every little breeze like your hands when you go to paint, flammable naphtha under the bark, like those mood swings when you’re jonesing for the moon, and one moment you’re an arsonist in a fireworks factory of mystic insight, and the next, you’re just another dumpy fire-hydrant trying to put things out.
You remember Azazel? My anti-ego on the dark side of enlightenment? He’s fascinated by the way you keep shapeshifting your states of mind like a mini-multiverse that’s trying to keep more than one balloon up in the air at once like a one man, sword-swallowing, fire-eating juggler under the big tent of a small county fair like the one that encamps here in Perth every year with the same old rides. Little brother, friend, I never had a father myself, so I faked it a bit to be something approximately paternal for you. I didn’t feel all that comfortable in the role, and sugared the medicine a bit with a few stars of my own, and spurned the rod and the whip and the psychological assassins I could have sent out like the Old Man of the Mountain. I never keel-hauled you on the moon. And if there was ever a point I was trying to make like a sabre, I never made you walk the plank blindfolded. I had a son once. He disappeared out of my life thirty years ago. He lives. And I expect I’m the ghost of a lot of strange feelings and eerie intensities he can’t understand except by theorizing there must have been another large planet that was knocked out of the configuration of the solar system he finds himself in now, early in its formative years. Without meaning to. Bring on the fuck-ups like the sacred clowns who toy with the old taboos in gales of ironic black laughter. Everyone I wanted to be. Not me. Same as you. And it’s as impossible to prove to a welfare mother that she gave birth to a winning lottery ticket of a son as it is for you to believe you actually won.
You won. You’re here. Wandering around on the earth with the rest of us like sleepwalkers gathering nuts and berries before it’s too late to sustain the lifespan of the long dream we’re having like a nightmare of being suddenly woken up in the middle of a brutal winter unprepared. For what? An encore by popular demand? Regardless of what condition your human condition’s been in, I will say this, you have a big heart, and I’ve watched you stay loyal to a tree long after the other birds have left, and even Azazel who thinks you’re a court-jester with a chip on your shoulder, admires you for this, but says don’t expect credit where credit is due because street justice is an extortionist racket that eats its own first. And what kind of martyr is it who doesn’t expect to suffer for something good he does without even being aware of the electric chair he’s sitting in and how when something’s done right here
the lights flicker like a power shortage in hell. The page boys of Prince Valiant with your kind of hair cut have long since abandoned their childish crusades to encipher their own hieroglyphic fantasies in the cartoon columns of the temples of Karnak. True deceivers. And unbelieving infidels who prefer their own tribal heretics to anyone else’s false prophets. Unionized religion. With no rights accorded to those who work on the nightshift like nightwatchmen and lighthouses and certain unassuming stars whose eyes have adapted to the dark for less than nothing. And I know you’re trying to develop a reputation as a seer, but until you can go down on the Medusa and not turn into stone, and you’ve looked at nature red in tooth and claw as if it were your own like the irisless eye in the blackhole of a shark’s pupil just before it milks out to bite, and not seen a rainbow, a covenant of peace, a pot of gold, the moon dog of a Bronze Age engagement ring, or even a troll under the Rainbow Bridge where the herbal hippie chicks go to commit suicide like medicine cabinets, you’re just looking at the world through two chunks of coal in the fat head of a seasonal snowman who breaks down into tears at the thought of global warming. You’re not flowing diamond yet. You’re just another crystal skull in the coal pits of Pennsylvania handing out environmental pamphlets like starmaps to make it easier for someone to spot you shining whenever you blow your mind like a supernova above your manger as if you were strip mining your own immaculate conception of the mother who gave you birth. And I won’t say physician heal thyself or charge you to raise yourself up from the dead to prove your miraculous healing powers aren’t just the rebranding of the same old snake oil trying to read your future in a Tarot pack of warning labels. Terminal symbolitis. You’re dying of an overdose of meaning in a cosmic rehab centre where Sisphysus breaks his rock up into a small avalanche and boils it in a spoon like a smithy at a sacred forge to heat the iron ore up and pull it like a sword out of his veins. And Azazel says to remind you that you’re not Sir Launcelot but Parsifal the mottled fool, and sipping like a hummingbird from a spoonful of ashes isn’t the same thing as drinking from the holy grail as if it were a methadone treatment programme some drugstore put in place to get the ailing kingdom to kick the absurd like a rock down the same road you took as a boy on your way home from school. Don’t trust any cure that makes a profit off of suffering like a dispensing fee. In a snake pit. In a clean needle exchange. The toxins are the darling changelings of the anti-dotes. Beware of oviparous births in your love nest. You can hatch serpents out of those cosmic eggs you’ve been sitting on as easily as you can nightingales. And hey, little brother, since when does the messenger of the gods, Hermes the Thrice-Blessed, even as a new moon of occult knowledge, go from house to house like a passenger pigeon brokering deals for everyone else in exchange for a toke, a rock, a pill, the leftover crumbs of the dream that fell from the corners of somebody else’s eyes, like a trader on the Toronto Stock Exchange bundling mortgages for the pharmaceutical companies that run a small town like a junkie’s budget into the ground of his being? I’ve seen sparrows hunting seeds and worms in leftover gardens and ferrets in the fall hunting sparrows with the same quick nervous energy you expend crisscrossing the street enervating your last quantum of dark energy on what you think you need to live another painful day on earth. You may roar like a lion but you hunt like a fly. And, anyway, as Azazel says, even in hell the hardest of demons don’t like to see an eagle being led around on a leash by tapeworm. It offends their sense of aesthetic distortion to see a magnificent predator enslaved to spineless parasite. Hic sunt dracones. Not vampire bats. Deep root powers of the earth who spread their wings like waking volcanoes, not the blood thinners of no-see-um succubi dreaming of falling in love with a blood bank like the gift that just keeps on giving the more it takes from the foodchain.
I once told you you could charm your way through life up to the age of twenty-face and then the spell wears off like a snake skin or the aura around a rainbow body depending on whether they used serpent fire or holy water to anoint you at birth. Twenty-five. And you’re forty. The funeral bells have long since turned your wishing wells into the steeples of a fire-worshipping church by now, and the eternal flame looks a little more hurried than it should with all that time on its hands to brood on why it feels like the lonely flightfeather of the last phoenix that flew by on its way to the sun. O Icarus, Icarus, my ex-stepson, Icarus, I see you lining up like a stealth fighter on a Nazdac runway flapping your arms like an aerial photograph of a totemic self-portrait you recently tarred and feathered trying to gain enough altitude on drugs and overly euphoric women with brain-damaged hearts to meet enough extraterrestrials who can understand you, you could become the cult leader of occult ufos. And somehow prove you’re not as crazy as the rest of us afterall. There’s madness in your method. There’s a triumph in your mortality. You want to ride a golden chariot through a slum that never thought you would ever amount to anything more than the golden boy of last year’s New Year’s baby. And look at you, now. Muddy Waters, there’s another mule kickin’ in your stall. What happened to the manger? Now that all that holiday spirit has entered you like a float in a parade you once peed on as if you were being tested for drugs? And you’re so fucked-up, as most of us are in this labyrinth of cul de sacs we pursue like the life of the mind following the counter-intuitive leads of artistic breadcrumbs we dropped in our sleep to find our way out of this retrogressively, you’re talented by acclamation. You’ve hybridized your bestiary. Birds have fangs. And snakes sing in a perfect harmony of wavelengths to greet the morning like the powerlines of a barber-shop quartet in the rain. Auuuuum. Do wa, do wa, do wa ditty. An independently sponsored approximate haiku moment whose opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the current broadcaster. Blow up your nose. Snow in Tibetan begging bowls. Up here in the mountains. You crap once. It’s good for life. Nobody has to keep their shit together. And to play fair with the square-minded. Nobody has to lose it. Even if time on the food chain is your just desert for breaking the law of diminishing returns like a missing link that didn’t want to cultivate wild grasses into a civilization based on agriculture where all the children starve to death, the shit you put into your mouth should be of at least a little higher quality than the shit that comes out. You’d be better off cannibalizing yourself than living on that ghost food that surfeits you like a blood transfusion of pharmaceutical nectar and no-name brand ambrosia. There’s no chromosome in your space-shaped fortune-cookie that’s going to change the fate of this nightmare in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. And any koans around here that might be worth breaking into to get a fix on yourself, have long since blown their minds like milk weed pods from the sixties and scattered their thoughts of a better world like a thousand hail-marys all at once on the last play of the game to try and make it out of their end-zone. And it’s not unusual for a hippie mother to give birth to a fascist kid, or a fascist kid to turn his reactionary mother into a hippie who looks at her life as a bad acid flashback that’s gone viral on youtube and appears as if it’s about to be picked up like a reality show on a major network with a viewing audience ripped out of its mind. And you flagellate the world with savage indignation because it’s not logical, not rational, not answerable to the crystal paradigms you hang like swords and chandeliers above everybody’s heads because they want to fox-trot when you think it would be more appropriate if they followed in your painted footprints on the ballroom floor, and learned to waltz the way you did. But not everybody’s got a hand-stand in them, or even a novel, and sometimes it’s even hard to find a line of implausible poetry.
Drug-induced, alcohol-exacerbated, pharmaceutically suppressed schizophrenia. O.K. Caesar was an epileptic, Neitzsche had syphilis, Byron had a club foot, and Apollinaire almost had his whole head shot off in World War I. The black sinister hand shapes the clay on the wheel as surely as the white dextrous one does. An over-compensated disability could almost pass for a definition of genius. Or juno, if you’re a woman. Or both, if you’re really honest with yourself. But you want to salt the clouds of unknowing that make the whole thing ineffably mysterious with dry ice to make it rain acidic tears that anyone ever doubted your insight. We tolerate the mystery. The mystery tolerates us. It may be irrational, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t clear. Like stars are at a distance. Though up close their nuclear cores must feel just as confused as you are with the fission and fusion that’s going on inside your head. Yet out of that turmoil. The elements of life. All the way from light-hearted hydrogen and helium up to and beyond the heavy metal anti-psychotic likes of Lithium. They used to tell me in creative writing that it was crucial for me to find my own voice. Only one? For a lifetime. For everything? One voice fits all? But one day I did find my voice only to realize it was a stem cell, and quickly multiplied into thousands of others like vital organs each with a function of their own. I wasn’t a lonely folk guitar with white line fever hitchhiking down a midnight highway to get to my next gig in Toronto. I was a symphony orchestra. I was a whole tree full of birds. I wasn’t a seance unto myself. I lot of different ghosts spoke through me over the years. And it’s the same for schizophrenia from my point of view. Just two? To handle every situation that comes up in a lifetime? Go polyphrenic. And if it’s all just a big ego delusion in the first place who cares if it’s one mirage or many? Go hydra-headed. Tolerance, see? Five petals open. One flower blooms. And it’s o.k. to hold a seance in the middle of a mystery. Whatever comes comes. But not an exorcism. Who decides whose shoes get to stay neatly parked outside the door and who gets the boot because they’ve been tracking starmud into the house as if they lived in a pig-sty? You say you’re into light. The white magic of the radiance. But the light is omnidirectional and it’s got to light up hell just as well as it does paradise. It doesn’t illuminate just one side of its eyes the way you do. Or were you talking about flashlights? Head lights, spot lights, search lights, the aurora borealis as opposed to the aurora australis? Let everybody throw a little light on the mystery as far as they can, each according to their own candle power whether they understand it like a firefly, a lightning bolt, a light house, the momentary flare of a match in a dark room, traffic lights, the light at the end of the tunnel, or the Andromeda galaxy. Everybody shine. Who knows what flowers might come of it? Intense heat, unusual sprouts. Azazel, for example.
You say you’ve got a bad back. There are rungs broken on the ladder. You got into a car drunk with a drunk. And won again. You lived when it flipped. You see how you live to escape the danger you place yourself in? You bait your own leg hold trap to see if you can get away with something. It’s like playing Russian roulette. There are never any losers when it comes right down to it. Bang. Click. Everybody wins. Nothing but theatre after life. Just the same, you might find a wild fox or an opportunistic coyote toying with a trapline. Never a wolf. They’re smarter than that. They’d rather turn a porcupine like a needle exchange with their nose than stick it in something like that. Your friends are talking about intervention and I know you hate them for that. I’ve watched you carefully pulling the pins and needles of their remarks out of your psyche like a voodoo doll out to prove they’re not quills they’re mystic spearheads of Bronze Age insight and you’re so advanced in your weaponry you’re living in the twenty-second century. Different strokes of your atomic clock for different folks I suppose. And some of what they say is freaked with malice and gossip and excessive small town excoriation for the things they themselves did yesterday. Winter’s coming on, and you know how people would rather put a skidmark on the black white screen, a little blood spatter, than look at nothing. Because they have no inner resources my mother would say, though there are ten cubic cords of two year old red oak stacked in the woodshed. But it’s not easy to make a rabbit run in a white-out so you’ve got something to chase that makes you feel Canadian and dangerous. I say cool it. You say chill out. And our body temperatures drop by ten degrees. And I can feel the edgy shadow of the knife cross my throat as the white swan you were a moment ago goes into total eclipse. But I wouldn’t let anyone take you away. Especially when I hear your mother’s walking out on you and your girlfriend’s just told you that she’s slept with some dog who was panting under the table for something to fall off like a morsel off of Caesar’s plate, if you can remember any Shakespeare. Right now you’re a mythic inflation of yourself. Not a Saturn booster. A helium weather balloon. An inert gas in the upper atmosphere. Gills on the moon finding it hard to breathe in a sea of shadows. A fever you contracted from a dream. But that’s not camphor under your nose. And I know you’re looking for another mirage in the mirror of the medicine chest you’ve addicted to lethal placebos, but it doesn’t look like the stately pleasure domes of Xanadu from here. And you’ve got no right to make people care for your mortality if you’re not going to let them ride with you in your golden chariot in triumph. Through Perth or Persepolis. No matter. You’re riding through your own ruins like time-lapse photography wondering where all the bling and flash went.
So what do you do? You carve. You paint. You write. If the fear comes over you. You give it a name. You dedicate a poem to it. As Rilke suggests. You kiss that dragon back into a princess. You be a good apple tree. You express yourself. Not to save the world, though a little bit of that may come inadvertently of its own accord. You make blossoms, you grow branches, you recite leaves, you produce apples. The bears, the birds, the wasps, the worms, the artists, the lovers, who doesn’t benefit from it? By their fruits ye shall know them. Who the fuck are you? Or anything or anyone of us if it weren’t for the fact we’re nothing if not expressive? Like the sea and its weather. Expressive. Whether there are shipwrecks littered like yarrow sticks all over the seabed in the Book of Changes or all your arrows are stealing their plumage from the very birds they’re trying to target, or mother pelicans are feeding regurgitated sardines to baby birds while cormorants bob on the logs on a halcyon sea. There’s no disconnect between the sea and its weather. You and what goes on in your head. This is you. And as it happens, this is the all inclusive, eternally premiering movie of your life. As it happens. As it makes you up fractal by fractal. You’re not a boarder in the House on Elm Street. You’re the camera man. You look at a star. In your case, Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Your eye makes it a star. The star makes it your eye. Everything’s like that. See? Expressive. Creatively collaborative without trying to save anyone out of the ordinary. Making things does that. Spinning mulberry trees out of a silkworm’s ass. You haven’t got time to hang on to your misery long enough to make it an identity because you’ve got both hands full and you’re always dropping stuff. Expressively. People see you yachting around town with two or three canvases under your arm for sale and some of the old farmers around here will begin to see what kind of tree you are and give you the name their grandfathers taught them. And your friends will begin to see that even a birch that the beavers have gnawed through when it’s flat face-down on the ground trying to make the whole earth its death mask isn’t a disability but a creative resource. And your madness will grow more intriguingly intelligible to them. They’ll see the darkness inside as ore the gold pours out of like your hair. Express yourself. When has a storm ever not come too early for calm weather? What does the applause of the waves on the surface for some stunt a flying fish pulled off mean to the bottom feeders? In those depths you shine by yourself. You don’t wait for the moon to do the job for you.
You’re addicted to addiction. So hook up with something that’s just as habitually good for you and you’re the only dealer. Express yourself. In or out of control. Just as you are, whatever the hell that means, and don’t try to take control of things like a steering wheel on a sunami when you’ve already gone down with the yacht. Check out the lost continent of Mu and express yourself. Because Mu’s you too. And your sister there. She’s Atlantis. Azazel’s a refugee and I was the original land mass of Pangea before I pecked my way out of the cosmic egg like a miner trapped deep in the heart of the motherlode that came down on me like an avalanche when things began to fall apart. Express yourself. Like genetic variations in the shapes of dinosaurs adapting like South America to its new independence from the establishment. Like a coal miner’s canary in a tunnel. Like bannas say I’m yellow with sunspots. Make art. Make love. Make a mess of your life with taste and style. Put on an exhibition of your palettes. Go Japanese about the way you arrange your dry paint-caked brushes in no-name brand enameled coffee cans. Write like a poet who knows he’s doomed to die tragically old and full of a fetal sweetness of things being born in autumn like the karmic apples of his next life. One, for Sleeping Beauty. One to win Helen. One to seduce Eve. And one because it contains the seeds of sacred syllables and symbolizes Q, the letter that stood for poets in the Beth Luis Nion Druidic Tree Alphabet because we’re always supposed to be asking why, and all the why questions begin with Q in Latin. Q’s an apple-tree. And as any Druid will tell you. Once and a while it’s good to eat one of your own. So be a windfall. Apples or skulls. Shepherd moons and solar systems. Dumb blind flint-knapped asteroids in their planetary middens. Express yourself. Like the Burgess Shale. Like the Grand Banks just off the continental shelf where things drop off your body and your mind and it gets too deep for any anchor to dare to pull you down. Intimidate your chains with the insurmountable challenge of your freedom. And if you’re having coffee and a spliff with death in Aleppo as often as you say you do, why waste your death on trivia, and blow up a highschool, when you could take advantage, even by a reflected glory, not what you know but who in your case, of the incredible power and freedom to take up any lost cause you want, like yourself, for example, and declaring a holy war on yourself, have nothing but a few badly defended mirages to lose? Or you could go on liberating the windmills of your mind with blood, sweat, and tears in Jerusalem without having the slightest clue about whose side your on. And don’t tell me you’re on all sides at once to dodge the bullet because that just means someone’s going to have to go to the extra expense of putting a few more firing squads on the night shift. And you’re the only one of them that can show some compassion toward yourself like a blank and a cigarette and a blindfold.
I love you, little brother. Take the mask off. Put this on. It’s Kevlar. It was Azazel's idea.