THE SILENCE HAS GROWN SO MAGNANIMOUS IN THE NIGHT
The silence has grown so magnanimous in the night
it encompasses all of space and time
in a palace of dark matter
with light beaming through
the cracks of the planets
that have been stacked into walls
like the skulls the Mongols heaped up
like the foundation stones of Samarkand,
Olmecs in Teotihuacan,
or on a gentler note, Golgotha.
Upon one skull you can build a church.
And an Orphic skull might look like
a dead moon to ordinary eyes
but when your inner vision waxes to full
you realize when it drops its jaw
as if it were gaping at something transfixing
to prophesy what comes next
as you asked it to
life is swarming all over it
like black ants over the globular clusters
of the white peonies abandoned by a farmhouse garden.
Two twenty a.m. and I’m sitting
on the tie of a high train trestle
trying not to get slivers in my ass
and black creosote all over
my last clean pair of jeans.
I’m dangling my feet in the abyss below me
like a kid gone fishing in a Norman Rockwell painting
and positioning my arms like the legs of a French easle
so I can tilt my head back like a telescope
on an alta-azimuth mount
and look at the explosive array of stars before me
without falling off my vertiginous perch
because my gerry-mandered tripod
couldn’t keep its bearings straight.
It’s a mistake to count on a crutch for a rung
on this endless extension ladder
on the back of a fire-engine
because it couldn’t reach
the windowsills of the stars
missing a dimension or two
to reach the woman in the moon
with her hands up against the glass
screaming for someone to come to her rescue
as the windows melt faster than they can weep.
Stars are to me
what cocaine is to a mirror
in a reflecting telescope with clock-drive.
I get a rush every time I rail them through my eyes,
shoot them under my tongue
or o.d. on them sitting on a train track
thinking how weird and surrealistic
my addiction to them has made me over the years
that I only stopped to piss by the side of the road
and risking bears
made my way through the leafless trees
to end up out here in the clear where I could see better
how much higher yet there was to aspire to
and how much further to fall.
Bellatrix, Rigel, Saiph, Betelgeuse,
Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka.
Orion at the end of deer-hunting season
extending its license to kill by a week
north of highway 7
as it crosses zenith.
I’m not playing Russian roulette with a train trestle
but I doubt I could dodge the bullet
were one to come my way
even though it wouldn’t make any sense
given that we still need each other for support
each in our own special way.
As it is I’m sitting in the middle of the Road of Ghosts
as the natives called the Milky Way
mesmerized by the doe-glare of the oncoming stars
that pass right through me
as if a head-on collision were a redundancy
their deer-whistles couldn’t avoid.
Three thousand five hundred western miles that way home.
Twenty-five miles outside of Perth near Bolingbroke
I wonder what my mother’s doing now
three hours behind me
in a time-zone with more of a future than mine
and if she ever
when she thinks of me
conceives of a bird on a wire
perilously suspended in space
like the last whole note
to drop out of a song
that’s getting ready to leave for the winter.
I raise myself up on my hands
and my legs straight out into space
on a balance beam at the Olympics
I swing like a loveseat on a country porch
to see if the daredevil boy in me
is still fit to wear my balls like the man
it’s sometimes laughable to think that I am.
I used to do the same for her
when I climbed to the topmost branches
of the abandoned orchards of the Saanich Peninsula
to throw the choicest apples down
she used to catch in her kerchief one by one.
Looking down as I waited
for her to catch the next one
I’d watch her gently arrange them like skulls
at the foot of a siege ladder
with her son on the highest rung of all
not listening to her warnings,
disappearing over the holy walls of Jerusalem
like a crusader that had taken it a step too far
and realized there was as far to fall
on the other side of the infidels
as there was on the side that God was on.
Now I keep my heroism to myself
like something I’m slightly ashamed of
like a movie star with a stand-in stunt man.
I take chances.
Great subjective risks
with dire physical consequences
to keep spiritual things material
by refusing to abstract my senses.
This isn’t a train trestle in Bolingbroke.
It’s the bridge of Chinvat
that Zoroaster said everyone
among the holy and the damned
would have to cross
raised up from the dead on the Day of Judgement
to see hell before it was decided
whether you were a son of the lie
or the son of a truth that got double-crossed.
But given my indifference to both
as if they were just spontaneous happenings
in a charged particle field reversing spin
as high as wide as far as deep as I can see
in all directions at once
out here alone by myself,
the exception that got left behind,
all I’m aware of are the stars
and the tops of the cedar trees
tiered like rustic pagodas
trying to fly when the wind
gets under their wings
like shaggy boughs
that never make it off the ground.
Nothing but stars.
Nothing but open sky and moonset.
Nothing but space and time and Jupiter
and the Hesperides in their apple orchards
wondering what Alcyone in the Pleiades
thinks she’s got over them
that’s worth so much more of my attention
I can almost forget where I am and let go
if I weren’t as unattainable to her
as she is to me.
Look at me Mum
at the top of a tree forty feet below me
like a pine cone
with all its eyelids open
that doesn’t care where it lands
among all these meteors
shaken out of the radiant of the Leonids
like the Cannonball Express
given how many light years it’s been
since you were last there to catch it
like a falling star
and put it in your pocket
and never let it fade away
though we both know
it’s a little too late
a train too far
and a night too deep for that.