Monday, November 28, 2011



Estranged from my myth of origin

by the astronomical catastrophe

that alienated me from my own kind

life just kept on happening ark after ark.

I wasn’t consulted.

I wasn’t warned.

I wasn’t misguided

by some miscreance of happenstance.

Whatever excruciating transformations you go through

and however perverse your mutations might seem

to the jump-started creationists

holding up a limp finger to God

like the red-capped pole of a positive battery terminal

that hasn’t been fully charged yet

to be is just to be.

That’s it.

That’s all.

It’s as unsayably clear and open ended as that

without the stopwatch of an opposite

to measure the ten paces you walk out

before you turn in a last duel with yourself

with time as the second that stands up

for the defeated honour of your corpse

lying at its feet like a matador gored by a rose.

It’s the darkest inkwells

that reveal the deepest insights

you can bring out indelibly

like a total eclipse of the moon

into the light through words

like night birds in inaccessible groves

whose voices take flight over the hills

and across the lakes

like an echo in an urn

heard like a lonely mantra

under the eras of the stars

but seldom seen for what they are.

So many masks of meaning

without eyelids

I outgrew in the late spring of my life

when I effaced myself

like a Japanese plum tree

until nothing but the wind was behind me

and the gutter of a residential street

that ran through downtown Victoria

intermingling genies of gasoline

with the fragrance of the rain

that doubled as my version of homesick poets

studying Zen in southern China

like ugly ducklings

among the enlightened swans

sailing down the Yangtze to the great sea

where sentience doesn’t taste of such distinctions.

Ask any moment in passing like a stranger

you accosted on the street

like your own reflection

in a storefront windowpane

who you are now

or make discrete enquiries

among the wisest of the spiritual death masks

you sought in the past to emulate

like plastic surgery on the face of a gangster

on the run from himself

and they’ll all ask you for an alibi

and publish your poems

like unwanted posters

with a bounty on your head

for identity theft among the great imposters.

And you might come to think of yourself

as a great trickster,

Loki, a crow, a fox,

a sacred clown of the Ogallala Sioux,

the gleeman of a greater god

with a blacker sense of humour than you

and come to realize in the course of time

your god is a fraud

but his disguise is real.

Tears painted on a clown’s face

are always wetter than the real ones

and there’s nothing you can do to peel them off

like the skins and colours of a bike gang

but let go like a Japanese plum blossom in the spring

or a silver Russian olive in the fall

down by the Ottawa Canal

when the fish are too polluted

for the drunks to eat.

We’re all damaged goods

one way or another.

No one gets out alive or unwounded

and it’s anyone’s fanatical guess

between love life time death God and the Devil

which is the hardest to relate to

when most of the time

you can’t even tell

the fruits of one from another

when you use that as a way to get to know them.

Kafka said that we all lie in the lap

of a vast intelligence

and on a good day

part of me can relate to that.

And on a bad

I’d say most people lie in the lap of their own

as if they were looking after some pet

they called themselves

that spoiled them.

Because of all the miseries they’ve had to endure.

Because of all the places they’ll never be from.

Because of all the times

they offered up more than they had to give

for love

and it was rejected

and they had no use for it after that.

How many times has someone said to me

I’m looking for myself

and when I asked them

what they called the part

that was doing the looking

they immediately saw how impossible

it was to be lost

because the mind

which isn’t anything at all

is just one big cosmic lost and found

and you can fall anywhere in it

and it amounts to the same as rising.


but even the stars aspire to the unattainable

and it can be incredibly exalting

to perish in your own defeat

fighting for something

you don’t know if you really believe in

but never need to doubt your motives

for getting behind

because you just prefer it that way

and that about says it all.

You just prefer it that way.

You don’t need to analyze, disguise

revise, anathematize, apotheosize,

or cover your eyes in an interview

with chameleonic irises

because, yes, there’s a pot

at the end of the rainbow

but there’s as much shit in it

as there is gold

and it’s always been your preference

what you stuff your pockets with,

what you take home

and it’s by that and that alone

not your ideology

not your mystic philosophy

not your myth of origin

not your sense of morality

as if your senses knew anything about ethics

but your preference, just your preference

your simple, single-minded, indefensible preference

that you’re known.




Taking an upbeat flambuoyant approach toward catastrophe.

A good attitude to go on perishing by.

Adept at it.

Like Atlantis happy enough

if it can find a horizon

let alone a lifeboat on it.

Been doing it my whole life.

Because more than once I’ve contended

for and against myself

I was born fortunately too stupid to be a cynic.

Optimism is the heaviest cross of all to bear

up a hill of skulls stacked there by Mongols

who wanted to know if the myth of Sisyphus

were true or not and somehow got my apostasy

mixed up with his

and mistakenly crucified the absurd

on top of Mt. Sumeru, the world mountain,

to get the city of God to surrender without a fight.

I’m the last two apocryphal commandments

that were driven out into the desert

like the twin scapegoats

of the baker’s dozen

and the carpenter’ inch

when the other ten went metric.

Love a lot and you’ll know what to do

without being told to.

Or, option B, heed none of the above

and take your chances

freelancing out along the razor’s edge

like an ice breaker

looking for a northwest passage through your throat.

Pretty radical for a rootless tree like me

who didn’t set out in life to be

the rolling stone that kicked off an avalanche

like a slow boy playing toe-hockey with a mountain

on a thatched road on his way home from night school.

Fool, said my muse to me

as if it were talking to Sir Philip Sydney

look into your heart and write.

And you can tell by the colour of my lips

I’ve been drinking eclipses out of an inkwell ever since

convinced I’m a fallen sparrow in an ailing kingdom

that’s been sipping elixirs like cocktails

out of a holy grail with little black umbrellas in it

that keep blooming in the house

like a black mass of bad luck.

I tried emptiness once

like a home-brewed remedy for heart burn

that tasted like Peking duck on a pyre of gasoline.

But the void spit me out

like the Johnny Appleseed of sacred syllables

so whenever I try to meditate my way back into the void

through the backdoor

I don’t chant aum, but ouch

and the dark night of my soul

deepens into the anti-enlightenment

of the sinister dark matter at hand

like a Sicilian family at the beginning

of twentieth century New York

where they ghettoize the scapegoats

each according to their ethnicity

so you can recognize them

like the logos of brand-names

the yellow stars, the black hands,

the four leaf clovers, the West Side stories

of the Spanish moons in partial eclipse

or if there’s anyone else there like me

the skull and crossbones

I wear like my heart on my sleeve.

It’s three a.m., for example,

in a crummy Holiday Inn hotel room

overlooking Lake Ontario

where the dead fish

surface belly-up like U-boats along the shore

and a naked fan of my poetry

off in dreamland without me

looks like a mermaid washed up

in the surf of the bedsheets on her own rocks.

I’m sitting in the dark

before a wide-screen window

trying to make out the constellations

through the light pollution of Kingston

the way I used to reconstruct secret messages

like the Rosetta Stone

in grade four

from the few letters that were left

when the chalkboard wasn’t completely erased

by some windshield wiper of a teacher

trying to change the subject in a hurry

like some white-wash graffiti artist under a bridge

that didn’t want to get caught in the cover-up

that lied to the whole class

about the iron pyrite truths

that lay ahead of us

like a bright future of fools’ gold.

But even if the starlight’s been diminished

by a smear campaign

that’s going to take more than Windex to undo

and they’ve lost some of their criminal lustre

I still see in each of those rogue stars

the dark boat of a rum-runner

beached like me with a mermaid

in the labyrinth of the Thousand Islands

ten years after the lifting of prohibition left

everyone with a hangover for the rest of their lives

knocking their heads against a locked door

like the yachts in the docks below me.

There are some poets like Shakespeare

who recommend giving airy nothing

a local habitation and a name

and I’m not calling him a rat;

it’s good advice for all honest citizens of the universe

when they’re talking to the cops,

but it smacks a little too much of the snitch to me

and I’m sitting here with my mouth shut

staring blankly out

into the airy nothing of this night sky

trying to write a poetic alibi

for why I’ve got nothing to say

and even when the heat gets turned up so high

there’s sweat on the inside of the one-way windows,

I still refuse to squeal on yesterday.