Tuesday, November 29, 2011



Trying to put some distance between myself and my past

is like trying to stale-mate a cloud with a mountain

by resorting to the last hope of all experienced liars,

objectivity. Third person singular pronouns,

he, she, it. Shipping containers from alien places

stacked neatly on the dock

like coffins and cord wood

you can talk and write about as if

you weren’t buried in anyone of them

and none of the stowaways

and none of the illegal immigrants

and none of the corpses

were anymore related to you

than Cantonese graffiti from Seattle that rode the rails

all the way to Jakarta like one long sentence

about something you dreamed last night in your sleep.

Somebody’s else’s views in somebody elses’ language.

You can stand on one side of the tracks

in the red glare of the most serious-minded lights

at the road block with the crossed swords

and half-bored with waiting for things to pass

read the story of your life on the sides

of the train going past gene by gene

in the most unlikely couplings of a chromosome.

You can read your own genome

like beads in the rosary you’re kneading

between your thumb and your forefinger

as if you were counting the prophetic skulls

of the full moons that have passed

without any sign of a harvest on an abacus.

You can hide your past under the death mask of someone else.

You can play scrabble with the sign of the zodiac

you were born under,

you can rearrange your stars

and lie to your scars about which among many wounds

was their real birth mother,

you can spin a new myth of origin like a changeling

to explain why your axis is tilted beneath the equator

but when you’re finishing patching over to another gang

and you’ve got new top and bottom rockers

and a brand new mandala on your back to empower you

and your winding down the Malahat on Vancouver Island

that writhes along the side of the mountain

like a snake with its head pinned by your front wheel fork

two hundred feet above the tiny eyelids

of the waves with the white lashes

on the surface of the sea below,

thinking of Jefferson Airplane’s

tongue in cheek retort to John Donne

that no man’s an island.

He’s the Saanich Peninsula

though they didn’t say Saanich

but if the peninsula fits wear it

and that’s where I was at the time.

You can tear the wire you’ve been wearing

like the narrative of your life

as if your own mind were listening in on you

from another room in the hotel across the street

and your silence would still provide enough evidence

to prosecute you for living outside the box

instead of just sitting in it

and trying to think of a way out.

All those improbable entrances with impossible exits

you walked through to change your life irreparably

like some crude street rendition

of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Edmonton

just to verify your right to exist

in a world that rejected its own extremities

like the left hand of fate and circumstance.

And it wasn’t so much the actuality you were after,

that would come of its own accord

like an apple after the blossom,

but just the mere chance

of being someone you weren’t

who wasn’t burnt and bitter

wary, angry, cruelly clear-sighted

as a spider-mount on a telescope

waiting to catch stars in the webs

of the glimmering constellations

they mistook for dreamcatchers.

Every cubic centimetre of me back then

as dense and intense as a black dwarf

that sucked all the light out of the air

so that even in broad daylight

I always felt this darkness within me

like a night too heavy for the world to bear.

My mind was always a wavelength shy of a snake pit

when I was around other people

that hadn’t been chronically humiliated

by growing up poor

and my heart would condemn itself out of hand

just to deny them the privilege

of doing it for themselves eventually

and to show them the difference between

a passive scapegoat and a demonized pariah

that wouldn’t hesitate to use his horns

on any matador of the moon

who thought he had the crescents for it.

Alone under the microscope

I furnished my solitude like a habitable planet

with converging mindstreams

that carried me out to sea

like an empty lifeboat

drifting down the Milky Way

like a leaf, like a poem, like

a deep insight into the radiance of nothing

as soon as it got dark enough to see the stars.

Out of the void I sought shelter in

emerged a truce of aloof familiars

who were multilingually conversant

with my kind of madness and imagination.

And I called them Azazel, Blue Flower, Black Dog,

Dead Dog’s Dream Self, Character and Womanpit,

and of the ones that appeared the most benign

one was a mystically empowered altruistic idiot,

one was the tabla rasa Adamic blank slate of everyman

and one the female sister demon of my right brain

that was dark and artistic and long-suffering.

And of the first magnitude black hole constellations

with eyes like dice pricked out like fang marks

on an occult starmap of dark matter,

one was a Satanic standard bearer

who had gone from being a scapegoat

to being the master of a Renaissance of evil

with the Machiavellian curiosity of a reptile

intrigued by its deepening insight into mammals

and the other two were the black farces

of their own burnt out legends

passively-aggressive as extinct volcanoes

growling at each other

in the nightmare of their waking hours

like fortune-cookies strung out along the same fault line

like junkies who rage at the futures

that keeping give up on them

like a species that knows its endangered

all the way from southern California

through West Vancouver up to Alaska.

There’s a big part of everyone

that wasn’t born of man or woman

when they’re alone with their own cartoons

and the mythic inflation and deflation of themselves

makes them feel the whole universe

is breathing along in unison with them

between rapturous moments of solar exhilaration

and dead seabeds of lunar depression

like a musician with his finger on the pulse

of the copulating wavelengths

of a blues guitar in heat at high tide

he’s going to ride out like providence into the flood.

These were my Sahaba,

my lost tribe of desert companions,

the nightwinds that came all wrapped in black

like lone Tuariq out of the southern Libyan Sahara

like dark energy in a whirlwind of stars

ready to kill you from a great distance

for drawing the waters of life

out of one of their wells

without tribal consent.

And who knows what flows down into the mind

from what mountaintops

or through the valleys of whose heart before you?

Maybe there’s some leftover starlight in the mix

and the taste of a full moon

lingering on the tongue of a corpse

like a coin some loved one put there

like a sacred syllable to protect it against the dark.

And the tears of someone you never knew

for things you’re not aware of

crying like a waterclock from life to life

like the dream theme of a mindstream

that keeps the whole thing together

like the loose thread of a flying carpet

that just keeps on unravelling.

Life is a geriatric medium with a young message.

The oasis mentors the mirage

like a dance company rehearses Swan Lake.

Dark matter is strung out through the universe

like a junkie neurally connected to the same mind

we all are the way water is to intelligence and lucidity.

We’re all drinking from the same mindstream

in our own skull.

And when I pass mine around

like a sacred chalice of the moon

around a common fire

to each of my familiars and anti-selves

thrown together in this desert of stars

like symbols that made a habit of each other

for mutual survival,

the big question

that’s always greeted with silence

is whether life’s an exorcism or a seance.

Were we driven out of somewhere

we all long for

for things we can’t recall

to never be summoned back,

or were we invited here

by an anonymous unresponsive host

possessed by his own imagination

to guess at who or what he might be

so the hidden secret can know itself

in every one of us?

And I ask myself creatively

is the potential for darkness

greater than the reality of light?

Is the one infinite

and the other doomed to be exhausted

by living it one insight at a time

some with the lifespan of stars

some like fireflies and lightning

some in the shadows of black walnut trees

and some like me

who dream under the eyelids of past eclipses

like a dragon who once swallowed

a black cosmic egg whole

to bring rain to the new moon

without putting its ancient root fires out?