Wednesday, November 30, 2011



The flowerless night rain of late November,

radiant in the window screen

of the Smokin’ Eagles hamburger pitstop trailer

closed for the season,

a loom of jewels

weaving a flying carpet of water

out of the warp and woof of its tears

as if it too had somewhere urgent to go

at this migratory time of year.

Rain on the bushes in the flooded fields

that have rendered what they had to yield,

cattle corn, mustard, purple loosestrife,

pasture for the cow the sheep the horse

and here and there llamas and apathetic buffalo,

stony midwives as brusque as Scotch thistles

disposing of the afterbirth of stillborn lambs

like a sky burial for the turkey-vultures

that circle like an aerial ballet of banshees

high and relentless overhead

for the mother to stop nudging the dead.

Roadkill from their point of view,

not making a waste of death,

and a reminder to me that life’s

got no special feelings for anyone.

And yet despite what the Zen master said

about not trying to stuff

the impersonal secret of the universe

into your tiny sentimental heart

how could you fail not to

or realize that you didn’t need to

in the face of such desolation

given you can see the universe

unscrolling space and time and light

in every grain and star cell of your being

with the same cold-hearted disposition that kills lambs.

Yes, but the bushes God spoke from in September

throughout the Valley like a ventriloquist

are now so deeply brown you can see

the occasional flaring of a flame

of dark mahogany ground willow

the colour of dry blood

still burning in the rain

and understand why brown

was Rembrandt’s favourite mystic background.

And there’s the albino steeple

of the local white-washed church

with its congregation of shadows

sitting dejected at the side of the highway

miles of farmland beyond

to say what a small thing a crucifix is

compared to a plough

with hands that used to pray

holding its head up on its knees

like a gravestone

that had given up waiting

to get its own cemetery

because people have the lifespan

of their great grandfather’s

home-made bookshelves around here

except for the under-rated suicidal adolescents

playing chicken

with vehicular and pharmaceutical roadkill.

The highway’s a tramp.

It’s got too much lipstick on

and it’s painted its asphalt eyelids

with artificial fireflies

to up the amperage of its radiance

in the cosmetic mirrors

of its rear view crocodile tears.

But I’ve got a black gangster hat on

that fits me like the moon fits a total eclipse

and I’m not about to take a bath in my own grave

to save a siren on the rocks

that hisses and spits at every car that goes by

as if she were raised

like an ill-mannered bird in a mailbox

that never got a loveletter back

though she sang her heart out

like a boat-tailed grackle in the rain.

The long blond manes of yesterday’s

palomino pampas grass

have thrown their gauchos off like hairdos

and soaking wet

gone for the quizzical long-necked emu look

of exiled Chileans

being water-boarded by the weather

in a country that doesn’t believe in torture.

A phalanx of brake-light spearmen up ahead

dripping in the blood of a wounded highway

waiting for the long slow

periodic sentence of an empty freight train to pass

like one co-ordinate conjunction after another,

all medium and no message

and there on the town side of the tracks

beyond the last gate before home

a garden of traffic lights and streetlamps,

lots of flash

but nothing much illuminated

in the flowerless night rain of late November

when novels that have been waiting in the wings all year

playing solitaire with their anonymous narratives

as they change with the seasons

losing their inspiration for the loneliest of reasons

begin to think about taking creative writing lessons

to give a boost to their morale

by jump-starting their muses

with borrowed battery cables

in a chilly room off a long heritage hall

in a super-sized red brick building

with a brass plaque to the right

of the heartwood of a heavy oak door

that’s more enduring than it is original.