IF YOU WASH YOUR FACE IN YOUR OWN REFLECTION
If you wash your face in your own reflection
your face will come off in your hands
like moonlight on Jebb’s Creek
far off Rideau Ferry Road
in the wide open mud flats
of struggling trees and cattails
that French-kiss your boots with every step you take
as if you were wearing octopus suction cups
walking across a window.
Here the stars outdo themselves for radiance
as if they were competing for attention
with the myriad frogs who contend by example
cannibalistic procreation in a small pond
where the creek fans out like the hood of a cobra
is the answer to survival
not oceanic emotionally attached illumination
Caliban having it out with Ariel in an ossuary
of frog bones and old myths
pouncing on the facts of life like a fresh kill.
The car lights round the curve at Millerbrook Farm
penetrating the darkness as far as they can
and then pass on
like owls doing a routine flyover
through a dogfight of swallows and bats.
The darkness returning to itself
after a false alarm, seems deeper, richer
more certain of itself than it was before
as if it had gotten away with something
that made it feel more satisfied
with the way things are.
Life getting away with itself
by staying off the beaten path
like a thief that comes in the night,
furtively, unbeaten, for the sterling of the moon.
And the stars seem so magnificently unperturbed.
And the house cats let out for the night
from the nearby housing project,
who escaped death
by dodging traffic across the road
wind their way like the smoke of root fires
through the cedar groves
like a rhapsody of feline fuses
on the trail of something big.
The deer mice listen warily
in the tunnels of the London blitzkrieg
for the cunning of their music to dissipate
like the piety of a burnt offering to the sky gods
who aren’t even aware of them
nor hear the all clear of the stars to stand down.
Here everything that lives
casts a spell of its own
to adapt itself like a fact to its environment,
its own magic trick
to capture and evade life
as it randomly shuffles
exits and entrances
with a joker up its sleeve
like a guest list at a feast of appetites
playing their genetically marked cards
close to their chest.
Here the stars overhead
put everything down on the table
knowing the best place to hide
is out in the open
with light for a witness
and anyone with an eye
to the emptiness
that’s the modus operandi
of the death mask that remains
indelible as starmud sticking to its story
when you wash your face off
in your own reflection
like the last, best alibi you had left
to rebutt the testimony of the mirror
that’s proved to be a bigger liar
than the theme of darkness
that runs through all of this.
Jebb’s Creek with its cargo of waterlilies
flowing into the Milky Way
like a local tributary
of something sublime and unknown
with the same cosmic aspirations writ large
in the eyes of those who try
to live up to them from down below.