THIS LITTLE PRICK COMES INSUFFERABLY AROUND HERE
This little prick comes insufferably around here
to throw acid in the eyes of my poetry
by talking about the exhausted limits of imagism
and the logical positivism
of what’s cathartically confessional
about talking to no one in a telephone booth
when it’s snowing heavily outside
as if he didn’t know when to hang up.
It was bilious enough to watch poetry turn into a career
but now to watch it turn into a campaign
is more than I can stomach. Write what you want
anyway it comes out; what’s missing
is no less an expression of you than what isn’t.
Don’t compromise the integrity of your negative air space
by letting little maggots like this
convince you you need to put training wheels on the wind
if you want to reach cruising altitude.
Sing in the shower. Sing in the rain. Sing
on the radio. Sing under a highway overpass
if you like the acoustics, sing for your supper,
sing to get laid, sing alone in the nightwood
to someone who doesn’t want to.
Sing to yourself when no one else will
and don’t worry about remembering all the lyrics,
sing because your cat came back,
because the fire god came looking for fire
and burnt his fingers on your heart
lying in ambush under the ashes,
sing because you feel other people’s pain
more tenderly than your own
or the moon keeps picking its blossom
up off the ground
and putting it back on the dead bough
as if one day the graft is going to take
and drop crazy windfalls of lunar fruit at your feet.
Bitter, mad, gentle as wild columbine,
soft as green moss, angry, compassionate,
sure, beaten down, compassionate, doubtful or dangerous,
sing like the sea making love to its own weather
and drown the astrolabes, the weathervanes,
the fog horns, the lighthouses of editorial opinion
the crow’s nests of the next critical theory to sight land,
the compasses, the wind socks, the starmaps
the crows and the doves
that take it upon themselves to come back
with forensic evidence of what you meant to mean.
Turn the wheel over to the storm
and ride the poem out like a seasoned sailor
that knows when he’s met his match
and concedes to his defeat
as the last card left he’s got to play
to overcome things from the least expected quarter.
You listen to these mud-puddle Balboas
about new planets swimming into their ken
and you’ll end up lowering your lifeboat
into a wishing well somebody’s thrown bad meat down
like the half-eaten carcass of a toxic unicorn
as full of worms as Herod on the day that he died.
Better to wear a crown of a razor wire on Mt. Helicon
then win your laurels on American Idol.
Fame is the taste of your name in the mouth of people.
Better they should whisper it among themselves
as if they’d come across a blue rose
blooming in a desert,
or a garbage bag full of unmarked money
and didn’t know who to tell
who might believe them
among the cynical mirages
who keep a jealous eye on miracles of any kind.
For God’s sake, if you’re dying of thirst
like a fish out of water beside the Lady of the Lake,
roll over and drink like a sword
that wants to get the taste
of sun and blood out of its mouth.
Or if you’re lost and you don’t know
what medium to work in
work in air like a bird,
water like a fish,
light like a star
earth like a star-nosed mole
that likes to get down to the roots of things.
Once many years ago on Laurier East in Ottawa
when I was holding court
like a jester in Graba Java
making fun of the Etruscan kings of the zodiac
for suggesting the asteroids be rezoned
as a housing project for the poor,
a young insecure, cocksure, obscure young art student
from the University of Ottawa,
joined us like a table of contents
and started going on about this and that
synthetic paradigm of bloodless abstraction
he intended to paint like the plumage of a parrot
with the eyes of a peacock
he plucked from other birds
who painted for concrete sex
and effective camouflage.
And I asked him,
standing at his easel before
that white snow witch of a canvas
that swears this is her very first time
if all that vampiric shit was on his mind
when he was about to take her feigned virginity
with a slash of cadmium red middle
like a blood bank under siege
and he said, no.
And I said what’s the good of it then
if asked to paint the Sistine Chapel roof
all you ever do is paint
your metaphysical scaffolding over and over again?
Let the paint tell you what it wants to be.
Let the poem grow from the inside out
and don’t cram all these quacks into the womb
that will leech it, and bleed it, and bleach it to death.
Invited to drink from the grail,
the wellsprings of the muses,
who cares if you have to drink from your hands,
a Tibetan begging bowl, a proboscis,
the dead seabeds of the moon,
or the thin-skinned goblets of the morning glory.
The point isn’t the vehicle, the raft
you use to get to the other side
the booster that drops off
like the empty cartridge of a fountain pen
as soon as you’re free of gravity,
and even if you’re a frog in scuba gear
and take all the contextually correct safety precautions
just don’t let one of these scorpions
talk you into giving it a ride piggyback
to the middle rock in your mindstream
where it will invariably sting you to death.
You’ll look at the moon
and it won’t mean anything to you.
You’ll look at your doorway
and you’ll wonder why it’s always
emptier than your mail box.
And then you’ll realize
trying to piece the parts that are left
like a dragonfly sticking a chrysalis together
of whatever it can lay its hands on
some apprentice planner with phoney blueprints
has stacked your little house of transformation
among the coffins of another housing project
and nipped the wings off your heels
and dug their spurs like backhoes
into your eyes so deeply
you had to settle for streetlights and security cameras
instead of stars
to know where you were going.
Better to walk down a long country road in the dark
whistling to yourself to bluff something into thinking
you’re not afraid to be here
than trespass against the darkness
by buffing the brutal radiance of the stars
with the artificial sweeteners of heritage streetlamps.
I’m not going to release anymore doves
to try and read the mind of someone I’ve never met
by relying on the fools
who think it’s all just a matter
of ritualistic spiritual etiquette,
or neo-Chicago Aristotelianism,
but I am going to liberate all my insights
like heretical fireflies
from the usual preservatives
of a cramped, conservative Mason jar
and watching them rise like sparks
from someone burning at the stake
let them make up constellations of their own
that they don’t take so seriously
because they never step
into the same mind set twice
and nothing that emerges like a paradigm
from the creative chaos
of their unconditioned light
is going to stay fixed long enough
for anyone to draw up a starmap
to ask advice, see where they are, look for signs.
What star, what flower, what lover, what poet,
waits to be illuminated
like a canary in a coal mine
by the shadows of what it longs for
before it shines?