Sunday, December 11, 2011



Stars clustered around green hearts, every night

we meet like this as you walk in out of the dark

through the golden mouth of the door

that says your tender lightning into the vast spaces

of the electric room basking in its garden of lamps,

a spray of torn lilac in your hand as a gift

sweeter than the embroidered pillowcases

of our ghostly grandmothers unspooled

like smoke and incense on the wind.

And it’s been a thousand bumbling deaths and revivals

since a beautiful woman brought me flowers

and you are young and honey and peach roses

and I am the burnt library of an expurgated constellation

laired in an abyss littered with my own unmarrowed bones

where I try to look deeply into the eyes of things

no one can understand, hoping, if I stare long enough

these yarrow sticks from the book of changes, nine

in the fifth place, might restore my faith in water

and make something bloom again under the black eyelids

of the dream in the stone I’m trying to teach my name.

A fountain of flowers, pink coral, a trine

of tiny crowns, the spume and foam of twilight oceans, three tongues

on the fractured olive branch in the dove of your hand,

a sign of life and land, but you are the fairest token

of the spring to seize the grey bird in the storm-drenched nest

of my aberrant ashes, and raising a choir of fire and blood

that lives on nothing, make it sing.

And you know I love you as the sunset loves its planet,

as the great, ruined dusty rose of the dusk loves

the flashing spirit of the brilliant, white mare

that grazes in the spreading bruise of its darkening pastures,

until all is night and time and the silence of old, unmoveable immensities

too close to God to cry for the worlds

that go out in them like candles, like fireflies, like

the overturned lanterns of the heart

that never makes it home again,

its blood path through the labyrinths of the dark

uncertain as the headwaters of the streams

that slay the swan park with the force of their running.

And, no doubt, you will be reading this one autumn night

tears away from now, the windows rattling in a cold wind

and the stars breaking their glass fangs on the iron air

and I will be the small island of moist breath, the lunar lichen, that blooms

and disappears like a phantom sail on the black mirror

of your widow-walk, frost on the black rose of your grief

a ghost in the garden. You will remember me then as I am now

and feel my presence flood the room like the first draft of a love-letter

slipped through a crevice of light under the door.

And you will not fear the tremor in the bird net of the swaying curtains

or the dead branch with its solitary blossom

that scratches like a broken pencil at your windowpane,

or the shadow of the ashen moth that flutters in the flame of your votive candle.

You will not fear the things that my books could not explain

or the kiss of cold cherries on the nape of your neck

like the glance of a stranger that fills you with knives

on the blood-bridge of one of your former lives;

you will not fear the voice that whispers your name in the well

or the seabird in the fog off the coast of your hearing

that mourns like a lost ship or the ocean in the unfathomed abyss

of an abandoned shell. You will not withdraw like a wave

from the nearing because I know you are a strong bell, a lighthouse of courage,

and it will be me come back from the unsayable distances

between the blossoms and the roots on the silver tree of the dead

to thaw my hands again at the good fire of your abundant heart,

and feel once more your small body gathered up like grain and wine

and stars and volcanic poppies into the bay of mine

before we part. I will come to you out of that vast, shoreless sea

like a tender message in the blue bottle of this June night

with its gentle gestures of lilacs and love in the air

and I don’t know what I’ll say that I can’t say now

or if my tongue will be further schooled in the hidden harmonies

of unseen things the living cannot know, but sweetness,

as we live and have our being now in this madhouse of the moment,

remember this when the gust of that spirit comes like a slow lament

in a tattered robe of autumn leaves:

Though we were the unlikeliest of friends,

my sense of humour beginning where yours ends, if at all,

and the years between us the wingspan between dusk and dawn

and the others envious, askance, black, or jealous

because they could not understand or refused to see

what the autumn had to say to the spring, forgetting

that both seasons are revealed by the melting snow, that after the ice

the withered fields of last October are the overtures of March,

the first to hear the chiming doorbells of the crimson columbine

waiting in the soft moss on the bleak threshold of the rock

to be answered; that winter isn’t the wall of ice between spring and fall

but one greens into the other like an underpainting

and the echo in the valley is the first to hear the call to arise

and root the white lily in the gold-green iris of your eyes.

They sowed scorpions and vipers in the clefts

of their depletions and drank the shrieking acids of nettles and ants

hoping things would flower for them, too, even in the brain slag

of their salted earth, but the festering air of their condemnations

mothered a nation of blackflies and nothing was brought to birth

but more lies, and you can’t farm heaven with the devil’s tools

or impress the sun with the splendour of fools.

How could I tell them that for me, in the squalls of these later years

that blew the stars out one by one, lovers and friends gone,

and the sinkings and the cruel descents that never found bottom

and kept on happening, and the shipwrecks and the sudden seizure of events

that spiralled upward only to smash the moon like an egg

on the rocks below, how could I have let them know

that for me you were a lifeboat in shark weather, a hurricane rose

with hazel eyes and deep in the heart of your fury

a haven of blue that saw me through everything with laughter?

And I don’t know what everyone else was after, a little love

some dignity, a bit of cash, and a splash of self-respect,

but I was after you, crazed by your physical charms

hoping to hold you like the new moon in the old moon’s arms

and against all gods, all convention, all the poetic lore

that said you can turn a muse into a whore by sleeping with her,

love you the way the lightning loves its lightning rods. Be that as it may

and may it be one day in some deranged encounter of the senses

that flaunt their flowers on the banks of the other side,

I remained the longing devotee of your beauty, and you, the water-bride

of a hundred hungry poems. And still I waited for the moonrise,

still I waited for the apricot of your flesh above the willow,

and your angry cassettes, and your love of cats, and your emergency tears

when life handed you another hard stone for a pillow.

You were the orchid in the shadow of the outhouse

that the world can be when you grow up in the coils of poverty

and the wines of life are rags of blood on the razorwire

and the only way out is the stamp-sized gram

crumbled in the valley of the cigarette-paper you lick and post

like a letter addressed to the fire that lights it up,

hoping the next joint gets you higher than the last.

You were the water-lily that turned the rot of the swamp

into something beautiful, a star ahead of your past, a lamp

that never went out or soiled itself with black pollen

even when it shone alone in the morgues of doubt, a glowing rose

come of the dark into which even the strongest have fallen.

And if less than a lover then I loved you more than a friend.

And you brought me lilacs at midnight, and you entered me, a river,

singing of all the things that had drifted downstream

to the dream of an ocean that never spoke

of death or desertion to the birds in the tree

at the end of its frayed rope

where the deltas and divinities give in.

And you brought me lilacs at midnight,

a three-pronged jester’s cap of flowers with hearts for bells

sweeter than any crown of laurels among the iron kells

of the embellished poets stuck like overwrought weathervanes

at the front of the line, or roosters on the apex of the roof,

or closed gates with intercoms demanding proof

they’re the masters of their chains. Lilacs at midnight: remember,

this small exhalation of earthly stars

that will never ember in time or rust in the rain

because when you were all scars and I was all pain

we were bound by something that even death can’t profane.