Wednesday, December 14, 2011


My life the wardrobe of a shabby star; here,

take this carnelian pomegranate

that has hardened into a heart

and appease what blood you can, take my tongue

that turned yellow with arsenic in the fall

and was torn down like the flag of an ancient catastrophe

by the denuding expletives of the wind.

I’m tired of the ashes and the cemetery wine

that pollutes them; I’m weary of the view,

this worm-eaten map to nowhere

and the lies it must live to fulfill.

I’ve exhausted the patience

of the bookish rain,

waiting for my shoes to stop talking

about journeys they’ll never take,

so that I can tell them I was a man

with a tarnished direction

that led me off the known roads

to taste the wild blackberries

that ripened in brambles of razorwire.

Here, take the petrified paperweights,

the mephitic moons of my eyes, still stained

by the dead seas that wept themselves empty

to the end of seeing; I once mistook them

for summer sapphires in a mountain crown

but things have been rubbled since then,

and my sidereal aspirations have toppled

to graze on the mannered portion

of the crumbs of light

that survived the avalanche

at a foodbank for wheelchairs and thrones. My mind,

gum under a desk

in an abandoned schoolhouse

and my voice, the graveside elegy

of an extinct species

that couldn’t attune its maverick genes

to the suggested forks in the path of an eloquent serpent,

I am unspooled by my own undoing

as frame by frame

I marred my life with perversions of salt and light

to contaminate my bruised confessions

in asylums of lipless inquisitors.

I am still the ore of the sword in the rock

they couldn’t extort from my ambiguous impurities,

even after the stake and the fire

that moiled the gold of my bones. Blighted by the truth

of a heresy of wounded water,

I was true to the rain

in a holocaust of cabbalistic arsonists

and even here in this fetid ditch of time,

the scattered orchard, the pageant of my blood

is not a danse macabre

or transformative contrition

of flagellant lilies. I am innocent as night

of the stars they impute to me, the lies and legends

of the man who once lived me,

a ventriloquist of physics.

Here take my face and skin, my mouth, my hair, my ears,

and if you still need

a gesture of confession

to glut the cannibal of a creed, here,

take my faith in the expired frequencies

of the universal hiss, or the charred guitars

of my carboniferous impieties. I fumbled the song

you asked me to sing

and limped from the stage

an infamous king of jesters and fools

who overthrew me for a laugh

when the minister of mirrors went insane.

Now I am a smear of sky

on a broken windowpane,

a rumour of hesitant lightning

in a choir of tone-deaf fireflies,

the fraudulent tear

of a leftover saint

who weeps sewers for the poor

to wash the planet off their faces.

I rummage through the garbage

of the aftermath, the decrescent beak of a vulture

reaping the urgent organs of tumescent roadkill

that once cast the dice of their own infraction

to steal their genius back from the gods,

to cool the fire of their solitude on the other side,

to lift the veil

from the star-worn face of the apple

and look into eyes that no one’s ever see

before the worm interrogates the vision

at a carnival of undertakers. Here, take this old taboo, this curse,

the thorns and horns of these dragon teeth

that sowed the forbidden ground of the secret

with armies of fanatical commas

in the service of a virgin period

deported like a holy relic

to the erection of a foreign capital

adorned by the marbles of carnage.

Here take this future from me,

the accident, the crisis and the shock,

the randomness, the tyranny, the sneer

of the heart-crushing boot, the rational madness

of political lovers raised for annihilation, and take this ruse

of happy endings, the chrome and glass

cosmetic face-lifts of a flagging science,

and the indecipherable grammars of the generals

who speak like triggers and the hurricane corporations

who lobby to own the rain

and want to market oxygen as an inert gas,

a logo on every gene. You can have my eyes,

you can bottle my tears

and send them off on the tide, a message and a warning

not to risk a rescue,

and leave me the sole custodian

of my own isolation like a bird in a furnace.

You can plant spies in my semen

and colonize my chromosomes with zoos;

you can introduce me like the skull and crossbones

of a designer virus

and hack into my horde

of piratical ideas to clear the coasts of consciousness

of superfluous corsairs. You can administer

last rites in rosaries of chalk

on ghetto sidewalks and doctor the autopsy

with the platitudinous gangrenes of moral turpitude,

the nemetic karma that plays muse

to your inspired amputations. Bring on the surgeon,

bring on the laughing pathologist

back from a late vacation, unhand me

with the ostrakon, the passport of pariahs,

and distinguish me with a fence, a wall, a camp,

the unmarked grave of a dismembered terrorist

who had no evidence to add

to the celebrity histories of acknowledged slaughter.

Make a token of my head, my prophetic skull

on the platter of a flat earth

to sweeten the sins of your adulterous daughter,

or let me fall upon the sacrificial blade

of the waning moon that lies before me like a sinister eyelid,

I will undo the ribbon of my blood

on a gift that arrived like a stranger

you couldn’t trust. I will endure the abuse

of a premature grave

or enter the vehement emptiness

of a third-world cupboard in a fever of hope

that proves critical, but no demon of your will,

no whim of your capricious brutality,

no reflex of your hatred of love and life, no

acidic austerity of your organized indifference,

no starless wound of any sky

that dawns like bleach in the roots of the rose

that withers like junkmail heaped

before a bolted door on a condemned threshold,

will make me renounce

for the soft immunity of a prosperous lie,

one era, one god, one vulture

of this mountain range

where the apex and the alley are the same,

one adamant link,

one feather of fire or locket of thought

on the planetary chain

of my liberated disobedience,

the enlightened insanity of this sacred malfeasance.




Something to feel human about, the forsaken lips of the ruined roses

wishing they had more eyelids, chipping the old skies off their toenails

to paint the new ones on, black, with peacock inflections of stars,

and this in the name of a lover who may or may not come,

and this a flowering for its own sake in a high field

where the scarlet trillium blooms for no one. And there is

a junkie at three o’clock in the afternoon wrapped in dirty sheets,

c.d.’s all over the floor, overlapping ripples of rain, rubber and fit

beside the bed, fang and snake, scheming in a fever of pain

of rolling new rocks up an old hill, only to watch them

run down again, Sisyphus on crack cocaine. Upstairs

the carpenter-cooks party all night long, dope and beer,

hoping the women that have followed them home from the bar

for more and more and more are soft cement they can pour

into the concrete forms and beds of their abandoned dream-homes.

By the morning, the Taj Mahal on quicksand, and the empties

are the spent artillery shells of small town howitzers over-run

by the enemy from within in an undeclared war against boredom.

And it would be cool to be able to say something wise

to the punk rocker painter next door, learning to play

the guitar, laying down tracks on spools of black cassettes

that rage at the world for being more angry and fucked-up

than he is. He wants to pour lighter fluid all over his stageable heart

in front of an audience of brain-dead, zombie cannibals

who gather once a year like a meteor shower in church

to pay lip-service to a shy, wide-eyed apocalypse on methadone,

though he’d settle for a blow-job from a loyal hooker

with a dragon rising out of the crack of her ass like dawn

to prove she’s exotically unconstrained by sexual taboos.

No one is radical enough to overthrow death for love anymore,

and the heart is a cold furnace full of the bones of birds

that mazed their way down the chimney from the April mangers

they built in the tin mouth of the serpent that swallows them whole

and chaos is the latest straitjacket to try and outguess the wind,

and there are designer logos, toe-tag name-brands, sartorial Nazis

trying to reconfigure the constellations into fanatical shopping-malls,

and desecration is the newest aesthetic to smear its shit on the wall

before we’re all retooled to the prescient sensibilities

of a nanochip in jackboots converting the myths to motherboards.

People are hurt; they’re scalded; they’ve forgotten how

to give birth to the moon from their wounds; how

to wipe the world off on the thresholds of their transformations,

how to enter a burning house and walk out with wings.

And they squander their suffering on spiritual junkfood,

their blood flows in the old cracked creekbeds of habits

that sleep in the hardened mud like hibernating toads dreaming

of flash floods; they’ve forgotten the original path of their own flowing

can turn into apples and fish and chandeliers of water

that there are foundries of the spirit that can pour them out like stars

able to call life forth from the stone, mind from the eye

of a dead volcano. They die of thirst beside virgin lakes,

fester in stranded tidal pools beside the sea, afraid

of the unsinkable lifeboat of their own vital depths

flinging out waves like umbilical cords to pull them in.

They never get out of the egg, the net, the black cocoon

to see how vast the ocean is or how much room there is

for dragonflies and red-tailed hawks. Every kiss, an eclipse,

the shadows of tumorous spiders squat on their hearts

waiting for nurses with keys to lethal medicine chests

like butterflies. Everyone is drained and silked away

like mummies on trophy plumb-lines, fictions of tar,

and the spiders are no more real than the mysteries of the web

that congeals them. When the nightmares eat the stars

light is born in the belly of darkness; waterlilies

return to the swamp to clarify the mud they feed on.

Every suicide affirms the inviolability of life,

Every paradise gets drunk on its own serpents.

Everyone’s nothing less than everything all the time

including the hunger, the longing, the fear, the sorrow;

the constellations are as intimate as private tattoos

and there are fountains within that have eyes

ripe with blue roses and astounding summer skies.

And nothing’s missing and nothing’s out of place

or wrong and even the delusions have a part to play

in the quicksand hourglass that crawled like a sphinx

out of the midnight deserts of time: could it be

a mirage of palms is a prelude to water as smoke

is the feather of fire? Illusions, too, have integrity.

What fool thinks the universe never lies? A truth

that wounds is false; a lie that heals is true

and the moon is a silver herb that nurtures both.

Something to feel human about, a middle-aged man

watching a bored young woman paint her toes

as she changes from a lamp in the arms of her journey

into a message in a bottle for help and then

the lighthouse, the exfoliant heart, the pillar of fire,

and a seabird cruising off the coast of this poem

lavish with its lightning insights into the storm of ashes

he’s afraid he’s become, alone, broke, indefensibly numb,

trying to grow a vision in the eye of a hurricane,

a garden in the urn of his cosmic cremations, a green leaf

on the dead branch of a conductor’s baton

that gropes its way through the world like a blind man’s cane

or the antenna of a suddenly illuminated ant consumed in the blaze.

And he remembers other more radiant days,

when he wasn’t the troll under the stairwell

who knows the footfall of every tenant in the building,

when he forgave people for his own human nature

and every poem was a prime time documentary feature.

But what’s the point of pouring the ocean into a teacup

or divining water on the moon when tears are enough

to green a seabed with a million forms of life, his own

included, as he tries to write with clarity and art

the things he might say to himself alone in the dark

and the things he must say to survive his own heart.