I WANT TO DRIFT OFF INTO THE STARS
I want to drift off into the stars
without really knowing what that means.
Down by the Tay River, deep in the darkness
off Sunset Boulevard and the light pollution
of passing cars, there’s a fallen ironwood tree
with the skin of an elephant I sit on
and the horn of a black rhino
where one of its boughs was broken off.
And it’s got half its roots in the air like I do,
or Algol, the ghoulish head of Medusa in Perseus.
I come here when I’m sick of dealing with the world
like a game of snakes and ladders,
when I know I’m a crosswalk
or maybe even a train track
that’s never coming back this way.
I brush a frosting of snow off my log
as if I were making a place for myself
on a bench at a bus-stop that hasn’t come yet
and I gawk at the winter stars
like a junkie trying to shoot the Milky Way
into his bloodstream
so he can o.d. on all that radiance
as soon as it reaches his heart
to humanize the mystery
of how impersonal life can be to all of its own.
I sit in this small nook of cattails
that make me feel I’m an artillery officer
in Napoleon’s army, surrounded by cannoneers
waiting for me to give them some kind of order
to begin firing on the birch grove battlements
across the perennial strategy of the intervening river
that wanders through wars like a Druidic scholar
at peace with himself and the moon
like mistletoe in the tormented boughs of the oak
the river’s trying to decide
whether to let live or not.
I’ve made a pile of muskrat, raccoon,
squirrel and bird skulls
I’ve collected over the years
and I look long and deeply
into their eye-sockets man to animal
in sympathy with the fate of all that lives
however they met their ends,
however their deaths are justified
as a furtherance of the living,
and I swear the way the snow
rimes their eyes in the moonlight
they’re weeping prophetic visions
as hard as diamonds distilled
from the brutal clarity of their own fate,
sudden, cold, and indeterminate.
Translucencies of insight
that can slash your eyes
like scalpels of light
that have just finished decapitating the flowers
like Robespierre the debutantes of Paris
and notice you sitting there
with your head still on
and say what’s wrong with this picture.
But I grow obdurate in the midst of brevity
like a protein molecule
in the core of a flashing meteor
or gold in a nugget of black ore
that knows one day it’s going to be poured
out of the darkness where it used to abide
like a honey-tongued nightbird
that didn’t so much hide
as hesitate to reveal itself.
I gawk at the stars
and it doesn’t make a wavelength’s difference
to much that I can see,
and the way I am so sublimely ignored
by everything that intrigues me
I am split by the perennial
optical illusion of human consciousness
into feeling simultaneously horrified and blessed.
I comprehend the depths of the solitude
and the enormity of what I am
that can include the river, the stars, these skulls
and share in their passage
as a measure of the way I change.
And I ask myself how can they not know
what hour it is
when I’m sitting here like a nightwatchman
staring out into the eternal stillness of space
on an ironwood log, participant and witness
at the nexus of time and forever
realizing on a cosmic level
I embody in three pounds of starmud
like any other unimaginable dimension of the human brain,
there’s only been one fate for all of us
since we entered this world of forms
when eternity sat still and time began
as if there were any difference in reality
between ice and water
or between the emptiness of the mind
and what that emptiness contains.
Call it dark abundance, bright vacancy,
Call it the plenum-void if you like.
They’re all just fingers
pressed against our lips
like the silence of the stars
pointing at a no thing we can’t say.
And they’re pointing in all directions at once
the way a star shines down upon everything
as if each and all in this realm of forms
were the sole source of its illumination
from the inside out.
The first word
in the mother-tongue of sentience
to break the silence
like a blossom of light
in the dead of winter
on a bough of dark matter
that ripened the echo-less echo
of its sacred syllable into our eyes,
the fruits and seeds of seeing
by which it knows us
like the river knows what it mirrors,
like joy knows what’s behind our tears.