AWAY WITH LANGUOR, I’M SWIMMING THROUGH TAR
Away with languor, I’m swimming through tar.
The room is still as winter. The plants are stalled.
Their roots are dry. The walls
are made of fossil calcium carbonates.
My fish has died. The air outside is cold and mean
and the sun shines fruitlessly on red heritage brick
with windows that look more like empty stages
than the last curtain call
at a red velvet small town funeral.
Faces of the people on the street,
novellas of erosion,
holding out little white flags of surrender
like patches of snow looking for someone to surrender to.
My poetry’s gone into semi-hibernation,
comatose as a red-blooded thermometer
that’s dropped below zero
and I’m trying to smoke last year’s bats out of my attic
with nothing but a wash pail, cedar bough, pack of matches
as if I were smudging the evil spirits away
like the low hanging fruit of temptation.
I need fire. I’m gathering up the dead twigs of lightning
that struck the heart wood of an oak tree
like the ice storm of a cold-hearted prophecy
that killed the messenger for being true to his word.
Madness. Enough of this. Winter, a fist.
Summer, an open palm. Neither of them
can get a handle on a weapon or a tool.
Where’s the pen, where’s the paintbrush,
where’s the dirty keyboard grimed
with sweat, dust, ketchup and ashes,
that can make a poet who’s been writing
three years shy of the last five decades
feel at least as useful as a window?
All the books I’ve published
nothing but empty doorways
that have left the door ajar
so the light can get in and out
like a cat that wants to go howl in the night
or come back in from the cold,
having accomplished what drove it outside
to do what it had to do.
I see two leaves gusting through the gutter
like companion halves of the same map
and I think how lucky they are to be so
irrevocably lost together with enough hope
to approach things as if they were still green.
And they’re probably right. There are
more chances of being found together than alone,
but solitude isn’t the occupational hazard of what I do
to destroy any chance of making a living,
it’s the black hole at the core of the galaxy,
it’s the golden ratio that turns like a starfish
or the pinwheels of sunflower seeds,
whorled seashells, the Hox gene
of the moon in a landscape painting,
it’s the sine qua non, the axiom, that article of faith,
the truth we must hold to be self-evident,
that plunges me into intense states
of creative visualization
that thaw my heart out in an agony of hot water
to keep it from getting frostbite
and get my blood flowing again
like a poppy weeping down a white canvas
because it’s used too much Georgia pine gum turpentine
instead of just lying there like blood on the snow.
Solitude is the mother-tongue of a polyglot silence
that doesn’t have a mouth or ears of its own
but who can count the voices it’s inspired
by its perfect lack of response
to speak up on its behalf
as if anyone were listening to what they said?
Three chord wonder pop-tarts on the pop charts
and whole symphonies of regret.
La Brea tar pits like sabre-tooth tigers
who had their fangs pulled like crescent moons
and went down into history,
dark, dark, dark, they all go into the dark,
like toothless Smilodons.
And, yes, the sound of the bees in the locust trees
returning like ghosts in the spring
to the seance they liked best
to pick up where the flowers and the thorns left off.
But you can’t impress an abyss of solitude
with your radiance. The wavelengths
just keeping going on into forever
looking for something that might come to life
in their light. A crocus. A planet.
A cryonically frozen fly on the windowsill.
You walk alone with the Alone long enough
and you begin to realize
even when you pour your heart out
like white gold out of crude ore
you’ve been talking to yourself all along
and what you hear is the sacred syllable
of your own buzzing
resonating in the deaf ears of the hollyhocks,
as if you were rubbing your finger around the rim
of a Tibetan prayer bowl full of nothing
or a tower of hydra-headed microwave dishes,
though snakes don’t have any ears,
listening to the humming bird, the butterfly
the bee, the black beetle that looks
as if it were designed to pull paperclips out of paper,
the red ant chafing firesticks of formic acid,
a different voice in every different ear,
as if one wavelength per flower were a bellyful
of the same cosmic background hiss of radiation
I’ve being trying to write
like a symphony for a snakepit in B minor
with nothing but a bird bone flute to play it on
at twice the speed of sound
on the moon, people, on the moon
trying to replace the old dozy cow bell
in the firesteeple next to the local library
with a sonic boom, people, a sonic boom
well outside the oral tradition of lightning.
What kind of a dove would it be
if it were merely the echo of a loveletter
I sent out to look for land
instead of the real voice
of the wind in the winter chimney
lamenting the passage of the birds
that used to bear and raise their young in it,
and though the wind says as much as it ever did,
its vocabulary is being reduced
by a few more words every year
and there are longer silences between the stars
that make it look as if
someone’s finally got a fire going
that’s more light than smoke
and nothing, not even the stone pillow
of this luckless day can smother.
Because I’m going to cradle it
like a young bird I found in my hands
and I’m going to blow on it ever so gently
so as not to blow it out
and mentor it like a dragon
until it grows flames for feathers
and learns to fly like a phoenix in winter
with my breath under its wings.
Muhammad ascended to seventh heaven on Buraq
to see the angel of light as it really is
and Perseus has fallen off the milk wagon
it hitched the Great Square of Pegasus to,
and Einstein rode a beam of light
all the way from the Swiss Patent clock tower
into a continuum of time and space
in an oscillatory electromagnetic
charged particle field at rest,
and Hermes the Thrice-Blessed
has got wings on his heels
and one where his tongue used to be
as beautiful and eloquent as the parabolic trajectory
of an arrow whose medium
can’t help but be true to the message.
Something that’s lost upon
all these mythically inflated weather balloons
drifting like Medusan jellyfish among the stars
as if inspiration were just a matter of elevation
and if you got high enough on yourself
you could turn your farce into a legend
and run with the dragons
like a circumpolar constellation
that doesn’t know when to leave the stage.
Alcor and Mizar in the handle of the Big Dipper,
Horse and Rider, stars for spurs,
I’m going to ride
my tiny unbroken seahorse bareback
like a Zen cowboy reincarnated
from an unsaddled Cossack
into a Pacific sunset
face-painted like a rodeo clown
with the constant smear of a grin on my face
and my feet on the ground
and an old whiskey barrel for pants
that keep falling down
to reveal my red rapper boxer shorts
to get a cheap laugh out of the bullshit
that keeps bringing me down
like Don Quixote at Sancho Panza’s expense.
Taurus tilting at the winter solstice
when sun and moon, fire and ice
stand still as the unhinged windmills
in the Tiffany china shops of the zodiac,
I will risk my life like a Chaplinesque matador
or Mithras Tauroctonus
when the sun shines at midnight
just to poke fun like swords of light
through the voodoo heart of the raging bull
that takes itself way too seriously
to be the sign of enlightenment that Capricorn is.