Wednesday, December 28, 2011



Of human misery what’s left to tell
the single bead of the moon
that makes a lonely rosary of revolutions,
one face always turned away
as if it refused to look upon
its own imploring features
in the brutal, breathless, garish light of day,
or those of the earth
reviewed in the turning below?
I am nothing, a man, a microbe on a skull
picked clean by immaculate cannibals
whose hands are greased with brains,
my much vaunted, cultivated consciousness
and sterling will, free, or spontaneously
predetermined, the leaf of an afterthought
enhancing my passion for light
and periodic sentences.
Look where you will
and tell me this is evolution; tell me
this is that continuum of used mutations
that bricked the river clay of ancient Sumer
into these ascending asylums of the absurd
to burn our children in the fires of the stars
as surely as Carthage ate hers,
poor kids first, then the rich, as always,
civilization nothing but musical chairs
in the food chain, a game
of I eat you; now you eat me, who
shall be the grass, and who, the proudest of cows,
the grazer. And the grass may turn into the grazer
and the grazer into grass in transformative cycles
that ripple out wonderfully like rain
to rationalize this caste of food and feeder
and make it holy, harmonious,
and scientifically insane enough
to appeal to the average reader,
the red letter ‘A’ at the top of every genetic cliche
that’s still convinced of angels in the abattoir,
growth on this planet
nothing but the pace of murder, government
a blood-bank run by vampires intent
on the deregulation
and sanctification of their fangs, the sanguine order,
the cherished symmetries of our bacterial histories
nothing but the victory bells
calibrating the advance of slaughter. And paintings
of the gouty apes and their bedizened concubines,
and poems that only the affluent can write,
and all the cathedrals, mausoleums, and pillars that enhance
the hills of blood-soaked soil we build on,
all the refinements of culture, all
the opiates of erudition, the ineffectually coherent overviews
of the chaos of bones we throw before us
like men and women and children
to allay the superstitions of the future
that demands of us now nothing less
than the last born of our own unrequited extinction,
will not do to decorate the birthday jest
and excuse with elaborate rococo icing
nuclear candles all over the blood-cake of the planet.
If liberty means I have the right to own the rain
of another country; if health and happiness depend
upon designer genocides that race
the minds and hearts of the heartless, mindless mob
with toxic logos and lethal codicils, if wisdom and art
are only the crusted, rotten, riddled pylons
on a wharf of indulgent departures
in a sea of blood and fury, the idiotic squall
of the ship’s horn as it pilots out of harbor,
the advance defection of hurricane roses
believing the false hilarity of a doomed love cruise
and there is no lifeboat in the bruise of their beauty,
then we’re only licking the eloquence out of our own wombs
and mouthing platitudes like cleavers in a butcher-shop,
masters of dismemberment;
we’re just another evil dream that no one will remember.
And no one will recall what a morning it was once
just to wake up; and all that we have cherished
will be desecrated in a conflagration of black fire
because twenty-five million children die of starvation a year
and the fact is the small fret of an obscure poem
that will turn and destroy you
in a word from the eyes of a disgusted messiah.
If the pursuit of knowledge is a regression backwards
through the hallowed slimes of evolution,
and flesh and blood and bone, the jellies of our eyes,
are now more alien than the foundation stones
of the pyramidal corporations erected by slavers and thieves
to own every square inch of the planet’s afterlife,
inflated market shares in the global necropolis
that grows in the grave like fingernails and hair, then
how can we not be refuted by our own prescience
and perish in the cyanotic blue moonrise
of our own catastrophe coming true
when we saw, we knew, we ignored
the glacial cracks in our spacious palace of mirrors
and the rips in the knees of our emaciate atmospheres
and went on chancing the planet like a week-end casino?
We’re just another inept species under the bell-jar
of the writing on the wall that no one remembers how to read
as we exterminate ourselves in radioactive ferocities of greed,
dead as yesterday’s headline in the instant that we breed.
There are nations on their knees being whipped to death
by their own umbilical cords
in the evangelic hands of missionary markets
and there are nations that vie for the lion’s place
in the imperial trend of the stable atrocities
that guarantee that children will bleed
to cleanse the wound and fatten the gland of a dividend.
The corporate wasp lays its egg on the forehead
of the living host and butterflies
are cancelled like bad cheques,
nations are gutted from the inside out,
and the experts defend the economic dialectics
of flexing their hex of hysterical democracy
over the bent necks of experimental derelicts
labouring in a labyrinth of lab rats and executive acts.
Among the swans and soirees of the prosperous assassins
the insiders trade in subtle abortions
and panicked climacterics of erotic stock
that convulse the planet with toxic shock
as their dicks erect with capital and war
violate the wind, the water, the oil, the ore
until the rapacity of their lust is satiate with scandal
and peace is mentioned, justice, human dignity
and they pull out in a hurry, limp with virtue,
and from the pulpits of the puppet press
dry clean the torn dress, the stained flag,
with the bleaches and fabric softeners
of their laundered confessions and laissez-faire digressions
on market pressures and open trade relations
with the third-world brides of the first night
that are torn from their husband’s arms
and subject to palatial abominations,
exploited like a resource, their wombs battered into sterility,
must learn to comply with capital’s amorous charms
among the ruined nuns and nations
labouring under the weight of corporate virility
voyeuristic eunuchs in the fiscal shadows,
and skeletal children thinner than keys,
still stunted in the filthy chimneys
of the captains of commerce, the Molochs of money
quoting chapter and verse of their logo genetics
to feed another generation to their corporate creed,
a labour camp for orphaned amputees,
severities of people on their knees,
cut like a budget.




with much love to the memory of Nina Nadezdhin

Most of us aren’t worth much, but you were, and I could feel the weight of that
as if some autumn dusk had wrapped itself like skin around an apple
and dropped it in my hand, a small, warm planet, and said,
here, Patrick, eat.
I could stand beside you and know
that a mountain was a petty thing without splendor,
that a river was a pilgrimage to nowhere that died in a crackling of sand and salt,
that the moon was only a moldy stone in a cemetery of worthless lighthouses,
that a loaf of bread, an olive, an orange were empty shrines
and the earth, a sad, tormented place, a house on fire
better lived in the ashes than in the flames,
that life itself was only a shadow dressed up in leaves and feathers and names
until it was wholly transformed by the humanity of someone like you
into another substance that glowed in the bloodstream,
a friendly metal, a sad gold with heavy eyelids.
I could stand beside you and know the difference
between a ladle and a sword, a bell and a bullet.
I could stand beside you and know the difference
between someone who knew how to endure pain and inflict it
and someone who had suffered their way out of a grave into a garden.

Now it’s two a.m. in Perth,
and it’s forever, years ago, and it’s you and Daniel
driving up the dirt road to the front door of the farm at Long Bay,
Daniel igneous with poetry, a soft bear in bluejeans and black turtleneck,
Kiev in Canada, and you, a pantry full of Russian-Jewish desserts,
warm loaves of bread wrapped in teacloths you unswaddled
as if you were pulling small infants in wicker baskets
out of the river of your unfailing bounty over and over again
and everything you cooked was a smile,
was a shy green star that came with the history of an offering,
and even the fruit, the chandeliers of grapes, the pregnant pears,
the crescents of cantaloupe, seemed to taste of the way you gave them.

Daniel has won his laurels, his name as a poet,
and who wasn’t amazed by your devotion to the man and his work
as if once more, in a new country, a new language, a new medium
moving from the denser tears of Russia into the thinner laughter of English,
he had to grow lungs and legs and learn to breathe again on land
and you were the sea behind him that watched and fretted and believed
even when he couldn’t, that one day his poetry would walk all the way to the stars on its own: and it looks like you were right.

But there was a day, one August day, a day of wind and clouds
that brindled the turbulent hills and fields of yellow hay
with the shadows of their continental enormities
moving across the earth, across the sun
as if they were immense hands swung like bells through blessing after blessing,
a day of light and sorrows, of birch and locust trees and wild sunflowers
thrashed by the sudden squalls that overturned the birds
when you and Daniel returned from a walk together,
younger lovers than yesterday as if in the hour you were gone
you had found Russia together once more as only you could know it
and it was a private place between two people in love in one solitude
beside a lonely Canadian lake:

and there you were, free and whole and happy within yourself
and something unsayable but wonderful in your eyes that belonged to no one,
a light that was always yours, that shone like the moon in spring
through the branches of an orchard on a cool night
saturated with peace:

and there you still are, radiant and serene, who could forget it,
crowned with a wreath of English ox-eyed daisies
and everywhere in the air around you,
the fragrance of wet silver
as the girl in the muse in the goddess
humbled two poets with a vision
of the root in the silence
that surpassed their art.