BETTER TO FLASH A SHARP KNIFE QUICKLY
Better to flash a sharp knife quickly across someone’s throat
as the last remaining mercy
than bludgeon them to death retroactively as you do.
The first is just another big city workaday murder on the nightshift
but the way your offended sense of righteous indignation
has turned to hate
as you sit there sliding needles into your arm
like loveletters into a bruised envelope
you’ve addressed in blood to yourself
I can tell you’re sticking pins into the eyes
of black madonna voodoo dolls
deep inside a secret hiding place in your childhood
where you indoctrinate them into genocide.
You’re a beautiful woman with lots to hide
and I don’t want to know where the corpses are
as if the only intimacies worth caring about
were all long buried in this desert of stars.
And twice before I’ve tasted the blood of the black widow
and yes it may be sweetened
by all the butterflies it’s eaten
but then your heart goes numb as an ice-cube
in the fix at the end
that comes on like an eclipse
of the light at the end of the tunnel
where all your dead relatives
are dying to greet you again.
I wear my heart on my sleeve
like the colours of the ghetto I was born into
to watch my mother die of overwork for nothing
of any estimable value including me
when I look at it from her point of view.
And I like the sexy West Coast sixties look
of those black Stevie Nicks Gothic spider webs
you wear more like skin
than the net of Indra
with jewels at every intersection.
And I’ve always been tempted and still am
by dangerous pariahs on the lamb
from the witch-hunts of medieval men
who fear a female messiah
that can cast her nets wider
than any constellation
among the fishers of men.
And o sweetness don’t doubt yourself.
It’s still a cheap thrill to feel so sublimely vulnerable
daring the taboo event horizons of your powers
like a firefly going eye to eye with a blackhole
even as I bend space to stay clear as a gravitational lens.
But you’re hooked on your own elixirs
like a dealer who wants to get out of it
on his own product
and in my world magic shoots the stars
like whitewater in the Ottawa River
in the spring run off in May
when the toxins wear off like cataracts
and you get high on the risk for free
in the name of sick children
waiting for heart transplants.
And yes, yes, yes, there’s still a Neanderthal in me
that wants to paint your face
in carbon and red ochre
on the inside of my witchdoctor’s mask
to make all this space seem
a lot less lonely in here
since I killed off the last cave bear.
I could so easily encrypt my starmaps
on the mystic enigmas of the dice
I’ve carved like small Kaabas
and Rubik’s cubes out of my own bones
to see if the nightbird calling out to you
in this mutual darkness of ours
were worth taking the chance
if it should happen to come up snake eyes.
Or if I could learn to be hypnotized
without turning to stone
by a Pythian priestess
with a Medusan hairdo
with oracular highlights that bite
and you could learn to dance
to the picture-music
of a different kind of flute
like Salome for Herod
and John the Baptist’s head.
Love doesn’t begin where lust leaves off.
The expense of spirit in a waste of shame.
I think that’s only true for those who are no good at it.
Or dominated by a spiritual Gestapo
that makes the body wear a yellow star.
Three phases of the moon.
Maiden. Mother. Crone.
I’ve seen the spider with its crescent fangs.
And I’ve hung from my own spine more than once
like a mummified fly on a trophy line
waiting for my next afterlife
assuming I had one
and Merlin I may seem to you
but I still fear a starless power darker than my own.
And there’s the maiden like Morgana la Fay
beguiling as lunar waterlilies and deadly nightshade
renewing her virginity in a snake pit.
The urge to possess you overwhelms
the certainty of being bit.
One fang kills you.
The other fang cures it.
But even death eventually wears out its welcome
and the spring isn’t enough to make up for it.
But where’s the middle extreme
defined by the other two?
Where’s the mother?
Where’s the summer
that warms the bloodstreams of the garden snakes
like water in a basking hose?
Spring and winter
but where’s the harvest moon
that shines down on the fullness of life
and adds her mother lode to the gold of the grain
like Demeter in the Eleusinian Mysteries
adding little mushrooms of gratified desire
to the wine you only need to drink once
out of your own skull
to stay intoxicated forever?
Prosperpine may have gone down into the underworld
to shoot jewels with the dead
when a serpent bit her in the heel
like a dirty syringe
but when is she going to live up
to the rest of her myth
and drive the snakes out of her garden
long enough for a rose bush or two to take root again?
You leave two kids at home alone
with a couch-surfing crackhead
you met in a bar last weekend
and you expect me to trust you?
Lady I can look through you
like a broken windowpane
and still appreciate the beauty of the view
without cutting myself on the flint knapped glass
and yes you can still cast a spell
that can turn seasoned sailors into swine
and I could so easily
buy into any delusion you wanted me to
just to sleep with you.
But I’m standing at that window with your kids
and there’s a crackhead behind us
flipping channels like cards in a game of solitaire
and we’re looking out at the view together
pretending none of us are there
because we’re all scared
of the cranky stranger with the tarantula tattoo
and all we can see as far as we can look to get away
is this mindscape of you
salting the flesh of the good earth
like Carthage on crystal meth
when you should be planting seeds
in the hearts and minds of those
who look to you for love
like a chance to flower
even on long starless nights
to live without fear
unmenaced by shadows
swarming the night light
like a seance of anti-matter.
You belong to those who love you in life
and blood may be thicker than water
but without water
it coagulates like a rose that’s lost its colour.
It makes raisins of the grapes on the vine
long before their time
as if someone cancelled summer
and no one gets to taste the wine.
And it’s probably wise
to pour both into the cauldron of your heart
until they’re both so intermingled
the rain doesn’t put
the scarlet desires
and phoenix fires
of the passionate poppies out
and the hot-blooded gypsy witches
don’t turn the rain to steam
on first contact with their skin.
We’re standing at a broken window
and we’re looking in
and what we see is that in you
there is no summer
and where blood should be thicker than water
the water’s turned to ice
and the two rosebuds
standing like your daughters at this window
like two cut flowers in a shattered vase
are haemorrhaging like too much turpentine
on two brushes loaded with red paint
too thin to bloom.
Because the ladybug
is too busy playing with matches
trying to get a rise out of the fire-hydrants
to see if she’s still the arsonist she used to be
to know when her own house is on fire
her kids are alone
and it’s time to fly away home.