YOU KEEP LOOKING
You keep looking for meaning in a world
you say hasn’t given you one
worth living for
and you’re down and disappointed
and all that red passion
that used to burn like books and leaves
has turned as mystically brown
as the background of a Rembrandt painting
or gone up in smoke
at the Bonfire of the Vanities.
Now you’re a copycat Savanarola
in a faculty lounge
trying to turn God back like the Renaissance
for behaving like the Medici.
You used to be a little on the teachy side
but now you’re boring and preachy
having settled the whole issue
of what you’re doing on earth like a fist.
You once went looking for the point of life like a grail.
Now you plunge it through everyone’s heart like a spear.
Like the terrible angel at the garden-gate
to prove you’re sincere as fire
you’re ready to kill anyone
who likes what they see in the mirror
that never wears the same face twice
when it looks at you.
The truth is
since you’re fond of the word
you never found a meaning big enough
to accommodate that Delphic python of an ego
that’s kept sloughing you like skin over the years.
You were always too big
for any chrysalis or cocoon you ever crawled into
and the greatest miracle of transformation
as far as you were concerned
is the shape you took in the womb
like the pearl of the moon
from a grain of dirt
at the bottom of a seascape.
What unified field theory could ever contain you
like some cosmic Houdini in chains and locks
twisting upside down over a snakepit of thoughts
trying to think your way out of the box
as if you were the ultimate escape-artist
and could pour the universe out of the universe?
Even space wasn’t enough of an embrace
to hold you
and now time’s given up on you as well.
Eleven dimensions were never enough
to take your measure.
You wanted to be the golden Buddha
that wormed its way into the heart
of an enlightened rose.
The blackhole in the heart of the galaxy.
The exception that became the rule.
But you never understood
the candle of life that burns within us all
sheds more than one petal
over the course of a lifetime
spent gazing at the flame
fixed in the seeming stillness
like a flower that blooms in fire
every two thousand years
you can’t look at with the same eyes twice.
You never understood that when you look at things
long enough with an open heart
and an unbounded mind
they estrange your eyes
into new ways of seeing.
They bring you into being
like a star turning in its own light
or dark jewels of anti-matter
to see what value
you might place on them
when the gem looks through its own eyes
into the radiance of life without an appraiser.
But the flaws in perfection
are the laws of a fool
or to secularize a mystic dictum
the same eyes by which you see them
are the eyes by which they see you.
Two dunces on the same stool.
One a myth of origin
that got lost in its own meaning
chasing its own tail to see where it begins
and the other the head of a reform school
for black matter
absentee without permission.
looking for reality
in the corners of the human condition
that baffles it with the clarity
of a hundred million books
giving private lap dances
in sheep-eyed sylvan nooks
for the savage wolf-popes
with shepherd’s crooks
whose greed is the meaning of prayer.
But the universe whispers itself
into its own ear like a secret
even it couldn’t keep to itself
and everything in existence
from starfish galaxy to solitary night bird
cherishes what they’ve heard
each in their own awareness
not of the word at the beginning of things
as if things were created out of choice
but of the voice behind it
that sings freely to each alone
in the silence of their solitude
like a fountain-mouth of light
that lavishes the world on everyone
without intention or design
as if everyone were privvy to the same mind
and it were thinking out loud
in the picture-music of colours
you can only see
before the arising of signs.
That’s why it looks empty and dark
beyond the blazing billboards
of your highway paradigms.
And for someone like you
who prefers to jump into snakepits
to ask for directions
when the whole world is free-falling
without a map or parachute
through a bottomless abyss
without any sense of up or down
it must dwarf you the same as it does
a featherless bird breaking out of the egg
like a new universe into a nest of flying serpents.
Daring says feathers
and falling takes flight
because it’s in the nature of the abyss
to heal itself like wounded water
when it bathes in its own light
like light and stars
or snakes in the talons of eagles
the lowest of the low
raised up to the highest of the high
like a constellation
when they suddenly realize
in the annihilation of opposites
how dragons win their wings.
You ask fraudulent questions
and expect honest answers.
You try to define what you’re seeking
even before you look.
You stir the starmud in the mirror
to make things clearer
but you still end up looking at things
with dirty eyes.
And out of the darkness
like bats to burdock
blinded by that porchlight of a mind
you keep on all night
in a frenzy of insects
your thoughts are glued
like kites that flew into the powerlines
or flies into a spider-web
of sticky views
on how to keep it together
like a shepherd of clouds
trying to pasture the weather
in the starfields of a mountain sky.
You want to be the mystic arachnid
with fangs like the moon
and radiant elixirs for toxins
you can cook in a spoon
without flagging the fit
with a pennant of blood
that puts its cosmic armour on
and shouldering its lance like a syringe
tilts at the windmill of your arm
like the meaning of Don Quixote
lost like a peduncle in the ensuing phylum
of a species that went extinct
for refusing to adapt
to a reformed chaos theory of evolution
flintknapping the future fossils
of an improved Stone Age.
You keep thinking
if you roll enough rocks up a hill
you can build a fortress
or the Al Hambra
or the Taj Mahal
or even the Parthenon
but things just keep coming down on you
like an avalanche down from the world mountain
into the valley of the kings
where the mummies wait for their afterlives
under pyramids of quicksand.
Only a fool would spend a whole lifetime
trying to learn
what he already knows.
In order to understand such a thing
one must be such a person.
Already being such a person
why bother to understand such a thing?
You’re trying to map
the stars in your genome
to find your constellation
like a long lost home
that walked out on you like a threshold
when you went a step too far
and added yourself like a big capital I
to the beginning of that tongue-tied alphabet
that made profound spelling-mistakes
in your amino acids
the moment you started
to proof-read your protein
for punctuation marks
that were too big-hearted.
Faecal pile and pit.
at the bottom of the dung heap
that schools the fools’ laughter
by ignoring it
you can keep on looking for a kissing-stone
in a hail of Leonid meteors
that keep knocking you out
like a dinosaur
that takes it on the lip
like a quick jab
from an under-rated mammal
or you can hoard water in your humps
like a camel on the moon
that moves through the cool of the night
in a caravan of shadows
trading with the desert
toward ancient oases of ice
that taste like the frozen tears
of the ballroom chandeliers
that gathered like stars
to take advantage of the night
by twisting your words
like a speech impediment
that whispers like the sea in her ears
at a dance
for club-footed glaciers.
But you can’t wriggle out of the universe
like an anaconda in thin-skinned panty-hose
that’s just swallowed itself all the way up to the nose
like a mystic condom
playing it safe
down on its knees
to make cosmic contact
without contracting an unforgivable disease.
And there are dangerous cave-bears
that live at the back of your mouth
among the skulls of your ancient ancestors
and bones like bad omens
so you won’t find much shelter there
to keep the fire alive long enough
through the long night ahead
to finish the painting
you were working on
without saying a word
that would discolour your voice with a meaning
that won’t be discovered for years
long after your words have moved on without you
like the common language
of a migrant tribe
in the direction of their spears.