IT’S STRANGER TO CONCEIVE OF ME
It’s stranger to conceive of me as I am
than to imagine that I’m someone else.
There’s more largesse in the early spring air.
You can tell by the tears that well up in their eyes
the glacial stars are beginning to thaw splinter by splinter
withdrawing their claws from the corpse of the snow
like thorns from the Lion’s paw overhead.
I can hear water in the creek tuning up
for the dance to come as soon as
the first violins of the crocuses get here,
the trout lily, the purple passage of the wild violet
under a leaf it took like a page from the book of autumn,
trout lily, hepatica, wood sorrel, grape hyacinth.
I like it here because it doesn’t matter who I am.
Things are alert and vivid with life because
they’re not threatened by the possession of it.
And time is a lot more honest
here where it lets its hair down
than it is back in town
where it’s always now, now, now,
and the streetlights, blinded by their own blazing
turn their backs on the stars
like the distant fires of native peoples
who preferred to dance to see
where they were going at night
than watch their step
like the next best real estate deal.
Even without intention, every time
I try to shape space with my mouth
and say this is who I am, this is me
whatever similitude I use I always feel
I’m exhuming a dead metaphor
from the coffin of a word
that’s been taken out of the context of the world
and put on display in a dream museum.
It’s as if I can relate the history of smoke
but not the flame that lived it.
As if one of these half-submerged skulls of rock
that have been trying
to pave their way across the creek
for as long as I’ve been crossing here
were to try and understand the mindstream
that’s been ploughing around them for lightyears,
not realizing what they’re rooted in like cornerstones,
are islands on the moon, mere shadows of water,
mirages on the tongue of those who have
never tasted it like their own blood
to know whether it was hot or cold,
blue or red, sweet or sour, real or not.
The earth can sleep a little longer yet
under this tapestry of snow while
the dreamweaver at the loom of the moon
is unravelling the threads of a thousand loose night creeks
the sea will gather up again into an oceanic consciousness
of the flying carpet of wavelengths and life themes
we’re riding on well out of reach of ourselves
like waterlilies in winter when it’s coldest,
and snowflakes on a furnace when it’s hot.
It’s as fun to say it as it is to play with hula hoops.
The ecliptic intersects the celestial equator
at the equinoctial colure and it’s spring
in the northern hemisphere. Canada geese
thread their way like rosaries of snake skulls
through the stars in the eyes of northern lakes
peeping through the cataracts of ice and clouds
breaking up like mirrors that can only
hold this pose of starmud for so long
before it’s time to change studios again
to keep up with the light
that’s trying to capture your likeness
like the whole of the sky on the skin
of a drop of the water of life
that reflects like a mirror
but sees through appearances
into the deeper darkness
like a gravitational lens of pure insight,
the lamp in the hand of the light that leads it
like a blind lighthouse to the perilous reefs
of morning on the moon among the corals.
Was I born to wonder what, who I am
or not, as is more highly probable?
Is the persistence of the question, the way
it makes you suddenly look up
from a seemingly unrelated matter
at the moon in the black walnut trees
or a bird in passing that commands your attention
without in the least meaning to
until everything but it feels like the intrusion.
Is the question on the agenda of the answer
or does it have a life of its own,
a journey that doesn’t end in a key?
I look at all these twisted forms of life,
not cast out, but abandoned, these
deadly gray limbs of swamp wood
silking their legs in the moonlight,
these mauled pines that look more like weather
than evergreens, the sparse, despirited crimson
of the ground willow paintbrushes
that have lost their handles in the snow
waiting like a newly primed canvas
for the first rose petal of blood
to fall from Virgo as a sign of consummation.
Things, forms, things of the world,
things of the bodymind that shapes them
out of starmud, out of the outer receptacles
of the five senses on each hand,
that conceives of a bee like a hollyhock
calling it into being like the fragrance
of something that was said, but wasn’t
meant to be heard by anyone else.
Animate and inanimate alike
a grammar of things, ritual magic
and we’re the diction,
we’re the verbs and nouns of the spell
that keeps us creating the world in tongues
so even as strangers we end up speaking
the same language as stones and stars and birds.
Maybe the question is just an answer
that’s travelled back in time from the future
to ask the prophetic skulls of its own ancestors
if any of them had foreseen what was to come?
Or the question is all and the answer is negligible?
Or left speechless, you achieve wisdom?
Or left unanswered, you awaken
your own creative freedom
like a world you didn’t know
you had it in you to make any way you want
in case this one doesn’t fit, you don’t have to bear it.
Absurd as it seems to seed your dreams
and expect to harvest them when you wake up,
and yet I’ve seen it happening all around me
every day of my life, objects, symbols, stars,
insights casting shadows of themselves
into the darkness as far as the light
they’ve been given to go by,
sowing the available dimensions of the future
with a world that isn’t so much said into being,
but arrayed lucidly before us
like eyes full of mystery that don’t reveal a thing.
I sit on this rock and I watch the night creek
until I can’t tell which one of us is flowing
and it occurs to me that maybe the question itself
is the crucial essential of my existential dilemma
and the answer’s only the temporary afterlife
of who I’m becoming now. Not as I appear;
not as the psychic life of a heart-broken mirror,
not as the mirage of a snowblind seer
who approachs the desert on my threshold with a broom
as if I were trying to keep house in an hourglass.
I don’t sweep the stars off my stairs.
I don’t follow a trail of breadcrumbs
in the corners of the eyes of last night’s dream
as if someone had been here before me.
I don’t pass myself off like counterfeit leaves in the spring.
Honesty isn’t a fact. And clarity isn’t a starmap.
And love’s only another religious con
if it isn’t wholly unconditional and inclusive.
I’m not looking for asylum in the abyss
like some petty alternative to living this
without knowing what this is or I am
or at least trying to get my ignorance
as close as humanly possible to it as I can
whether it’s aware of me, these stars, this
broken thatch of wild rice, wheat, and cattails, or not.
Then I will celebrate the creativity of its absence
with reverence and compassion for all
that it’s left in its wake like a sleepwalker
shaping this mindscape like a retreating glacier.
All that abide here with me tonight
like the gateless gate of an open mind
wondering if there’s anything left to catch up to
that embodies the dignity of the beginning
in the dead of winter, as apparently it does in the spring.
Or if we’re all words in a language
we’re just learning to speak on our own
that can point to anything, say anything
except themselves to themselves
whenever the question comes up
about whether they mean anything at all
when they’re not leaning on the world to exist
as we all do, trying to make sense of it
in this dumb-founded dialogue of wonder.