HOW RARE THAT ANYONE
How rare that anyone prefers the real,
fire that can drown, water that burns;
the whole of the night sky
form-fitted to your face like a skin
of translucent cellophane
that takes your breath away.
My heart marches like a little drum in a vast darkness
toward a war
it is important not to win.
The stars are strewn like white sweet clover
along the roads of brave men in masks,
but the true holy wars are faceless
and the martyrs always die alone
like leaves without names,
like a species that went extinct
before it was discovered
to be the only known antidote
to terminal literalism.
Follow your thoughts far enough into delusion
and they’ll fray like ropes,
like the deltas of ancient rivers,
like the burning bushes of evolution
under the mammary bell-curves
of thermophilic bacteria,
the voice of God, denuded of its mystery,
the magmatic venting
of a deep sea fumarole.
The fools enthrone themselves like rivers
in a palace of salt in a desert
that withers like lightning in the root,
but the wise know they play with their lives
long into the late afternoon
like toys that don’t belong to them
and will be taken back
by the lengthening hands of the shadows
that approach us like slow dreams.
And what’s the body if not
a bag-pipe full of water
leaking out of itself like the highland lament
of a widow in the rain?
Flesh rises and falls
like the curtain on a bad play
as one by one time ushers
friends, lovers, family out of the audience
until not even the echoes are listening.
Most die like the understudies of stars
that never made an appearance;
darkness falling like the eyelid of a stage
booked for a dress rehearsal of ghosts.
We’re the flame of a little flower
marqueed for the blink of a lightbulb
in the nightclubs of the stars
that go out like fireflies in our tears.
And the mystics wait like massive coronaries
in intensive care
for God to come like a heart donor
only to find she was the wrong blood type,
and the scholars study themselves to death like desks,
and the teachers espouse
their ignorance with authority,
and the lovers get drunk on the blood of snakes
to hallucinate roses and wine,
and most of the poets
desert their own shadows like blossoms
somewhere along the vine
to crush their eyes like emeralds
against the anvil of their palettes,
their mouths the skeletal hulls
of overturned lifeboats
that threw their words overboard like passengers
to save themselves,
a village of magic lanterns
would run down to the shore in a storm
to salvage savage little me.
Everyone licks the empty, lustrous stone,
the simulacrum of love,
for a taste of life,
but who can draw their tongue out like a sword
from the ore of the dragon
that keeps them from the secret
of what they are?
Who can hear what the nightbird isn’t singing?
Little doors, little windows,
gulfstreams of weeping glass,
when will you ever learn
to sail your own eyes
over the edge of the known world,
transcending all your stars
like starmaps configured
by a random throw of the dice
pocked with shallow graves
like the fangs of a blind snake
that swallowed you in utero,
mistaking your cubist cornerstones
for the cosmic egg?
How else can you hope
to turn your scales into feathers,
stop crawling like a ripple of blood on its belly
to die like another ladder of bone
that couldn’t right itself
like the mast of a waking dragon
in this desert of shapeshifting winds
to climb up to the urgent beds of the rain?
And how rare to meet anyone
this deep into the silence
with the spine
to play the harp of their own lightning,
whose life isn’t the voice of a barnyard bird
they put up against their heads like a wishbone
and pull like a trigger.