Tuesday, March 27, 2012



Jumped out of nothing. The fish did. Golden.
A flake of the moon. When I wasn’t looking.
Into a lifeboat cupping something precious in its hands.

The mind an old junkyard that’s been collecting windows too long.
So many points of view. So many glass eyes
looking for the stuffed animals they belong to.

Death after knowledge. The silence that follows the music
after the bird has flown. Is the abyss death’s rebuke
of life’s dangerous proposal to let us look through the keyhole

at what’s going on in the uninhabitable room next door?
To dream a little in the interim between two enormities
abstracted from the need of our perishing to persist

aeonic light years beyond anything we can imagine?
The golden fish jumps into the boat like an unsought insight.
No hook in it. And you can tell by the scales of light it emanates

it’s risen from the starless darkness of its own depths
like moonrise out of the encyclopedic corals
of accumulated knowledge that’s found a place for everything

like a polyp on a library shelf, calcium in a cave
shaping itself into temples from the top down.
Stalagmites and stalactites of cathedrals inspired by water

to enshrine themselves in form as an aid to the blind.
Though things along the way might change
does the journey stay the same ad infinitum?

Did you amount to everything you dreamed you might be,
or were there more stairs to climb than doors to enter,
more walls than windows in the way you saw things?

I’ve seen the most sublime things humbled by their own insignificance.
And I think I’ve heard God more than once
weeping at the stern of a sinking ship for a turn of events

she couldn’t do anything about once they were set in motion.
And I’ve listened to people my whole life
talking in their sleep about how to put a rudder on a dream

as if there were a focus and a direction for life to flow in
like a solid, particulate thing instead of the wandering wavelength
of this exiled mirage of water that it appears to be

depending on the mood of the chameleonic mirror you’re looking into.
The donkey looks into the well and the well looks back at the donkey.
It couldn’t be any clearer than that. Tat tvam asi. But, then, again

why muddy the mirror by dropping the penny of the moon
down a wishing-well that never gets what it wants
and ask for something you’ve never really been missing?

I learned in my mother’s kitchen long before I went to school
that just because you can ask a question doesn’t mean
you have a right to expect an answer that satisfies you.

And even when you do receive an answer unexpectedly
it will be the quality of the question that determines its nature.
The single petal of a candle flame the size of the fire of life in your heart

like the apple-bloom of a thousand orchards in the Okanagan
thrives on the winds of change that blow it out and away
like a butterfly from the open palm of your hand

wise enough to know a hand is not just for grasping
and let it go like a mind of its own without knowing where.
Indirection is an indeterminate voyage of discovery,

a star’s way of probing the darkness radiantly
without knowing how the light’s going to be bent ahead of time.
Destination is a postcard from the edge of nowhere.

If you want to see anything worth looking at
while you’re still alive enough to know it like your own name
don’t adjust your eyes to the size of the window

you’re looking through like the keyhole of an orbitting telescope
but the spaciousness of your own mind like a sky
no starburst of bird, word, or thought has flown to the end of yet

Whether they’re bearing the souls of the dead south or west
like early transmigratory hearses yoked to a brace of angels or not.
Life still greens the tree with meaning even in the wordless dead of winter.

And who hasn’t been, from time to time, a thriving neighbourhood
that left town to seek its fortune buried in its own back yard
only to return empty-handed to watch its homelessness being torn down?

Those who see themselves as strangers in the doorways of their own houses of life
are those who ask the most questions about who that is
that threatens them the most from the inside out,

that offer escalating ransoms to their own shadows to let them go unharmed
the longer the silence refuses to identify itself like an answer
to the incomprehensible questions about what they’re doing here

like rivers weeping over what’s going to become of them
or the sun worrying about opening the wrong flowers
like somebody else’s mail without a return address

though all flowers like stars are loveletters addressed to everyone alike,
and it’s not hard to recognize a river in captivity by its handwriting
or the jewels of the dead from the eyes of the living by the accent the light

they speak in through the medium of a mother-tongue that slurs the distinction
between a seance and an exorcism once we realize we’ve been summoned
to the comings and goings of every breath, every step, every

mistake we make with our lives like a revealing insight into who lies
under these deathmasks we wear like crocuses in the spring
under the unpaginated duff of last autumn’s petals and leaves.

The way life carries on, it feels to me, is no different
in the heart of the incomprehensible mystery
than the wind that sweeps us away like death

the stars off the stairs in one and the same breath that blew them there
to ensure our continuity is always within reach of attaining
like a river that at all times and everywhere is in touch with itself.

Like a waterclock. Or a goldfish in the deserts of an hourglass
swimming through mirages on the moon that launches
our lifeboats and coffins alike on the same undifferentiated ocean of insight

that washed us ashore in the first place like islands in the night
that have more in common with the stars that at first glance
we might think we do in the vastness of the spirit’s lost and found.

But of this I am bold enough to remain uncertain of my bearings indefinitely.




The willows adorned by the return of their old hair dos.
I’ve been mud-mashing my way down to the banks
of the Tay River lately through the primordial ooze,
now that the weather’s turned round, just to feel
with an overly sophisticated sense of childish anticipation,
Venus bright in the apple-green gloaming of the swallow-swept air,
as if I were playing with fire again, the flaring
of the wild irises of the spirit burning hot and blue
as hydrogen in the heart of a needle-shaped flame
that can see right through me into what goes on
behind the curtains of my theatrical third eye
when I come like an amorous arsonist,
bearing bouquets of dried flowers
I’ve pressed between the pages of a matchbook
as a token of an old love affair I’m annually immolated by.

Not as a martyr who takes things lying down
but as a heretic who does his time standing up at the stake,
though I’ve always been a little suspicious about the heroism
implicit in that. Even in the fires of hell
I’ve tried to avoid posturing. But there again, you see,
I’m assuming a virtue I may not have, I’m blooming in fire,
I’m shooting clowns out of cannons without safety nets
as the heavens come down around me like the circus tents
of the empty envelopes of day old loveletters
who’ve lost the scent of what made them so flammable
in the first place. Just because I’m waiting for wild irises
to break ground along the banks of the Tay
doesn’t mean I’m not a spiritual disgrace
that’s as hard to fathom as a shipwreck
in my oceanic consciousness as it is
to see myself raising the skull and crossbones
like a condor among the angel fleets of heaven
at anchor in home port just to give them a good run for their money
like the wind in an orchard in bloom
impatient to get beyond the first fragrance of things
and taste the fruits by which everyone of us shall be known.

Either that. Or I’ve got more of a river nature than I thought
and that could explain why I’m always talking to myself
like water in passing that no one’s listening to
in these solitudinous out of the way places along the river
I seek out like natural shrines in the woods,
trespassing against obstacles in the way of my pilgrimage
securing its footing on the bones of those underfoot
laid out like crosswalks and the rungs of ladders
stepped on like thresholds that stayed well within bounds
as you would expect any mystical stairwell addicted
to its spiritual vertigo like a Sufi at a crossroads
dancing with a dust devil of blue hydrogen stars
into ecstatic annihilations of satoric fireflies
who clarify the afterbirth of their clouds of unknowing
by sitting still as constellations on contemplative waters, to.

Besides, everyone’s got their own way of dealing with metaphors
to render the chaos of experience communicable
through some intimate form they can spend their whole lives
trying too hard to relate to as if it knew who they were
and were simply waiting for the right time
to let them in on the secret that it knows
nothing more or less about what it is or you are
than you suggested to it in the first place
when you began to take yourself too mysteriously.

I see a red and black baseball cap floating down the river
and right away I think of a decapitated tiger lily.
A fire someone put out too early to catch on and spread
like a spiritual conflagration of heretics
through the alphabetic birch groves of the Druids.
Does that mean whatever rises from the ashes
is thereafter struck dumb, deaf, mute and illiterate?
The counter-intuitive grammars of free association
are thenceforth to be demonized and burnt as witchcraft?

If I await the coming of the wild irises with poetic devotion
and the offshoot of my daydreaming to pass the time
is to see the eddies in the water like the tendrils
of wild grapevines trying to get a grasp on things,
couldn’t that mean that life playfully suffers
the same highly suggestive visual imagination I do?
And did its ears come late to the party as mine did too
and crash it as usual like an egg a crow drops
on the skull of a river rock anointed by the sun,
beaten away by the irate broomsticks of the sparrows,
because there is more instinct in swimming upstream
salmonwise against the flow of your own thought
on a return journey more dangerous than the first
than there is in painting watercolours
from the back of a hearse when it’s raining?

But don’t try to answer that question with your eyes open
unless you’re used to seeing things in your own light
and waiting for something as I am wild irises to bloom
like the sagacious fires of female dragon muses
on the dark, unmothered side of the moon
I’m seasonally inspired to sacrifice myself to
on the altar of a river rock that sticks in my imagination
like a vow of the voice in my throat
I made to the river as much as myself
never to let its beauty lack a messenger
that couldn’t speak in the tongues of the wild irises
without tasting my own ashes in the blue fires
of what they wanted me to convey
with a passion for extinction to the clouds and the stars.