IMPOVERISHED LIKE A LOSER WITH A HIGH IQ
Impoverished like a loser with a high IQ.
It’s a darker discipline than art
to learn to love what you must live.
The aristocratic penury of a poet
who keeps giving it all away
as if generosity were a form of protest
against the sock puppets of common sense
whose mouths move like empty wallets
when they speak of the lives they’re living.
We lived from rented dump to rented dump
and beautified the yards
with gardens we dug
and flowers we stole
from a better neighbourhood six blocks away
until it came time for the landlord to sell them
and we moved on to the next lunar landing
when I was a boy
and maybe that’s why
I’ve always seen things
as temporary ever since.
I give to people as if they knew
what I know
that everything we have
will be taken back soon enough
and you can’t keep what you won’t give away.
Life for example.
Or light. Flowers. Stars. Children. Poems.
More seeds in the autumn
than there are in the spring.
And because I’m so aware of time
I see so much eternity
in their tears and their smiles
everyone always seems to me
and half mystic shadow
of the lucidity they could be for awhile.
I’m always urging brown stars like Jupiter
to shine a little harder
to open the other eye
of its three hundred year old methane hurricane
and greet the sun at midnight
like a peer of shining
that could set carbon and oxygen
on the spiritual path to us
like blind pilgrims on the way
to a shrine of eyes with liberating visions
that are released like doves
to look for land
by people who understand
they’re walking on stars.
But you’ve got to see way beyond that
if you want to get a fix on who you are.
You’ve got to walk that extra mile
in someone else’s moccasins
if you don’t want to underestimate
the size of the universe
and your place in it.
Your brain may be three pounds of starmud
but your mind
is the intangible of intangibles.
Light upon light
you can’t catch up to
or run from.
And whatever that light illuminates
enhances its awareness
of how things can change
just by looking at them
but when it turns back on itself
to enlighten the source of its shining
everything is dark and clear and imageless
without witness or metaphor.
And if you thought you were poor before
When Lazarus returned to life
did he leave the dead anything?
I’m counting cans of beans in tomato sauce
like acephalic feet in Horation odes.
I’m reading the I Ching
with the fascistic rods
of brittle spaghetti sticks that break
like the false dawns of misfortune
as if they were the fragile wing bones of birds
spread out like the delicate skeletons of Japanese fans
that consulted the wrong stars
to escape the winter that overtook them.
Maybe I could drill holes in them
and unmarrow them like a syrinx
just to lighten the mood of the music in Sparta.
Or make a prayer wheel of birds
and blow them clockwise
to lift this jinx of a galaxy
turning the wrong way
like the German version
of Madame Blavatsky’s Aryan swastika.
The ubermensch too has underwhelmed himself.
Napoleonic schemes in civilian dress.
Arks in an ice age that don’t float.
Fly-fishing in glaciers that move like the Hoover Dam.
Mood rings of climate change
challenging the adaptability of man
to survive his own works like Atlantis.
You can sing about the sweetness of the honey-bee
on twelve grain whole wheat bread
but when there’s nothing in the house
but an emaciated mouse
in a cupboard that echoes like the Grand Canyon
you eat like a praying mantis.
You eat your brain.
You eat your heart
for the food value of your enemy
to give you the courage
to stand up to your genius like a warrior
offering a blood sacrifice
to the prophetic skulls of your ancestors
who said you’d end up here one day
if you kept on going the way you had to
if you were to make any sense
out of why you were lost.
Born too stupid to be a cynic
and tell Alexander to get out of my light
I let my right eye
that could only see
the value of things
like an incorrigible positivist
grow larger than the negative one
that only looked at the cost.
Even when I looked into things
and saw that nothing had an identity
and all was emptiness
and interdependent origination,
I didn’t become a balanced nihilist
and think the glass was half empty
but saw how the dark abundance
in the hidden watersheds of the plenum-void
spilled over the rim
like fountainheads of bright vacancy
that bubbled up and were blown off
like wavelengths of sea foam
into nebulae and galaxies
and the white-maned horses of Neptune
by the winds of time and space
blowing on the coastal tides of consciousness
like a lover on the skin of the moon
when he returns to her like an atmosphere.
And I may be a shipwreck in the Sea of Shadows
living penumbrally on the memory
of some spectacular eclipses
and magnificent supernovas
and a handful of first magnitude stars
I’m still trying to arrange
into a new constellation
to explain my myth of origin
but I’ve forgotten more about
the occult science of shining
and how to go divining for water on the moon
than all these blind star-nosed moles
trying to burrow their way through wormholes
into a heaven they don’t even know they’re already in
will ever realize in light years.
I may be the grasshopper who fiddled
too long throughout the summer
to keep things dancing
at a field party I was always the last to leave
and even far into winter
scraped his legs together like firesticks
trying to catch flame and thaw the ice.
And I suppose I wouldn’t be in this mess
as my friend Willie P. Bennet used to say
if I could have learned to take my own advice
but when I saw
how the ant mulched its heap of formic acid
into the hill tomb of an organized society
like Surabachi Mountain on Iwo Jima
and smelled how it reeked of stinging nettles
I thought it’s better to play a blue violin
on the stern of the Titanic going down
than it is to try and overrun Asia
like my Mongolian ancestry suggested I should.
People too lazy to work get jobs
and retire like watch fobs.
People without a calling
a passion a summons in life
that demands nothing less
than everything all the time of you
and the total sacrifice of all other options
because there are people who are born
to choose the sea and not the lifeboat
who prefer to disappear into the sky
than stand at a window
that’s only a wingspan wide
and wished they’d learned to fly
thirty years earlier
instead of wearing out the carpets that could have.
Better to fail radiantly
than eclipse everyone with success.
And when you’re lying on your death bed
how are you ever going
to commiserate with your ghost
when you see clearly
you’re going to be reincarnated
as smog over Los Angeles
for not burning white hot enough
when you were given two lungs for bellows?
The brass ring might be a ripple
worth reaching for
like a life preserver in a storm
but the dark ore cries tears of silver
like the new moon in the arms of the old
when she sees how everything
it shines upon like base metal
and September fields of flowing wheat
turns to gold.
The winners do their crying out loud in crowds
and everybody wonders why
and takes their wound on as their own
and listens to every viral syllable
of what they had to sacrifice to heal.
The Mithraic bull bleeds money
like Jesus on the cross.
And twelve days later only half meaning to
undramatically backs into
an overanalyzed suicide
and then rises like the circumpolar star
of a music legend that never leaves the set.
Elvis Presley is alive and well
and reviving in Tweed Ontario.
Anywhere your ghost wants to go
the world is a seance that wants to know
why you left one foot sticking out of your afterlife
as if you were buried
somewhere between shore and a lifeboat
in the undertow of the providential tides
that pulled you under.
But an impoverished loser with a high IQ
who’s given up
trying to unionize himself
like a cult of heretics
that don’t think that any sacrifice
is too great to radicalize
the square roots of Rubik’s cubes
circumambulating the Kaaba
like shepherd moons
is already haunting the kitchen
looking for food left out to attract the dead
back to the living
as he weeps alone in his apartment
for everything he’s missing.
And the stars outside howl in the distance
like the eyes of a lean wolf pack
lit up like the lamps of a search party
they’ve rounded up
to go looking for him
all through the long hungry night
like fellow appetites on the food chain
as his heart bleeds out like a magic bean
in tomato sauce.
An impoverished loser with a high IQ
who upheld the value of things
like a meteoritic cornerstone
grounded in the quicksand of the cost.