Sunday, April 22, 2012



for Sally

God, I hurt sometimes for reasons I can only guess.
Don’t know what it is, too much love, too little,
but it feels like I’m giving birth to fog,
or my heart is standing in the doorway
of an abandoned chrysalis asking if
we could do it all a little differently this time,
and ingather like the nebulae of the stars
instead of the circus tents of these gypsy moths
swarming the Dutch elms like fake starmaps
that don’t know much about shining in the dark,
but eat mini blackholes through the leaves
that have known greener days of radiance,
and more creative things to do with the light.

I can see the stars even in daylight
from the bottom of this fathomless well
only the snakes and the frogs and the fireflies
descend into to drink from the dark watershed
of the mystery I’m swimming through
like an albino bioluminescent fish through black ink
trying to find the words to express this sorrow
that overtakes me from time to time
as if life’s waterclock had confined itself
to one bucket for awhile. And time had stopped.

It’s as if I could feel every wound in the world
pierce the hummingbird of my heart on the thorns
of a black rose, as if I could feel the secret grief
of the yellow star in the violet eye of the beautiful lady
who toxically weeps like the belladonna
under the chandeliers of the deadly nightshade
that cures what it kills in love
administering death like mercy to put her lover
out of his misery with an oceanic love potion
he can’t help but thrive upon like nectar and ambrosia.

As if I were picking up the small body of a sparrow
in the cradle of my hands and seeing in it,
its random extinction in the face of the windowpane
that lied, the death of the sky. And it’s strange
that I do, that my eyes should fill with unprompted tears
that I’m digging a hole with my bare hands
in the same bed of tiger lilies I buried my goldfish in
like the big June bugs lying on their backs
perfectly preserved out in the open on the cement sidewalk
where I stopped to bury them with a finger for a spade,
when no one was looking who might laugh at me,
and mark their graves with two blades of grass,
on my way back from rugby practise, on King’s Street,
to make sure nobody stepped on them just for fun,
as if death itself weren’t already enough of a desecration,
a seeming destruction, to satisfy them for awhile.

And it’s silly, I know, to bury the dead
in the soil of my heart as if they were bulbs
I planted in the fall to bloom in the spring
like the bells of the blue hyacinth
and the white gold daffodils of a pagan Easter
emerging like the high priestesses of a mystery religion
that returns resurrection to the womb of a woman.

Amorphous pain, homogeneously dispersed,
like the afterbirth of the background universal hiss
that miscarried into the post-natal depression
of an emptiness that keeps reversing its spin
on the state of things like synchronous happenings
in the charged particle field of a duplicitous politician,
like a ghost in the rain, like a faraway train,
my heart’s the red lantern of a Chinese box-kite
way down the line at the last stop
where no one gets off, and no one arrives,
and there are no starmaps like tourist brochures
to point out like cabbies, the hotspots
of what’s shining down upon nothing tonight.

I can feel the inhuman solitude
of eighty thousand prisoners sentenced
to years of isolation in the third eye of the pen
chewing on their shadows like leg-hold traps,
and the contemplative vengeance of their keepers
walking the night rounds with socks on their feet
in the wee hours of the morning as if it were they
who had avoided capture and mastered failure
by defeating these uncaged in their sleep.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said, or was it Walter de la Mare,
tread lightly for you tread on my dreams,
some like mushrooms, some like landmines.

But it isn’t the kind of pain you can factor
a cause into like fireflies into the Slough of Despond,
or the Valley of Death, after the storm has passed
like an electric chair that’s just thrown the switch.
It’s softer than that, inclusive, embrasive, almost
lunar in its compassion for the least of things
from flies with wings torn off like the pages
of a calendar, June bugs, to the orphanage of asteroids
that nobody wanted when the solar system
was first forming into myriad nuclear family ways.

Not the kind of sorrow that brings rain, but
pain like the condensation of hydrogen clouds
that have been lingering like ghosts of the stars
they used to be, waiting to break into light
like the constellation of a new myth of origin
to explain being exiled this far from home.
No grave in sight, but still I mourn
for all the wishing wells that
didn’t get what they wanted
when they kissed the moon
like a coin they had blessed
and returned to river they had retrieved it from
only to discover the dark side of their luck
when it popped up again like a sacred syllable
under the forked tongue of a lottery ticket.

Pain without locus, pain without focus,
a blur, a smear, a smudge, an atmosphere, an aura,
cataracts in the eyes, flowers in the sky,
and everywhere I see the belongings of the Beloved,
her passion for lightning and fireflies,
scattered all over this unbegotten house of life
like battered flowers and shattered trees
and power-outages that make the stars flicker
and black out, for days at a time, like an ice-storm
in the middle of summer, passing over the distant hills,
like a glacier following its own melting
all the way to the dark night sea
as if water, as it is to a river a raindrop and a tear
whether it’s painted on a clown’s face or not,
or just trying to make the mascara of the poppies run,
were the only guide it could trust.

And these are the green swords of the gladiolas
and wild violet irises down by the river
where the waterlilies and the corpses flow by
like floats in a parade of burning flowers
that make the river’s eyes run with grief and bliss,
hello, farewell, good-by, as if you just saw
the silouhette of a bird fly across the moon
with a few beats of its wings, a small pulse,
the brief thought moment of a passing wavelength,
like my own, a braille dot on the starmap of a blind star,
with the emotions and aspirations of a Cepheid variable
trying to keep pace with the measure of the death march
beating on the drum of my heart
like dollops of funereal rain on a tin roof.

And what do you learn when you die like this
for the things you lived in the name of too long
to bear the loss of the world mountain
on the turtle of your heart when the black swan
of the new moon has been snapped up from below
as if the only way you can come to the end of things
is to run out of beginnings, and that hasn’t happened yet
since the universe first broke into stars and went prime time.

All opening nights. Everyone of them. And there are
scimitars of the moon at last crescent and poems and lovers
you can cut your wrists on like the brass moonrise
of a tuna fish can, if you don’t really want to talk
to the ambulance about anything unreal as reality.
And you can be rushed to the emergency ward,
like a rose that’s bleeding out, and there’ll
you’ll meet a nurse, not a nun, at the end
of a long tunnel of light that isn’t estranged from death
but embodies the female principle of life
with a smile like a silver herb of the moon
and she’ll insert the other fang of the snake that heals
into your vein like a boomslang of blood
hanging on the branch of a a chromium tree
with mandalic wheels that wobble like planets down the hall.

And there she’ll teach you as you heal
that just as your lungs have learned to trust
the oxygen in the air that others are breathing along with you
like the Amazon jungle, fish in the sea, the flower
of the candle that blooms in fire, so your heart
that imbibes the skull cup of the moon down to its lees
to read the partial eclipses of your prophecies and dreams
like shipwrecks at the bottom of lunar seas
that have been drained of water,
drained of atmosphere and wine
looking for signs in dry creekbeds
like the lifelines on the palms of your hands,
must water the dust at your feet,
the stars above your head like the Milky Way,
the Road of Ghosts, your passage on earth,
with as many boodstreams in life
as it takes to float your lifeboat
on a bubble of the moon at high tide.

Such is life. Such is the flashflood of love
that makes the seven year long sleep of the frogs
up to their voices in starmud, sing
that their dream has finally come alive again,
and the voodoo doll of the cactus pierced with thorns,
flowers, and the serpent revels in the rain
that falls on its scales like the petals of a marigold
or the keys of a piano with its eighty-eights straight
and plays such music as it’s never heard before
its scales turn into the feathers of a bird, or if
it’s enlightened, the wings of a dragon of serpent fire
running up your spine like the sign of a healer
coiled around the axis of the earth like a caduceus
because even a single blade of grass here
is a strong enough medicine to give
the whole world vertigo like a Sufi
at a crossroads on the moon
dancing alone with dust devils
when things begin to overflow again
like a cup, like a heart with a crack and a broken handle,
like a watershed in a hourglass,
or a mirage in a desert of stars
because love, when it leaves home,
always forgets to turn the faucet off
like the four rivers flowing out of Eden
to water the root fires in the star gardens of paradise
when love jumps up stream like a salmon
coming home to the womb it will be buried in
like a loveletter from the sea to the moon.




Why do children of the poor die so readily?
By the age of five
they’re already disarmed for life.
Is money a gene they’re missing?
Or is their suffering
just a diminished immunity to the rest of us?
The gluttons of knowledge
discuss James Joyce in a loud voice
in well-lit universities.
With great nuance and finesse
they enumerate the seven kinds of ambiguity
and the mean diameter of the vowel O
in the context of neo-Chicago Aristotelianism
in the latter plays of Shakespeare
where the commas fall like worms
out of every page of his art
as if he couldn’t punctuate
the death-rage in his heart
with the subtler points
of the neo-critical literati.
I think Shakespeare would have seen
the sterling irony
of debating proto-Nostratic linguistics
while living children all around him
can’t read their names in their own mother-tongue.
If the same word for oak
was the word we used for door
when we all learned to speak the same language
milennia ago
it’s not hard to imagine
given modern advances in communication
that the word for child
that we used way back then
is the root of the word we use for atrocity today.

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Nature or nurture?
Is it because the children of the rich
are taught that wealth is longevity
and the children of the poor
who can’t read the fine print
bleed to death like expired medical plans?
Why do the rich think that the poor
are the reason their children suffer
and the best thing to do is make orphans of them
by sending the poor of one nation
to war against another
to keep the economy growing
and cut back on the unemployed
like deer culled from a budget in hunting season?
If you’re a child born from this womb
and you grow up fat and cuddly
you’ve still got
a back-up heart transplant in the bank
but if you’re a child born from this one
to thrive on nothing
you look for lifeboats
and see nothing but rocks.
You reach out to the watching world
like a camera
with big questions
in your unaccusing eyes
about what is happening to you
in the arms of your helpless mother
and the world looks back at your tiny corpse
swollen with hunger
like the uninhabitable planet
of your empty stomach
as if it were all just part of your bad luck
that you were born at the mercy of flies
clustering like first world pharmaceuticals
on the black market
of your third world eyelids.
Why are the children of the rich
born into health and favour
and the children of the poor
are slaves to sex and labour?
Have you ever thought about
how many children had to die
to make your running shoes?
Like all those who died
giving birth to the blues
so you could put your suffering
to their music
like the lyrics of the squeamish rich
to the heart-sick voices of the poor?

Why do the children of the poor
die so readily in bad neighbourhoods
where the streets are named for strangers
who all live somewhere else like slumlords?
Insane waste of light and love.
Desecration of heart and mind
Of genius and compassion.
Of cures for cancer
and violins that can play
like willows by a river in the wind.
There’s nothing unfinished about a child
as if the green apple
were any less than a ripe one.
Growing up among the living means
that at every moment of your life
you’ve reached your full potential
and you realize that nothing’s ever missing.
Everything is whole and beyond perfect just as it is.
That’s innocence from the inside out.
And then someone steps in
and teaches the child
how much it must suffer like the rest of us
just to be itself.
That’s the beginning of a rich man’s religion
from the outside in.
This child’s afraid of losing face
and this child’s not allowed to have one.

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Why do some children go to summer camp
the way others go to prison
to earn their tats like scout badges?
Why are the children of the poor
turned into baby rattlesnakes
like seven year olds with AK-47s
that are as poisonous as the adult ones?
Why do the children of the poor go to war
while the children of the rich go to college?
There’s nothing in the world
a poor child can take for granted.
Life is a wound
that deadens the mind in time
if you’re alive enough to endure it.
There are young girls in Afghanistan
who are risking their lives every day
just to learn to read.
Omar Khayyam says
The moving finger writes
and having writ moves on
nor all thy piety nor wit
can lure it back to cancel half a line
nor all thy tears wash out a word of it.
So the Taliban are resorting
to splashing acid in the eyes
of their sisters and daughters
to see if that works better than water.
And the National Rifle Association
inside the classroom
and outside the hospital
is defending the right
by force of the second amendment
as it’s written in the Constitution
for every child to pack a lunch
the way their teachers pack guns to school
in pursuit of American happiness
and higher learning
with a competitive edge.

Why do the lean children of the poor die so readily
like one of the seven plagues of Egypt
in back alleys and abandoned buildings
with needles stuck in their arms
while the obese children of the rich
are having the fat of the land removed surgically?
Why do the rich spend twenty million dollars
on a painting of a child
with impressionist skin by Renoir
while a real child lies torn at their feet
in a surrealistic abattoir
signed in its own blood
like the masterpiece of an unknown genius?
Why is so much squandered on the rarity of things
than on their commonality
like children and green oxygen?
Why are movie-stars and football players
paid more on a yearly basis
to live out our fantasies of sex and violence
than it would take
to keep all the children in the Sudan
healthy and alive for a year?
Is it better in this world
to be born a corrupt politician
with a command of words like maggots
than it is to be born innocent
and have nothing to say for yourself
because you’re too young
to speak for anyone else
even when you’re murdered?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
How does it come about
that the United States Supreme Court
accords an oil corporation
all the rights and privileges
of a genuine bigger-than-life individual
backed up by a birth certificate
from a lapwing government
though it’s a succubus among humans
and twenty-five million children a year
die anonymously in misery
right at the peak of their suffering
like the fame of the nameless logos
on a generic death
where one size fits all?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Is it because the poor are waiting for lung transplants
that have been inflated into footballs
to score political points
for a ghoul in a governor’s office
to balance the budget like death
in favour of the rich
who are waiting for yachts?
Is it because the road we were on
just suddenly got up one day
like human evolution
and walked away from us in disgust
to go look for the lost children
we left like the wings on our heels in the dust?
Is it because as Basho says in a haiku
for those who say
they have no time for children
there are no flowers
and we’re so blind to the peach blossoms
we can’t see the depth of the curse in this
that we give so little mind
to what we have uprooted from the garden
as if the children of agrarian Adam
scratching for a living in the dirt
weren’t as legitimate as those
that were sired
by an industrial
Johnny Appleseed?
Is it because the children of the poor
are born first
to be thrown into the mouths
of corporate Moloch and Wall Street Baal
like a blood sacrifice to a cosmic monstrosity
just so Carthage doesn’t fall again
to the venture capital
of down-to-earth Romans
like the price of salt on a sterile market
or the soil of the Love Canal?
Is it because the children of the poor
are the expression of a death-wish
to raise our own assassins
as the only way of finding forgiveness
for what we did to them
before during and after they were born?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Is it because we think of the children of the profligate poor
as the repeating decimals
of a future that goes on forever incommensurately
like one generation after another
or a clepshydra of blood
or a tiny thread of a mindstream
trickling down from the top of the world mountain
like a loose thread of life
that we think we can sever their lives anywhere
or pull down the pillars of pi
by cutting their legs out from under them
like the fundamentals of life
without drawing the knife across our own jugular
like the intestate balls of a castrated ram
or the throat of a wedding bell without a womb?

Why do the children of the poor die so readily?
Is it because . . .




Trying to express a more immediate intimacy
with the life of the mind
without attributing a form to madness
might just be another way
of looking for comic relief
from the actual facts
of the tragic folly that confronts us
like a world that won’t tolerate any mask
you want to put on it for long
to lie about the atrocity of your irrelevance
and pretend you don’t know
what you’re looking at.
I dream I suffer the same
corpuscular purpose as a paramecium.
I wake up from these desert mirages
and it’s true.
OK it’s true.
Because nothing in life is an endgame.
And despite the full stop like an empty cup
at the end of a thought
with the lifespan of a punctuation mark
my cup runneth over like the new moon
and everything is drunk on the lunacy of its light.
It’s not the content of life that matters
as much as the way space bends
to accommodate it.
It’s not the wine
it’s the emptiness of the cup
that shapes the forms of our knowing
so that they can be grasped
by our eyes and hands
as separate things in the world.
Mind is a poet a potter a painter a parent a prophet
that will not be bound by its own works
or the laws of the defenceless who expound them.
Look out into space
and the furthest you will ever see
is a face in the mirror that’s older than matter.
Space is a vehicle of transformation
that doesn’t go anywhere
because anywhere it goes
its wheels are centered
in the still points of themselves
as we are to our navels.
And all lifelines
straight or otherwise
are emanations of its radiance.
Order and logic and reason
are the dry wishbones of the fearful
looking for predictability in a world
that can’t be contained
by a unified field theory
or an elaborated straitjacket
on the fashion ramps of science.
Physics says one size fits all
but by the time the spiders
are finished weaving it
the sleeves are always too short
to keep up with a universe
that’s growing at the speed of light
and I’d rather walk naked
in the skin of my own clarity
than be clothed
in someone else’s hand-me-downs.
I’m not out hunting birds and butterflies
with a dreamcatcher.
I’m not looking for peace and healing
by abstaining from myself
like a promise I broke to my ancestors.
Everyone was born a lifeboat
in an abysmal sea of awareness
or they wouldn’t be here to know it.
So who needs to be saved?
Or is there some kind of holy war going on
between the lifeboats and the waves?
And where does Jerusalem go
to free itself of infidels
when it goes on crusade?
All waves are waterbells
that never stop tolling
and the mindstream
they’re raised upon
is in everyone
the sum of what’s holy about life.
Learn to transcend your certainties
if you want to get over your doubts.
Don’t hoard the effects of your efforts
in the name of a good cause
that’s so blinded by its own light
that it can’t see
that there’s as much randomness in the wonder
as there is in the horror.
That what’s most terrifying about life
is that it’s free
of anything you can say or feel or think about it.
That every part in every moment
is not the sum
but the consummation of the whole
that roots and flowers in everyone
as if it were a secret
that bloomed for them alone.
To know the names of things
like the names of stars and flowers
is to look at them from the outside.
Who called you Eve?
Who called you Adam?
If you know your name
you’re already in exile.
But it was not us
who were driven out of the garden.
Knowledge drives the garden out of us.
It turns our eyes around
so we can’t see Eden from the inside
where our beginnings are always now
and we are no more dispossessed
of our innocence
than the passion expressed by a flower
in a loveletter to the light
can be disenchanted
of the insight that inspired it.
What’s truly tragic about life when it seems so
is not that it’s evil
but that it’s innocent
and its innocence is older than compassion.
The moon sheds its phases.
The flower its petals.
They’re always coming and going
from the same abyss they’re heading into.
The emptiness engenders this abundance
out of its own potential for growth
and even death is not culpable.
This is space.
That is space.
But the two
can no more be separated
than a wave can be from water.
You don’t need a unified field theory
to understand unity.
You don’t need to hold a mirror up
to your face
to see your own reflection
when you can see yourself in everything.
What does space look like to space?
Mind to mind?
Light to light?
The dreamer to the dream?
What could God possibly say to herself
that she didn’t already know?
There’s nothing hidden.
There’s nothing secret.
There’s nothing that escapes detection.
There’s no simulacrum for the void
that elaborates everyone’s likeness.
There’s no dead metaphor in the word
waiting to be resurrected.
The absolutes may be in denial
about the way things seem
but even when their eyes
burn through glass like stars
lost in their own immensities
they can’t impress the darkness
with a theory of cosmic shadows.
They don’t need to look
any further into space
than the ends of their noses
to see the constellations
casting them
across the universe
like the shadows of the stars
that aren’t there anymore
trying to throw a light on black matter
by noting its absence.
Gravitational eyes devoid of light.
Black holes without keys
in the doors of perception.
Dry wishing wells on the moon
that have never plumbed the depths
of their bottomless longing
to hear something irrevocably truer
than the echoes of their own voices
coming back to them
like crows and doves to an ark.
By the time you know it
any event is over.
By the time you see the dawn
the sun has already set.
In the seed of every insight
you can read your own gravestone.
You can see there’s as much death in it
as there is life.
You can feel the spring coming on
as if you were already buried
under the savage tiger-lilies.
And you can ask
until you’re as blue in the face as a hyacinth
what it all meant
after you’re dead
out in the incredible open
that’s closed to the living
just past the end of their fingertips.
Or if it ever meant anything at all.
You can see and be it this way.
You can go on a long journey
to a prison or a shrine or a hospital
and return home
with no more insight
than you had when you left.
And still wonder if it was all worth it.
Because no experience of life
is truer than another
reality is not separated
from our awareness of it
nor subject to reform.
There is no norm
that isn’t a prevailing illusion by consensus.
But the desert isn’t looking for water
and only the one-eyed fools
mistake their eye-patchs
for an eclipse of the moon
and their own mirages
for a new way of thinking
when it’s thinking’s best virtue not to have one.
People and things are ok as they are
but they don’t realize it.
They keep trying to live up
to their own reflections.
They keep trying to sweep
the stars and the deserts
off their front stairs
looking for a stairway to heaven
where the dust of the world
can’t find a place to rest.
But time is a pulse of the heart
not the heavy pendulum
of a grandfather clock
and as Pablo Neruda once wisely said
the poetry is under your fingernails
and I would less wisely add
as is heaven.
No one’s on the wrong path
once they open both their eyes
to what’s underfoot
whether you’re walking
on water stars or fireflies
or riding dolphins.
Whether your road
is a shoelace or smoke
or the lifeline of an umbilical cord
measured in wavelengths and lightyears
or your journey’s still
an astronaut in the womb.
Mirrors holding mirrors up
to judgement for their spots.
Narcissus doesn’t like what he’s looking at.
So what?
The roads don’t suddenly
turn back on themselves
because they lack floors
and a place of their own.
Heaven uses the same return address as hell.
But when death comes knocking in Aleppo
and you’re out walking your own mile
in your own shoes
to nowhere in particular
free of arrivals and departures
no one’s ever home
and every threshold you cross
is not hindered by an exit or an entrance.
Some walk.
Some run.
Some swim.
Some fly.
Some crawl.
Some ride.
Some dance.
And some sit still by the window
growing younger by the moment
the longer they look into the distance.