Wednesday, May 2, 2012



Who isn’t trying to live
as they vaguely hope they are
whatever extremes
of moderation they’ve gone to
behind all the masks and fraud?

Crosswalks and bridges of fire
trying to get to
the other side of themselves
like the promised land, or God,
ladders up to heaven
like vertebrae and ribs,
and ropes like spinal cords
down a well on the moon
that hasn’t enthroned hell in her depths yet,
everyone’s trying to put a face on chaos
they remotely hope is their own.

One by one the plum blossoms
fall to the nightstream
like loveletters
from the branch of the tree
that read them once and then let go.

No one knows where they’re from
or where they’re going.
Some give their wings up
like graduate degrees to the ants
and others are raising their sails
like the flames of a great fire
that consumes the prophet
who wanted to hold his arms up
like a wishbone to the lightning
in the revery of his desire
until everything is ash and nails,
and others who think they’re
the rudders and keels of the flowing.

Sometimes I am nothing more
than this terrible inevitability
of flesh and bone
alone in the vastness of my unknowing
where neither ignorance nor wisdom prevails
and then it’s as clear as stars
on both sides of the window
that everyone’s everyone else’s good guess
as they encounter one another
passing the time
in a crumbling game of graveyard chess.

I don’t know why what’s wise about me
always ends up listening to myself
like a fool’s confession
but I’ve run out of rosaries
like habitable planets
and my homelessness has exposed
the ruse of divining purity
in the afflictions of compassion
as if everything had evolved in sorrow
like a heart-bending occasion for tears
as the mountains that fell
like an avalanche of cornerstones
into the valleys they’ve dug
like pyramids and graves over the years
abide like salt in the eye of the sea.

Intelligence might be
an elaborate mode of paranoia,
but eased into the wonder
of being here at all
with trees and stars
and the midnight rainbows
on the necks of the grackles
and the hectic butterfly
among the grape hyacinth,
since I was enlightened
by my absolute uncertainty,
I have gathered all my voices together like leaves
and burned the old texts of myself
for not being much of a liar.

Five petals opened
and one flower bloomed
like a good laugh.
Now my awareness
is a kind of playful fire that doesn’t burn
what it consumes
though the light
still tastes of the jewel
and even as the good-byes deepen their voices
like echoes in wells,
because I’ve grown older
and autumn keeps shedding its choir,
the hellos still take on a life of their own
as if nothing had changed.
An illuminated clown
I am astounded by the profundities
in every jest of being
revelling in the creative hilarity
of its mystic specificity
and how everytime
I get serious about something
as if I had just remembered myself,
I bring the house down.

Only a hypocrite is humble enough
to underestimate his own irrelevance,
and go sorting through himself
like a cellphone in the ashes
but for those who have become fire,
aspiration is achievement
and fulfilment and desire, one breath.

In every event
there’s nothing to be
further than you can see.
But that doesn’t mean
take a harder look
as if your life were a book
you were learning to read
or a mirror you had to stare into
until your eyes bleed
to know who you are.

When you stop thinking
every perception is a clue
to who you are
you’ll shine out like a star
ahead of its own light
and stop trying to recognize God
through the featureless eyes
and vigilant simulacra
of a stolen identity.

You will be neither partially
nor wholly yourself
and before and beyond
will not seem
the unending extremities of now
rounding the skull of a clock
that’s lost its way home.

Your seeing will grow deeper than eyes
and you will stop sending
your reflection out
like the moon’s last lifeboat
to haul you up out of the abyss
like a fisherman gilled
in the tangled mess
of his own s.o.s.

You’ll let go of the oars
and breathe easy like the sea
that takes the low place
and in every blossom of being
you will taste the whole orchard
drunk on its knees in laughter,
not knowing where to begin.




A haze of dust on the windows at dusk,
cataracts glowing in the epiphanous sun
that leaves the night coming on like a door ajar
for the light to get out on its own like a cat.

And the next moment all the eyes
that were on the road to Damascus
blinded by a revelation are returned
from the darkness of their clarity
to their normal muddy mundane vision
and I can see the birch groves from here
upping their quota of white canes on the nightshift.

And isn’t it strange how things emerge
from one mindscape into the next
like a serpent shedding its skin
like a sky it’s been consulting about wings,
or the effortless birth sacs of the dragons
who have made the same transition
from the lowest of things to the highest
like a flying doctor bearing true north?

Polaris and Draco wrapped around
the tilted axis of the earth as if it were
the sign of a caduceus in the hand of a messenger
that says night is the best time to heal
and leaves us to the moonlit herb gardens
we planted in the spring of our dreams
when wild crocuses where just beginning
to poke their innocent noses through the snow?

Now the dark when the magicians come out
and the bats and the stars, and the fairies
are enthroned on their mushrooms and sacred stones
and retinal responses to reality
turn visionary in their pursuit
of an earthly excellence of their own
that doesn’t belittle them again
as the gods and goddesses of a world of their own.

And me, I’m sitting here alone
wondering if I do empty myself of myself
so perfectly there’s no one left to tell me
I’ve finally become no one fit enough
to lift the veils of Isis without expecting
to find just another starmap in hiding.

Or if I’ve rinsed myself clean enough of myself
to be washed from her eyes in tears
that fall like mirrors of mercury
in a fever of mystic thermometers
stuck under my tongue
like the silver bird bone flutes
of the perennial theme songs
I’ve been offering to ferrymen
in lieu of the obol of the full moon,
my penny in a wishing well,
to pay for my passage into death and back
like an enlightened return journey of a poet
who knows how to find his way home on his own
like a prophetic Orphic skull.

Ride the dragon. Play the flute of fire.
Cast a spell on the winter sunset
and take it off again in spring. O
inestimable nothing
what could I ask of the flower
that I didn’t receive from the leaf?
It takes a rootless tree
to show you the way home.
But it doesn’t take a road to know you’ve left.

I can hear my eyes weeping behind a deathmask.
Early wood sorrel under a leaf of duff.
Venus is in my rain washed window,
closer than blood could ever be.
The sky thinks it’s a strutting peacock
but I know I painted that window
well over a year ago when I grew weary
of being myself like a stage without a play.

Do you know me yet? Can’t you tell
when the roses bloom in the palm of my hand
like the stigmata of a starfish on the moon,
I’m the lost cause of a shadow
demanding more of the light
than a sacred clown on a burning ladder
could possibly know what to do with?

Meagre, meagre me. What immensities
I aspire to with a broken bouquet of arrows
like stalks of wheat in Virgo after a hailstorm.
I am not the slayer. I am not the slain.
I don’t hold the crescent moon up to my jugular vein.
Or cut the throats of poppies to milk the dream.
And I don’t care a hair for the difference
between the enlightened and insane.
I look at Venus through my windowpane
and the window’s clean. Burn white. Burn silent.
Express yourself, but don’t ask it to mean
anything more than you are to yourself
when no one’s home, including you,
and you’re shining for someone else.




Demonic spirit among the numb,
you here with me again, fire, familiar,
looking for someone among the dead as I am,
blue cyanotic corpse, skull-harp, anyone
who might remember you from years ago
when glass was an ice-age and you wept
like honey in a blast furnace of killer bees?

Redemption or genius? We both agreed.
No one was waiting for us on the other side
with gates and doors, weathervanes and smiles
for the creatures we always wanted to become.
One real tear would have been enough,
but nothing, nihil, nada, nix,
for all those unforgettable moments in hell,
isolation in an abandoned prison
when I was a lighthouse with a shattered eye
and you had no interest in a cell
that wasn’t interested in keeping anyone in.

Guards gone. Angels with flaming swords.
The place was useless. The air agony.
Space twisted into a gravitational eye
that insisted on seeing what it wanted to,
the light imploding back into itself like a heretic
of flowers and stars, trying to get
a good look at us, homeless mutations
chained to the same chromosome for life.

No shepherd moons for us, casting shadows
like dice on conventional equators
that didn’t have the chaos to be a star
and shine by itself alone, take a blue-eyed risk,
white phosphorus, get out of itself somehow,
all those long languishing radio waves
and take a peek through the eye of its own
three hundred year old methane hurricane,
instead of painting carnelian on your forehead
starmud and ashes from the inexhaustible urns
of all those dragons that let the sun down
by offering a library of matchbooks
for elucidation and companionship
and more ghosts than you can throw beans at
to keep them away like a hailstorm of asteroids
shrieking like atmospheres in a burning morgue.

For years I expected you to turn on me
like the flipside of a teaching sword
with the stamina of a forge, and an edge
so clear it would have been inhuman to blunt it
with the mirages of the lies of mercy that spare no one
crossing this desert like a caravan of waterclocks
and I offered you my throat willingly and said
let’s do it in the name of nothing, or, better yet,
let’s dedicate it like a direction for those
who’ll come after us as lost as they are alone.
I’ll be the exiled vagantes at the diamond crossroads
and you be the milestone in the middle of nowhere
that evaporated upon impact like the last of your species.

Yes, and I breathed you in like a nuclear winter
and ever since we’ve been indistinguishable
in the way we’ve climbed our burning ladders
of evolution up out of these august heights of a black hole,
totally siderealized by black matter breaking into light
backstage where nothing but the business of the world
goes on late into the night. One broken heart
after another accusing the finest passion
they’ve ever known in their life of amorous treachery
as if they were the latest recruit in the fraud squad
so they didn’t have to be the victims of the truth.

At least we can look at things like an hourglass
that didn’t quite make it as a telescope
and tell a harmless mirage from a lethal dose of stars.
I can even take pity on you sometimes
when you’re off in your own space like a mirror
trying to picture something of your own
that isn’t a reflection of me on the dark side
of my own eyelids trying to bloom in Braille.
Suicide to sacrifice. It’s a hell of a leap of faith,
and there was no asylum in the abyss to catch you
when you fell from paradise to Pandemonium
and not a single siren went off, and the parachute candled,
and you looked more like a daylily at dusk
than you did a comet that was trying to tell me something.

The messenger got a message. But there was no one
to tell it to. And everything’s been clear ever since.
We can look at the willows down by the lake
and say, o, yes, beautiful, blithe adolescents
lingering in their sorrows like the eyes of young gazelles.
And I can run my tongue along
the first crescent of the envelope of the moon
to blood that sword in sacred syllables of the east
with the power of heart-stopping cobras
in the medicine bags of their fangs
and have everybody ask for an encore
like an unpredictable eclipse at the back
of everyone’s star-struck eyes
through the buffer of a tinted lens darkly.

Indeed, is it not absurdly marvellous in our eyes
that we exist as we do like the longing
of someone who died light years ago,
fire in its own smoke, a poppy in its red cloak,
a star that ate its own ashes, time
with its tail in its mouth about to
swallow itself whole as if it had two heads,
though a single dream were pillow enough for both.
Not two. And the koan is broken.
And you can hear the applause of a single hand
startled into believing we neither know nor don’t know
what we do and we don’t understand.




Apparitions of the muse
hanging her stars
from the end of my nose
like an exotic fragrance of night
more revealing than the light.

There. That’s mine.
The constellation of the donkey,
and there beside it, do you see
that red-haired star
blazing like a woman with a carrot?

I’ve followed that star for fifty years
always a mountain away from the valley
like a passionate Sisyphus
rolling the earth up a hill like a stone
happy with my own absurdity,
happy to go mad for her sake alone.

Elixirs of moonlight
mingled with strange waters
and I drank until I drowned
in the ferocity of my own delirium
like a myth that’s forgotten
which stars it belongs to.

I’ve never been much of a martyr
and bored with lies
I’ve always been two hells shy of a messiah
but I have fallen on the thorns of the moon
more than once
after my long descent
down the burning ladders
of God’s last word on the matter,
so there’s no splinter of the true cross
to needle the issue
like a compass or a crucifix.

And it still puzzles me
why it’s always my blood
that rushes to the end of my pen
like a volunteer army
but it’s always somebody else’s flag
that gets raised above the rubble.
Pyrrhic victories at best
when I’m not feeling cursed or blessed
by any kind of mystic meaning
convincing me I can firewalk
barefoot on stars
when I can’t even get
this blue pebble of a planet
out of my heart like a shoe.

But even letting go of all their leaves
like loveletters home and refugees
the trees can only go so far
as the wind and streams will let them.

And then there’s a darkness
that doesn’t taste of stars.
And decisions that cut
like the smiles of broken mirrors.
And turmoil in the snakepits of desire
that are thrown like angry acids
in the eyes of the seers
who saint the rain with their sorrows
like old calendars the abandoned houses
of crossed-out tomorrows
playing x’s and o’s with the moon.
It’s a freak of enlightenment
to turn love into a discipline
inspiration into a law
and godless wonder into superstitious awe.

So I listen and say nothing,
see and don’t reveal,
understand but never think I know
the gates that pass through me
when you call to the wild geese in the fall
and I am startled by the loneliness of the answer.

I’ve seen you in the nightstream
down the mountain,
the river and the sea
that sits below the salt
at her own table,
and I still suspect it was you
that turned my bitter tears
into the brittle chandeliers
that fell like ice-storms in a fountain
to silence the voices of the mirrors
the birds kept flying into
like windows at war with the sky.
I was out of the egg.
I was out of my mind at last
like a gift I didn’t deserve
and the universe was full of your absence
because you were the embodiment of my longing,
the darkness in the light
that stood aloof from the meaning of everything
as if your only proof were your eyes
and that were enough
to answer the empty skies with stars.

You may put on flesh and blood
and in your human proportions confess
you don’t believe this,
but you can never be attained,
never be embraced
never be contained
by any avatar of who you are
because like space in all directions
you are limitless
and even time is consumed
in the root fires that grabbed you by the ankle
and pulled you underground
to dress a goddess of light
in the nocturnal jewels of the dead.

And it is not a perogative of the beatifically born
to be demonically wrong,
but I have heard the skulls in the song
that allures the unwary sailors
to the lunar horns of your fishbone harps
to smash them on the rocks
as if you took a tragic delight
in the sheer delinquency of your power
to arouse and extinguish desire.

Anyone can come up
with a meaning for life
but you are the muse
of meaning itself,
the meaning of meaning
when anyone asks
without expecting an answer.

What woman that I’ve loved
like a river reaching the sea
have you not been
over these long, intense years
of radiant tenderness
and creative commotion
and an ominous darkness
out over the ocean
when the moon turned around
like a bride in bed
and revealed the far side
she kept to herself like stars?

And it’s still a shock and a marvel to me
when you disappear into the air
like a breath someone neglected to take
when it bloomed on the window.

I don’t doubt your capacity to devastate
and I have the urns and the burns
and the ashes to prove it
and know on a whim of your arrogance
you could leave the phoenix out in the cold
and douse the dragon like a torch
in your fire-proof waters.

But lately, out of the flesh,
I look for you behind the eyes
of every woman I meet
and it’s rare that I find one
whose blood and passions
you’ve worn as your own,
whose mind is a jewel of yours
that flows like a star sapphire
down a dark mirror
older than the meaning of life
that relflects you in the light of a black sun.

And I know enough not to ask
about those lockets of blood
you hang like thorns
around the neck of your mystic rose
like the first and last crescents of the moon.
I opened one once to see
whose picture you carried inside
like a butterfly you were working on
or a loveletter in a bottle you never sent
and I’m still not certain
I was demon enough
to survive the miracles
you released upon me
like a hive of angry angels
but I came to know
what the loss of heaven meant
when I ran from the garden
through the closing gates
of your wishbone,
on the short end of the stick I write with.




Who taught you to abhor the savage
within you
as if you were
an intolerant missionary to yourself?
Or walk into the room
and sit down
like a civilization that can’t compose itself?

And what strange habits you have for eyes
like ominous seabirds off the coast
of the continent with nowhere to perch
you’ve just discovered about yourself
that doesn’t bear your name.

And o come on now
isn’t it the most grievously wounded
who cry out the loudest
in their delirium of pain
and shake their wills
like steel at the ruthless heavens
though all they’ve ever really done is heal?

And why slash out in your anger
like the moon at everyone
when you should know by now
better than anyone
that whenever you do
it’s the sword that bleeds to death?

And you say you’ve tried to live decently
in an indecent world
but it’s a shame
you’ve never walked barefoot anywhere
without your morals in your hand like shoes.

That’s just the mud and water of it
between your fingers and your toes
but I’ve never joined a Buddha
eating flowers for lunch
who would have it any other way.
Or as Solomon said to so and so,
on his way to the temple
to set an example,
half a baby isn’t the same as a whole bunch.
And then broke down in tears.
We all have our fears and illusions
but isn’t so much suffering in the world
generated by the fact
we cherish our misery
like self-inflicted voodoo dolls
we won’t let go of
because nothing else
looks like us into the void
and sees nothing that looks like us
looking back with stars in their eyes?

But what a surprise to be here at all
stepping in and out
of these coffins and lifeboats
paired like shoes under our beds
where they gape
like mouths before the open sea
that has washed them ashore
like dust out of its one good eye
we just flew into
like birds against a windowpane.

And even more of a wonder
is the day you discover
you can taste the full harvest
in every crumb of a dream
and even in the lamp
that’s gone out in the night
clarity is still faster than light.

Within you I swear
on all that is human
are worlds within worlds
like the spherical mirrors of the morning
hanging their eyes like jewels
in the webs of the dreamcatchers
that looked everywhere
through the spiritual lost and founds of the light
but couldn’t find us until nightfall
when we each came out like a star
above our own manger
and the darkness was sweet with gifts.

The blind don’t diminish
the brightness of the mirror
when they hold themselves
up to it like a shadow
and even when your eyes are open
you don’t add a feather of light to the shining
though you burn like Icarus without a starmap
by flying too near the sun
beyond the heels of your aspiration.
And even when we are crazed moths
in a straitjackets of flesh
seeking asylum in the fire,
isn’t it the Promethean nature
of every living creature
that has ever stolen from the gods
even in a state of ashes
not to be bound for long by anything
that isn’t out of reach?

It’s not the art of a petty life
to know how to long
for the impossible for years
without disappointment
knowing that if appearances
can be deceptive
then so must be the illusion
when anything disappears.

The important thing is not
to try to attain anything
by reaching out
a finger shy of God
for things like life and love and light
as if you were a dead battery
asking the stars for a jumpstart
when one of the myriad truths
of the dark matter at hand is
you don’t have to work hard
to earn your own gifts
like a beggar in a palace
that doesn’t recognize her own face
looking down upon her
like her own reflection in the heavens,
as if her eyes always had to go
in the same place either side of her nose
and couldn’t flow along
with the shoreless starstreams
like easy fish dopaddling through space.

And if you must cry out
like an insatiable mirror
for things you’ve lost
or pine at the gate
of your own homelessness
like a long sad farewell
to all those things that never came
like the sea to your feet
as if every wave
were meant to fit you
like a glass slipper,
then I suggest
with only a whisper
of night in my voice
to tempt the light out of hiding
that the next time you cry
like a wounded sword
that no longer divides
the empty grotto of the pain
that separates lovers
like two halves of the same brain,

look up at the nightsky
as if you were looking into the eyes
of your own prophetic tears
and see and be more deeply
than any kind of telescope
or wishing well
in every single one of them
the dark pregnant mother
of the billion chandeliers
that hang like stars above you.