WHO ISN’T TRYING TO LIVE
Who isn’t trying to live
as they vaguely hope they are
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
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.