I refuse to persuade any emotion to a poem
like a horse I can lead to water but can’t make drink.
If it’s a straitjacket it’s a straitjacket.
When its a wet suit it’s a wet suit
to go swimming with stars in. Tea leaves.
Yarrow sticks. Tarot decks. Incinerated match books.
I listen to a poem as if it were a response
to what I’ve said, and didn’t say.
I like the counter play of voices and mine
one among them, the whole tree full of birds,
and the chatter of black squirrels in the walls.
Midway between a car starting up and a stanza break
when I write, I feel like a thief that stole the prison
under the warden’s nose, and broke out through the window,
exhilarated by the bliss of getting away with my freedom.
I’m on an island alone with the moon.
And it doesn’t matter if I was marooned
or just washed up here like a wounded paint rag.
My spine is smoke. I drift tribes away from the fires
that send me like a message to the stars
without knowing what it is I’m going to say to them.
Until I get there like a crane-bag full of alphabets
and a couple of mystic words I’m keeping to myself.
Siderealized. Space speaks through its mere presence
like a field of unnamed wildflowers. Star clusters.
And there’s a solitude you can’t help answering
that gets deeper every time you open your mouth.
You stop fooling yourself about time the moment
it’s realized there is none. You break the bones
of the sturdy ladders of all-well-and-good-but.
You crush the fossils of the crutches you once crawled upon,
take off your spurs, turn your scales into feathers,
and the wind comes along and fits wings to your heels.
Things stop being solid and become real. So
when I write everything writes along with me,
every leaf that falls upon the river like a map
changes the course of the flowing and I let it
and every fallen tree’s got its hand on the rudder
and I say if not that way, where?
And the waves all answer in unison, here.
And even the loneliest guitar that ever sat under a willow
and thought of the home that wasn’t there to go back to anymore
can feel crowded when myriad words begin
to introduce you to their relatives by close association,
and shades in the closets of the chameleons
that rainbows haven’t worn in a thousand years.
You can see things through gravitational eyes
that telescopes have never dreamed of, and all the time
you’re lost at sea in a derangement of stars,
you’re pulling bodies into an empty lifeboat,
asking each of them as they begin to breathe,
if they knew where they were, because I’m sure
we’ve all been here before. And everyone
sat still as teeth in the mouth of a seagoing dragon.
Play. Full. Intensity. Sublime absurdity. Big Mind
full of chaotic potential, dark and yet to be the future
of everything, not exceptional perfections of lucidity.
Little Mind absorbed in playing with matches
that blossom in fire like the enlightened water stars.
Flare and dazzle. Ptolemaic translucency. The snow man
melts right down to his eyes in the heat of the picture-music,
peacock blues and greens of auroral acetylenes
and no one knows what it means, except it means deeper
than any answer could conceivably convey.
Here work is a form of worship, and the gods pray.
Mind is a gift. You just undo the ribbon of your chromosome
and let things out. Doves, dragons, and the occasional phoenix.
Or your own voice the tiger that wakes the valley up in the morning
with the roar of a vatic lily. The early breezes stir
and the dew trembles like an amateur on a spider-web.
Constant beginner, how could there be a precedent?
An exploration? An insight into what wasn’t there
until you saw it flash across the waxing moon if even
for a nanosecond, the God particle that created you
without having anyone else in mind but you, the becoming
that always worries about the end it never reaches,
the mystic specificity of the unfinished paradigm?
If you don’t feel like an idiot from the very start of a poem
you’re not showing enough respect for yourself.
If you don’t know where you’re going, that’s a good sign.
You’ve left everything behind the next world doesn’t need.
And the memories will come of their own accord
like waterbirds setting down upon a lake, they’ll reflect
what they only are for a moment as creative as the past,
and then they’ll return like vases and urns to the mantle
to resonate with the stillness of objects, and you’ll be the one
that’s deeply moved. The fireflies and lighthouses
will see eye to eye, and things will come to you
and ask you why you’re crying, and you’ll them
because I wasn’t expecting you to show up like open gates.
And this is an aesthetic madness, a crazy wisdom, an antidote
to being afraid to get out of your coffin once you reach shore.
Here the word beauty isn’t the verbal fossil of the living tree.
And truth is a virgin sword that’s never cut anything
or slept between two lovers like a vow that can’t be kept.
Here you’re the hydra-headed genius of your own horror story.
You can grow heads upon heads until you’re delirious
with intellectual conception, and live in a snake pit
waiting to be bit back by your own black lightning,
or you can take the dandelion path of a parachute
the sky mends with patches of your own skin on the line
and land somewhere gentle as the eyelash of an unknown warrior.
The important thing is to let go. Even of the letting go.
Reacquaint yourself with the dream grammar of the dead
who’ve been gone for millennia from the bodies they left
before alphabets were born of man’s hatred of women
when the sun comes up and the moon fades like soap in the daylight.
Be the nightbird. Be moon. Be shadow and light together.
Include the unlikely similitude without judgement
into the pantheon of your enduring monument to people or the gods
and if someone tells you there aren’t any, make a few up on the spot.
Mermaid and witch, warlock and sorcerer alike,
all drink from the same well, but in each mouth,
a different flavour of life, mirages of blood, wine, and water.
Become the mirage and stop hallucinating
there’s a reason for everything they can’t discern.
There are eyes deep in a poem that are looking out at you
to see if you want to get close, whether you can intuit
the logic of metaphor whispering behind the door
through the keyhole on the inside, or you’re stuck
in one long periodic sentence like the logic of syntax
laying tracks across the continent like a ladder of cautious thresholds,
expecting to reach the sky, without any risk of falling.
Fall and you’ll find out you can grow wings on the way down.
Fall and the first thing you say will be the sound of bliss
freed from its cage to shriek in a language of its own
that surpasses the teacher like a sonic boom
that doesn’t sit at the feet of the thunder in awe.
Real freedom, the most terrifying liberation of them all,
doesn’t come up in an unkempt garden like the placard
of a flower that doesn’t know what it’s there to protest.
Reality? Illusion? Valley and crest of the same wavelength.
When you see the mindscape from the outside in
you’re cutting gems with your eyes. You talk about
reality and objectivity as if your were in a solid state.
When you write from the inside out, turn the starmap over,
the light around, nothing is more acceptable than another.
All facets shine. Even the abysmal inner spaces
that dwarf the heart into singularities that seed
the bottomless depths of blackholes that tunnel
like star-nosed moles into new worlds
like the other half of the hourglass of this one
seem no different than from here to the store for a loaf of bread.
Nothing’s lost, effaced, expunged, or strictly given up
right down to the last detail of starmud in your make-up.
The sea learns not to fear its own weather, and the moon
ebbs and neaps with the tides, and the fish thrive
in the way it edges the waves with the flash of a sword
it’s laid down upon the prodigal waters as a sign of itself.
The mystery is the mystery of the wonder
that stands before the beginning and after the end
of a poem that spans the mindstream like a bridge
that let’s you see your own reflection on the flowing
inseparable from the water, more indelible than
blood is to skin. Less significant than who’s standing beside you.
Or the fact that life is a river with only one bank
and no one’s going to make it across in their secret lifeboat
without hauling everything into their inexhaustible emptiness.
Once you stop trying to figure out the universe,
and explain it to the rest of us, you can learn to play in it
like stars without curfews when the crows come home to roost.
The worst is bound to you in inestimable measure to the best.
Gather up your sorrows like old manuscripts
and fling them like leaves out to the stars on the wind.
Put eyes in your weeping and follow your tears
all the way back to the ocean that gave you them
and said water shall see, in the depths and the heights,
the whole of me as the mystic ocean of awareness
that eclipses the blossoms in the black mirror of the mind
to show you the darkness is not homeless
and no more than you can stain space with your blood
does it need to be washed off in the stars like Aldebaran
or our footprints in the red tides of the Pleiades.
You’ve held that tidal pool up to your face long enough now.
The lobster claw like an amputated crescent of the moon.
The grey nacreous dawns of Chinese-silk harder than porcelain.
The evictions of seashells like empty fortune-cookies
and koans with nothing more to tell, the nervous fish,
the dead starfish that jimmied the locks on the vaults of the clams.
O shore-hugger, when have you ever not felt discarded
by all those things you never took a risk upon
for fear of losing what you know and being washed out to sea
into the greater danger of being vividly alive beyond?
You may live in a marine cemetery but you know nothing about death.
You think because the mirror’s broken it stops shining?
Because your missing a claw, you can’t be made a constellation?
You live among your cupboards and empty cups
like craters on the moon, and your eyes are full of wariness
the sun’s going to come out one day, hot and intense
and you’re going to evaporate or there’s going to come
one overwhelming wavelength that’s going to steal the pot
like a man gathering money with both arms in poker,
and, just like that, you’re gone. And what are you
going to do then, cling to the mountain tops like snow
for fear of falling, for fear of the echoes of your calling
sweeping through the valleys below, looking for you,
like eagles and sparrow hawks for something running away?
What a waste of good birds. Step out into the open.
Spread your own wings like Cygnus or Aquila.
Encompass what enlarges you by conceding to it
as if they were your own inimitable spaces you were
flying through with prophetic serpents in your talons
as you raise the lowest up like homely bread
to manna from heaven that tastes of the stars that leavened it.
Spare the scalpel of reason a swordfight with the thorn
of your heart trying not to spill blood out of season
because you’ve declared a holy month on the moon.
And don’t try too hard to impress nothing
with the poetic depths of your vacuity, as the world
rushes in to fill the spaces between one lifeline and the next.
There’s a sacred emptiness in the heart of everything
and it’s built a temple out of the ground of your being
to receive your gifts like flowers and stars you lay upon the stairs.
And there’s nothing from black walnuts to unified field theories
to explain this phenomena that isn’t also the noumena
of your own mind listening to a voice older than your ears.
There’s a shining in the least of things that could dazzle the stars
were you to take the blinders off your life,
that carapace off the heart of the world turtle you stand upon
like the cornerstone of the cosmic eggshell
that’s been free of the encumbrance for fourteen billion lightyears
like a gift that gave itself freely away like an inexpressible secret
in the private lives of the wistful mirrors that reflect it.