WHEN I WAS A CHILD
When I was a child
I was uprooted like a weed of lightning
and cast like a dead snake
on a festering heap of garbage.
I was angry before I knew
what anger was;
and ever since
have cored the diamond drills
of their vacuity into my heart,
for no reason; the wind
slamming the door on my fingers,
the flawed doctrine of my skin.
Pariah, poet, exile, outlaw, heretic,
I was passed a shard
of the broken jug of the moon
like an ostrakon
and then the stern angels
painted an X in my own blood
on the door of my house
to ward me off like plague.
I was a child. I was hurt. I was broken.
I became a law
and enforced my acceptance
with the authority of my rage.
Turned inside out
like a dirty sock
or a black hole,
and every second-hand future
the donors ever tried out on me
to see if they could find one
that fit like a straitjacket,
I put my mouth to the sky
like a glassblower
to enlarge a space of my own over me
like a planet
rummaging through a wardrobe of atmospheres
until I could give my secret consent
to the stars that shone down upon me
like a wounded bull
in a labyrinth of alleys
and were so inhumanly far away
I was purged like a soiled surgical utensil
in the intensity of their heat.
I was wholly and serenely me.
I found acceptance
in the delicate rainfall
of their enlightened indifference
and made up new constellations
to substitute for the family tree
that had been ripped open
like a zipper of lightning
and left to stand alone on the hill,
a smouldering taboo.
I traced my bloodlines back
to the elemental anvils and forges of iron
that hammered me out
like the relentless metal of a sword
in their fire wombs
and endowed me
with the magmatic pump of a volcanic heart.
I lived alone
in the torrential eras of the early earth,
and swam through noxious seas
of sulphur and methane,
shedding my gills
like the petals of a rose
for scales and horns and feathers and claws
and the accoutrements of armour
I wore like the shale of impossible rivers.
I was raised on an island in a sea
that tore its own eyes out
storm after storm.
I had a mother.
I had brothers and sisters.
They were degraded by alcohol and lies.
And I have had children of my own since
but they have gone out into the world alone
and the miles don’t smile much between us.
And I have laboured for years
to achieve the unacceptable
to turn the reek and rot of the swamp
into a dress rehearsal of waterlilies
getting ready to go on tour
among the stars
to manage something true and beautiful
that might prove this mauling darkness
that prowls all around me
like my own predatory intelligence, wrong.
I have laid my bumbling tribute,
this eloquence of eyes,
at the foot of the blood-stained altars of the world
as if the giving were the last protest
of a compensating heart
trying to crush the agonized ore
of its ancient deficiency,
the lunar slag of my childhood,
into the glowing wine of a mystic metal
as supple as blood,
as cool and rare
as water at night in the desert.
Like a mad hermit
scraped and tanned
by my own austerities
in these godless wastes
where even a man alone
is a crowd
that trespasses on the solitude.
I have flayed my skin with comets
and waited for millennia
like the afterlife of a pyramid
for these demonic ferocities
of salt and sand
to release me like a river,
to open my fist like a hand
and show me the cities I’ve founded
along the banks of my hemorrhaging lifeline.
But now I realize
that it’s all been just a boy’s dream,
an angry child
trying to fly a kite
in the roaring furnace of his heart
just to prove it could be done,
just to prove
by contesting the implausible
he was just like everyone.
Now let the soft ash
bury him gently in his dream,
and the lightning that rooted in his eyes
be inscribed on the night sky
like a neon epitaph.
Let him not fall
like a drop of spite
from the tongue of the leaf
that is urged like the feather of a green wing
by the summoning stars
that have gathered around
the empty lifeboat of his grave
to enshrine his ashes with theirs.
Let him pass like a squall of light,
an urgency of the night
that shook the tree to its roots
until it raved like a woman in ecstasy
with forbidden galas of wonder.
Now I know
for all that he suffered,
for all that he bore like an ox
under the whips of the shadowmasters
that yoked him to a wheel without a road,
his heart, a rusty oil drum
glutted like a backyard incinerator
with the half-burnt pages
of the obsolete encyclopedia
he committed to the flames like his life,
he was only a black snowflake,
an arctic error
in a glacial blizzard of misery,
a manger of fire in a hovel of ice
with nothing to burn but himself.
And I shall miss him like an era,
the igneous ripening of his last eclipse
sloughed like a skin of the moon
and honour him with tears
that will fall like eyes
from the dragon’s watershed.
Was there ever a poet or sage or fool
who wasn’t verified by their failure?
But it’s as clear as cruelty
that he must go,
that the private constellations
he hung like spiderwebs and flies
in the corners of the room
must be swept by the trees
like dust across the distant threshold of the hills,
and the sail of a starless sky
rise like a black dove
from the boat of his hands
and surveying the eyeless abyss before it
never come back.
When I first opened my eyes,
there was a darkness in the room
that outshone the light,
and when I opened my mouth
to give voice to the dreams of the dead,
for all that I have sung and said,
it was only the wind
swinging like a lonely child
on an unlocked gate.
And lastly I opened my heart,
the deepest bunker of my heart,
as if my pulse were a stranger knocking
on the outside to be let in
and I let her in
as if I played host to the world,
and she taught me how to leave.