AND IT COMES AND IT TAKES, IT LEVELS AND IT DEFIES
And it comes and it takes, it levels and it defies.
And not all the sorrow in the world
is enough to cool the burn. Will death make
as big a splash as birth did when it jumped in the pond?
How will you die? At home in bed
with your kids banked around you
like a zodiac of grieving signs, head on
at seventeen into a drunk ambulance
like a suicide you backed into like a ventriloquist
afraid to call your own bluff? Heart attack, cancer,
eating the Angel of Death like the wrong mushroom
in a rainy spring, your extinction, one of seven
horrible oddities of random selection to make the news
like a public health warning not to take the chance?
And you, having just finished medical school?
The wise man dies, the fool, the lover, the glutton and baby.
Death plays solitaire by opening and closing doors.
Death is not amused by the meaning of our lives.
Death doesn’t read the menu
of what we’ve avoided and cherished.
It comes and it takes, it levels and it defies.
Are you going to die like an old woman
evaporating in her sleep like a dream lingering on a lake
until the dawn mistakes her for a ghost
and brushes her aside like a spider-web?
Pity the poor body’s infantile helplessness at the end.
Pity the terror in the eyes of the imprisoned one
who could feel his chains slipping away like a spinal cord
into an immaculate freedom ungoverned by circumstance.
Even the stars, chalk on a blackboard, and death,
the brush that wipes them away before the next class.
As it is with the flowers, the jewel of life is slowly
pried out of our hands with soft crowbars of sunlight.
God, how we labour to leave something behind
like a fragrance of our having been here once
like a human on a hillside deeply in love with the clouds.
Death panics us into believing we’re achieving
something enduring and benign, but truth is,
given that one good can adumbrate another that’s tragic,
we’re just setting our heads on fire like matches
to add our blazing to the darkness of the blind.
We strike, we ignite, we flare, we fade like a daylily
into an abyss of stars we’re all apprenticed to
and the light goes out like a firefly in a black hole.
Or we’re as indelible as a menage a trois of water.
The triune identity of existence, three phases of the moon.
No onceness to our being here forever.
Persist in beginning and you condemn yourself to death.
The jewel turns you in the light of your infinite facets.
Your eyes turn to you and ask what they’re looking at.
Death wants an explanation for what you’re up to.
And life couldn’t care less whether you had one or not.
A dead child can lead you to enlightenment
and a live one to despair. Two hinges of the same gate,
putting their hands together in prayer like birds on the wing.
We live in pain. We live in unexpected bliss. But what we are
is imaginations beyond this. We embrace life. We dis death.
We separate. We hold lanterns up to the fog
like empty lifeboats far out at sea at night but what if
everyone swam safely ashore as they did
in their mothers’ wombs? We aren’t drowned out
like the cosmic hiss of negligible wavelengths
that once accomplished mighty things. The senses
don’t age into old colours and old sounds.
Whatever you reach out to touch is as new and forever as now.
Has it ever been this day before you woke up to it?
Did yellow die overnight? Did red have a heart attack?
Inside. Outside. There are no walls in this palace of space.
No doors you have to enter seriatum. No locks to undo.
No ordeals to endure. No sod to turn over like a gravedigger
to lay a foundation stone that’s the whole of the building
as if you buried a turtle under its own shell.
A song bird under an iron bell. The sacred syllable
of a black pearl under the tongue of an oyster. To no avail.
The wave rides you like a flying carpet, not a sail
that has to wait for the wind to arise again or the tide to crest.
It’s just like a photon of insight. When you look at it
trying to grasp it as something fixed in your mind,
it acts just like the particle you were expecting to see,
but as soon as you turn your eye away from it,
it slips away from you like the cosine of a snake
back into its own chameleonic medium of water and light.
Everywhere is the centre of your boundlessness
like the nave of a wheel on a hearse
that doesn’t equate once around the sun on its axis
with the distance of the journey in time and space and mind
it takes to realize, whatever size of the circumference you make
like the ripples of interlocking bracelets of rain
or tree rings in the heartwood of a black walnut
that all fixed points in the wheeling world turn on zero.
That there’s not a wavelength of difference between
what is and is not, that you’ve been attributing an identity
to things that emerged with you from the polymorphous perverse
in order to recognize a self distinct from the universe
that mothered it into existence out of nothing
but the dark nature of life to fuel the mind
with the radiance of diamonds burning in the light
without anyone or anything ever being consumed
or the night diminished like an ageing constellation
by even so much as a single vital sign
of unending exploration carrying forth of its own accord
The lamp bears the flame that lends the lamp its eyes.
When the flame goes out, everything it’s every seen
and been and tried to mean goes with it into
worlds within worlds that keep adapting themselves to you
like stars to the eyes of those who keep looking back at them
as the source of their own shining by a river
that’s constantly changing shapes in its flowing
to reflect the mind’s protean approach to the inconceivable.
And it comes and it takes, it levels and it defies,
but you can look upon it with the luminous eyes
of enlightened mirrors that can see whole worlds
abounding in every piece it breaks to improve the view.