IN EVERY FACE I PASS, THE INSUFFERABLE SMOTHERING
In every face I pass, the insufferable smothering
of human potential to achieve great things,
take the jewel out of the ore and let it shine
in the light of their eyes, their hearts, their minds.
As if a new star had been added to the night
and they had lived a life that enhanced
the radiance of their insight. Wouldn’t that
be happy? To see these dead apple trees
in an abandoned orchard suddenly break into bloom
and bear fruit? To see the bears and the birds
the wasps, the humans, gathering it up
like a windfall of small, habitable planets
among the New England asters of a fertile galaxy?
If only so much didn’t depend upon subjunctives.
If only chance were incorruptible, if only
things had gone your way instead of their own.
If only we hadn’t been born into everything
we’re missing, if only our longings had less to do
with what we actually want. If only our words
weren’t links in another chain of iron or gold.
If only we stopped chasing our mirages around
like water in a turmoil of starmud that smudges
the view, and stop dying of thirst like fossils of fish
in a freshwater lake that tastes of our fear of death.
Would the deserts bloom so the children
can be fed? Would the stars efoliate into
cures for cancer like the occult herbs of a jungle
that dipped its arrows in the honey of life?
Would old men waste their time on useless dreams
and the children not be taught to mistrust the rain
for the lies we ourselves told about the nature of gain
as we stepped on a ladder of everyone’s throats
thinking higher was safer than lower
when we’re caught like birds in a chimney?
Are the stars in our eyes antithetical to the black holes?
And our irises lifesaver rainbows? Isn’t
just to be here aware of what we’re seeing
so that every grain of dust on this long, strange road
shines as if the Milky Way were under our feet,
and everything were neither far nor close
but the whole of us in every single part?
I keep thinking you only need to touch the heart
of someone, like ants tell peonies when to bloom,
and everything will be revealed like moonrise.
How incredible it is there’s so little wonder
in our eyes, so little tenderness toward
the brevity of the lives that suffer along with us
into an abyss where we don’t even know
if we’ll ever exist again to see all this as it is.
Even to suffer, even to fail, even to dread the darkness.
Even to ask what place is this you’re passing through
and be undeterred about not accepting
your own dead silence as an hospitable answer
worthy of the mastery of being able
to pose the question as if someone else
were there with you who knew what you meant.
Express yourself. Shine. Bloom. Rain down
on everything alike to show the abstract eye
of the truth, what new beauties can come
of your starmud when it’s sown by you as freely
as a child gives you a leaf or a twig, or the head
of a poppy as if you hadn’t forgotten how to dream
along with her that your amazement is as good
a reason as any to be here. Write poems
to the opalescent sunrise of your toe-nails
or what the thorns of the rose mean
to a dead matador awash in the blood of a bull.
Irrational in the mirrors of reason, perhaps,
fill your emptiness up with the fullness
of your own absurdity and learn to laugh
at the unattainability of the things you aspire to.
Learn to play wavelengths on your spinal cord
as if the shape of the universe when it’s not a woman
is an eleven stringed guitar in the corner
where the spiders are walking its strings like bass runs
and every thing is singing along to the words
of a song that only they know like an aviary of voices
in asymmetrical harmony with the dawn.
Adorn your sorrows in the laurels of sacred wounds.
Now is the time to utter wow under your breath
and include the woman standing beside you
in your astonishment as well as the stars arrayed
to entrance your sense of the inconceivable
by giving you something to compare her to.
Lift up your head like a dormant dragon
that smells the moon on the wind and roar
like the solar flare of a flower that blooms in fire.
Sooner a brilliant failure than a mediocre success,
accept your incompleteness as a sign
of spiritual progress, your terminal homelessness
as the path of the wind among the flowers
of the starfields that depend for their lives
on your passing beyond the gates of their gardens
with letters back to the wilderness they came from.
Be the black sheep that burned the maps
in a flurry of chimney sparks and wandered off
like an irrevocable planet into the immensity of the stars.
And whether you sleepwalk on the thorns of life
or tread lightly across a river cobbled in skulls,
however the rose bleeds, don’t belittle
the mouth of its wound with with a grammar of scars.