I CAN STILL HEAR THE RETICENT ECHOES
I can still hear the reticent echoes
of my wary adolescence among intellectual radicals
demanding the nightwatchmen of insight open the gates.
One stole an Underwood for me from the student newspaper,
saying I would put it to better use than they would
and another drove me to my astronomy exam
against the will of my drunken declinations.
And I remember White Rabbit playing on the radio
first time, and the turmoil of sun and morning shadows
playing Scarlatti on the keyboards of the arbutus leaves.
Happy. Free. And sixteen enough to get away with anything.
I was bright and fearless. No one could take subjective risks
the way I could, but I still had to stand up
on the book of experience to see over the steering wheel.
Spectral figments of the past, smokey remnants
of the fires we once sat around without giving a thought
to how long they’d last. We were zodiacs. We were
hedonists of the light, trying to believe
in our own arrogance enough to roar like dragons
and write like the first green tendrils of an ancient vine.
I was apprenticed to the signs I saw in everything
like a library of eyes in flames, and the subtlety of fireflies
that came like the nuances of midnight,
and shone upon my path like lighthouses among the stars.
Famous days. Baby turtles urgent to reach the tide
among swarms of hovering seagulls, sky rats,
thinning the odds of any of us ever making it
out of the shadows of our predatory circumstances.
Everything a test of our fitness for life, and a laurel
awarded randomly to the luckiest if not the most talented.
Genius was mean and cruel and scoffed
at the slightest adage of the pretentious fool
that published on the back of sententious matchbooks
but at night, in its writing window, overlooking
the lights of the town, it took off its war face
and summoned the moon to a tender seance
like a medium in love with the ghost of a muse
that was playing hard to get. O the fallacious brilliance
of our teaching errors. The illustrious craving
for dangerous love affairs with thresholds and taboos
that had never been crossed or broken before.
Did a knife ever sink into the heart
as deeply as those we fell upon
to discipline ourselves in the black arts
of our tragic flaws? All our fire pits
smothered in ashes by grieving women
who really meant it, though we were too depressed
to see them scattering our urns on the wind
to ceremoniously exorcise the feelings they had left for us.
Leave things as a token of what they are,
like stars light years ahead of themselves
plummeting into the darkness of the black holes
that lay ahead like hourglasses that would invert their souls
and leave them on the receiving end of their own hindsight.
Let the mirages deceive the deserts of the moon
into believing they were the ambassadors of watersheds
that could green a sea of shadows with wishing wells.
Permissive in my joys, it didn’t hurt to be sparing in hell.
Something infernally elegant about compassion in a demon.
I wrote like a carillon of apostate bells, and books
began to appear on the staves of library shelves
like night birds in a museum, singing to themselves.
My life in art back then. A lucid agony of embryoes
curled up with their knees under their chins
like fossil question marks in encyclopedic shale
that preserved them like the juvenalia of my first attempts
to write about life as if deep in its heart
it secretly exceeded it own table of contents
in a hidden harmony of alternative endings.
Exotic exits from homely entrances,
after every poetry reading more people
felt like poppies than they did like wheat.
And I could see I’d made a good impression
on the death masks of the scarecrows
as I threshed the harvests I had sown
under a new moon of well-seasoned potential
that I shared with the birds like sunflowers at zenith
not earthworms in the starmud of a walled garden.
O delirious moment that counterpoints the past
reduced to the absurdity of recounting it
for the trivialities it turned on like microcosmic gates
that escaped our notice, but made all the difference
in the elaborate depths of the outcome.
A stolen typewriter in the hands of a radical friend.