Friday, July 6, 2012



You were a hooker by sixteen.
Your mother, your madame
The navy at N.F.B. Esquimalt, your john.
In the triplex, next door, upstairs
on a Friday night, all the windows
broken from the inside by whiskey bottles.
My friend, since you were seven,
how we struggled to keep our innocence
out of the world’s greasy hands.
Oil slick on the rose.
White peonies of blood-stained Kleenex
in the toilet bowl. Eclipse of the flowers
in a city of gardens. Even when the stars
were out, the darkness lurked, the doorways
housed strangers like trap door spiders.
Joy held a grudge against our wariness.
The windows didn’t trust us, and the street
was a firewalk of ordeals to test us
for things we really didn’t comprehend
but sensed, like broken glass, were crucial.

Painful to remember even now,
grey, grey, grey, the middle-aged children
trying to inch their way through the concrete
like dandelions or blades of grass,
or when it was wet, wrote their names in it,
each the founding member of a different slab,
gravestones with graffiti epitaphs
laid like bets against a future
that had been conditioned
by violence, poverty, disappointment.
The mythic inflation of human extremes
venting fumaroles of pent up emotions
entrenched like killer bees in their hearts
swarming the children in the agony of their perversity
as if they were always trying to get even with God
for something that drove them mad
with distemper and spiritual rabies.
Desecration always the answer.
Smashing beautiful things, debunking
the rare gestures of human divinity
that reminded them of who they weren’t,
fouling the waters of the children
with the effluvium of their own degeneracy.

I can see the chestnuts of your big brown eyes,
your helical blonde hair, your mulatto lips
and the pearl of your nacreous smile
when we walked through the wild broom fields
at the edge of town, and you forgot
how much your life hurt. Your mother.
Your body. Your corrosive acquiescence.
I should have made love to you
when you asked me why I hadn’t
and all I could say, because it was true,
I wanted to be different for you.
I wanted to show you what water couldn’t manage,
if you filled a bathtub up with tears,
you could always wash off in the stars.
You could burn off with light.
You could polish gold in the fire.
You could get out of the net
like the Circlet of Western Fish in Pisces,
out of the fetid uncleaned fish tank,
and see for yourself how vast the ocean is.
I didn’t know of a better way to be with you
especially when you showed up on Saturday morning
with wounds you’d keep to yourself
the rest of your life, and I wouldn’t ask,
it could have been anyone of a dozen men,
who bruised the beautiful blue eyelids of the rose,
and how, phosphorus and dry ice in my heart,
I wanted to give them a sex change
and turn them out like working girls on car seats
in the badlands of the Hindu woodlots
that reeked like seaweed on the moon.

Murder too good for the likes of them
in the ferocity of what was left of my boyish purity
I wanted to introduce them to the kind of agony
that feeds on itself, a root-fire, an inflammation
that can’t be contained by remorse or forgiveness.
Thorns on the roses they use to wipe their asses.

How many gates ago was that, how many
forbidden thresholds crossed, how many
long sidewalks you walked down alone
like a gazelle in the rain
with your stilettoes in your hand
thinking about nightschool
to become a nurse’s aide. Gone now,
noxious vapours from a street vent.
Heard you dumped a trick in Montreal
as soon as you got off the plane.
I went on to university which was
a different kind of whoredom without the fun
and then deepened my alienation as a poet
by refusing to forget about you
when I entered the witness protection programme
and disguised myself in my solitude
to keep the nightmares from seeping back in
like radon gas summoned to a seance in the basement
where all the bodies were buried
that had made their bones at our expense.

Still doesn’t make sense to me after all these years.
Surreal atrocities and ironic black farces
you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at.
As I get older, little archipelagoes of memories
surface from that lost continent of childhood
before it broke up and went its separate ways.
I take little doses of depression everyday
to immunize myself against the poison
of all those people who threw themselves
like bad meat down the wishing wells of the children
we did an unconvincing job of being,
so little joy in the way we looked at ourselves
when no one else was. Salvage and shipwrecks.

Time insulates and buffs, brokers and deals,
but it does not heal. You love someone,
and you loved them even before
you learned how to feel, and they’re in
a worse mess than you are, and you burn
to help them out like one constellation to another,
a bear trap in a marijuana patch baited
like Andromeda chained and helpless on the rocks
and you want to slay the inevitability of dragons,
but all you’ve got for a sword is the hand of a clock
and the courage of a badly mauled heart
and thirty-seven light years of remembering
your unspeakable silence on a Saturday morning
and the tenderness of you leaning your head
against my shoulder as we walked
as if I were the mountain and you
were the avalanche looking for someone
to hold on to you like a meteor shower
at the end of an era of one-eyed telescopes.

Hope you’re a nurse somewhere now in the world.
Clean sheets and a compassionate bedside manner.
Maybe staring out of a window on the nightward
at the stars above and the city lights below
as we used to look down from Mt. Tolmie
to see the firefly of Port Angeles across the Georgia Strait
like a sister galaxy, Messier 31,
in the Great Square of Pegasus
where I buried our new myth of origin
in that constellation I made up for us
like a time capsule of what we could save
of our childhoods, and never dig up again.
O but that fathomless silence on Saturday morning
like a black hole in the sunshine, and the sky,
the injured bird in your eyes, has taught me more
about the crazy wisdom of compassion
and the injustice of suffering before you had a voice
to shriek it as if your nails were striating glass
like a diamond-cutter or a snow blind glacier
or a mirror you clawed until it bled red roses,
than my last eight books and four awards for poetry have.

Every anti-hero needs an anti-muse of dark energy
to fire things up like a cold furnace
in a lighthouse on the dark side of the moon,
that doesn’t listen to its own storm warnings
and goes off in a lifeboat to look for you
as if I could still keep you from drowning
in a sea of shadows after all these years.
Three bells and all’s well, I hope.
Though probability’s seldom esteemed
for the prophet it is. You left me your silence,
as if nothing else could answer me,
and I’ve been listening in my solitude ever since
for the hush of your shoes coming down the hospital hall.




The serpent sits enthroned
at the top of its own stairwell,
helically reposing in its own empryean
like an August hawk
coiling up its own thermals;
its fangs, a stargate
to an unknown afterlife, emancipation,
and the jewel of its head,
the first stone thrown,
a small planet without
the eyelid of a sky,
a nugget of mystic uranium,
looped in a turban of orbits,
a sacred arrowhead
that flys from itself like a bow
drawn back long before the wind
knew its first feather.

Lethal healer,
the sword that kills is the sword that saves.
This morning,
the drubbing of the rain on a tin roof,
the hiss of traffic
flaring like matches down the sleek asphalt,
if I were to say
I want the emotional life of space,
I don’t know if I’d mean it,
but I’m so weary
of being this slow crisis of a bird
mesmerized by the swaying eyes
of the black lightning
that has caught me in the net
it weaves of my own nerves,
I want to douse my heart
in the next providential tide of tears
like a torch I put out in the night
to see better in the dark.

I asked for wings
and my spine was adorned with fire.
I asked for water
and I’m a fish on the wind.
and now this desert I hoped to remain,
a craze of sand,
has grown teeth
and is overgrazing the starfields like pyramids.

I don’t think
I will ever recover
from the wound I received
like the hidden twin of the moon,
trying to love the world, myself, women, people.
Every word was a road, a pulse, an eye,
a drop of blood
I could ride to the end of and beyond
into the implacable subtlety
of my own empty, ageless temples
where even the silence isn’t ghost enough
to conjure a medium
to jar the table as a sign,
and death is buried in its own vacuity
like an embryo in a mask without eyes.

I was bound by my own boundlessness,
my nerves, wicks in the abyss
that enhanced the darkness
by cleaving me like a tree
vision after vision,
another world
with every blink of the eye
that wiped the mirror clean of me like an ax
until I understood
that even the most enlightened watersheds of wisdom
are just a smear of perception
on the least drop of that splendour
I went looking for like a cloud
saturated with the ancient seas of the moon
that was covered by my own looking.

I lay at the bottom
of my oceanic odyssey,
trying not to sink,
but I wanted to give something back
for what I felt I had received;
not an ethic or a metaphysic,
but a spontaneous action of the blood
that remembers it was once a rose.

I wanted to return spring like a water-key to the moon;
I wanted to harvest the shadows
of my own non-existence
and break bread
with the famine of ghosts
that came like royalty to beg food from their servant,
blind doors standing on the thresholds of awareness
asking me to address myself
to the terrible openness
of their unanswerable need.
I have eaten my own ashes
in the furnace of every star
I have ever looked upon.
I have drowned in the wells
of the faceless, fathomless mirrors,
and every woman I have ever drunk from
was a grail with an enigmatic black pearl in it
lustrous as the moon in eclipse.

O promises of bliss
that tuned the webs of the spiders
like a guitarist with perfect pitch
to the frequency of my spinal cord 
that I might entangle a star
in the silk of my conceiving;
that I might seize a firefly
in the fangs of my thought
and taste the honey of the lantern
that lit my dark corner
in the era of the moment.

O sweetest of lies to ripen with longing
like the eyes of a child in the darkness
far from home.
I was trying to find a road
that fit my walking like shoes on a mountain;
I was trying to walk on water with mystic crutches;
I was looking for an arrow
dipped in the blood of a serpent with wings,
set aflame by a demonic star
and feathered by spiritual fire
to restring me like a bow
severed like the branch of a sacred grove
by the oracular blade of the moon.

I was too deeply sheathed in the truth
to appreciate the arcane sagacity of my lies.
I stood like a shadow in the burning doorway of my own fire
and looked deeply into the night
to answer my own knocking
like the echo of a stranger in the darkness,
walking away from someone who didn’t know
how to greet himself.
I was a tree crucified on a man,
a vandal in the shrine of the moment,
bleeding like stained-glass,
a rosary of vertebrae and skulls
reconstructed in the future museum of now
I played myself into like a funeral plan.

Now everywhere the wind is a pilgrim,
I leave my heart like a shrine
I will never return to.
And the sadness, and the solitude
and the vastness of my insignificance
is the shadow of a bird on a cloud.
The only way to perfect my defeat
was to sit at the feet of my most cherished delusion
like a rootless flower watching over a coffin,
then rise like the wind
from the rubbish of the shedding,
the loneliest pillar and sole cornerstone of the sky.

Now my apish profundities
no longer crack fleas of light like stars
I picked out of God’s burning beard
with the forceps of the moon.
Now I am infested with constellations.
I no longer turn the pages of the waterlilies
like the holy books of an inspired swamp.
I no longer seep down to the river
to drink from the moon
like a serpent at the water’s edge 
and watch the panicked angels jumping
from the reflection of an uncrossed bridge
that collapsed like a covenant with hell.
I no longer shred my heart
like a secret document
in an abandoned embassy of swans
looking for asylum further south,
tormented by the unattainability
of a woman’s beauty,
looking for sanctuary
in the ashes of a black sail
that flared like a poppy with passion
at every gust of desire
that silvered the trembling grass
with sidereal aspirations.

Why bother to laminate your lovers, your legends?
Let them go like autumn leaves and smoke,
the last breath you took
before you were interred
like a scream in the larynx of a deaf-mute,
a foreign currency you can’t spend at home.
Naked is the only way to dress for the rain,
but it doesn’t matter which
from the wardrobe of all your many lies
you wear to the fire that waits for you
like a fledgling waits for its plumage.

And this is a long river
and this is a long day and a night
and maybe only the silence is listening
to what the stars are preaching
from the pulpits of the flowers,
and this that says me now
is just the promo for the intensive care ward
of a new religion
the founders are always the first to betray;
but when I truly let go
it was my falling
that taught me to patch my shoes with the sky.

And have you come this far,
passed through this many gates
for wisdom, compassion, freedom,
wandered aimlessly until you could not tell
the stars from the sand,
the journey from the arrival,
suffered worse than all the things you cannot say
until you forgot what you were looking for
in the first place, until
you despised what you craved the most?

I don’t remember how long I slept
before my dreaming woke me up
and I realized
no fool could defame my solitude
and that life
was only the story of a scar
looking for the knife that inflicted it
like a shadow
in the forsaken valley
of the mountains of the moon.
Looking for a pear of light
I had to plunge into a darkness
deeper than anything
my eyes had ever given birth to.