EVEN WHEN THE ROAD IS MISSING
Even when the road is missing
like the absence of God, or a woman I love,
I praise that emptiness for the freedom it accords me
to create a way of my own like a river of stars
and for the universe it’s left me
like a travelling companion I couldn’t improve upon.
The gate shut, the door closed, the window locked,
I slip a key to a poem under the welcome mat
and say my house is your house anytime you call
and then go get drunk with the moon down by the lake.
And after awhile we’re laughing at ourselves,
rolling in the leaves like the groundswell
of two happy vagrants with homeless hearts
making off with our lives for free as if
we’d just pulled off some cosmic B and E.
without leaving any sign of culpability behind,
except for the joy of our felicitous crime.
And when my moonboat’s in port for repairs
like bedsheets in a backyard fleet of laundry on the line,
I don’t mind being land locked for awhile.
I just take a walk along the shore of the lake
and gather moonlit feathers
from the scales of the waves
that have evolved from raptors into swans,
and binding them together
like Daedalus did for Icarus,
take a joy ride into the sun at midnight
not really caring too much about whether
I’m at zenith or nadir as long
as I’m transiting something akin to a threshold.
The sun can hold Venus on a short leash,
and me on the chain of my spine
like a barnyard dog barking at wolves
trying to tempt it deeper into the night
but the last crescent of the moon
will cut right through them both
like the umbilical cords of a new life
where we can both roam free
like rogue planets from star to star.
Empty-handed and full-hearted I come by day
to a low place looking for fire
from the daylilies with a bucket and an urn,
because I’m so tired of what I’ve had to do
to stay alive for the past fifty years as a serf of poetry
to keep it a calling, instead of a career,
and suffer the consequences of not attending to it
as a business that makes a profit off the stars,
but by night I’m a starling of creosote in a chimney
singing my heart out as if I wanted to eat it
because it has all the virtues of a noble enemy
and there’s no poetry or protein in the junkfood of fame,
though I think that might be a trifle ingenuous.
Impoverished Druid, you lean on a crutch for a tree,
as a flying buttress to your sacred folly,
and running out of time to avoid
a head-on collision with eternity
all your devotions the ghosts of yesterday,
you kick the stool from out under your feet
and garotte yourself from the bough of an oak,
like the berry of a single moon of mistletoe
and the last crescent of a golden sickle just out of reach
of the harvest season of the King of the Waxing Year.
Poor heart, what a battered shoe
of a vital organ you’ve become, a bone box
for the sacred skeletons of hummingbirds and elephants,
a Burgess Shale for the creative fossils and footprints
we both had to evolve through to come to this
inconceivable moment without a time scale
to measure how far it is from then to now
like the last leap of faith of the waterclock of life
into the abyss without a bucket for a safety net
or any deep assurance of even having a bottom anymore
to fall out of the ongoing over the edge of a precipice
as if even the rivers of Eden sometimes
had to seek release from it all and fall
even without a parachute to candle
like an exclamation mark all the way down,
a descent into hell creatively much to be preferred
than stagnating in paradise with nothing but apples to eat.
But still you know you won’t do it, given
the number of times now I’ve come running
with a chair and a rope to let you down
out of the window of a burning building
not knowing whether we were committing suicide
or I was running to your rescue as I always have.
Your daring has always said feathers and falling
has always taken wing like Pegasus before,
and what a wild strange radiant white water ride it’s been
across the high unbounded starfields of the shining
with Vega and Deneb goading us on
ever further like spurs of Spanish silver
just you and me, my blood brother, together
in the vastness of a mutual solitude.
My God, when I think of the flights we’ve taken.
When I think of the things we’ve seen,
and the orchards of sorrow that found more bliss
in the fruit than they did in the blossom.
And what did we ever write about all those stars
that didn’t declare how impossibly illiterate we are
compared to the lyrics of light and time and wonder
they’ve been singing all these lightyears
since I first opened my eyes to why I’m conceivably here,
though here can be anywhere by now like a bird
that loses its bearing under the stars everytime
it tries to get a fix on where it’s going like a photon
jumping orbitals like tree rings in a flash of insight.
When you’re light, when you’re foolhardily alive
you don’t need to pay heed to where you’re going
because there isn’t a single stage, place, or phase
that isn’t the destination of what you’re shining up at.
And I never thought the day would ever come
when sadness would sweeten into wisdom enough
to take pity on the mirrors like the eyes under our lifemasks
when we went down to the river to drink
our own reflections like faces from the lifeboat of our hands,
like a rain of mercy far out at sea far from the sight of land,
when we first began to understand how clarity like unity
can be broken down into little pieces of sand
that reflect the whole universe as readily
in their mystic particularity
as the stars and the sun and the moon do
when they lay their swords and feathers
and flying carpets like wavelengths of light
down in tribute to our third eye weeping its way to the sea.
And you were surprised, admit it, weren’t you,
to find so many white horses like you running ashore,
mustangs from the waves, to check out the new guy’s wings.
And me standing there like an avalanche of winged heels
wondering why I didn’t make as big a splash
and if all we walked away with was a detailed starmap
who could say the journey really wasn’t worth it?
Let the shore-huggers do what they want with it
to find their way around in the dark like fireflies.
Leave it to them. We were ever explorers
from the beginningless beginning to the endless end,
and we’ll rise up again on a gust of stars
caught up like a dust-devil at the crossroads of earth
and ascend on a thermal of the sun, the stairwell
of a star-studded chromosome that could
take a coil of flypaper and turn it into a poem.