THE PIZZA DELIVERY DUDE OF PERTH
I’m the painter poet pauper-prince and pizza delivery dude of Perth.
I’m the guy standing on your unshovelled winter porch
ringing your dead doorbell in the mute darkness
I share with your burnt-out lightbulb
trying to remember the last time
you lit up your numberless house
as I fumble for my cellphone
with frost-knapped fingers of stone.
This is the Younger-Dryass ice age
but you’re not in
or you’ve gone out like a constellation in a zodiac
or a species that didn’t make it
or you’re lying dead on the bathroom floor after a heart attack
or you’re still messing around with your girlfriend
as my knuckles bleed
like cast-iron doorknockers in the cold
and the wind slips down my neck like a snake
waiting for you to come to the door and receive your food.
I’m the guy who tries to leave a message in a bottle
in the lost and found of your overloaded voicemail
that I was here on time banging on the windows
like a stick on a pizza pan in a blizzard
to gratify your lust for hot cheese
with a ghost dance in the snow
before I go on to the next delivery
feeling like a shaman who’s miscarried his reincarnation as a stork.
Congratulations, it’s a pizza!
Baby in a black bag
and no chimney to keep it warm
as I walk away from your door with a child no one wants.
And I remember what Rimbaud said to me once in Ethiopia
about his advancement into simple toil
and I know it’s the man that ennobles the work
not the labour that humbles the man
but this is harder than swamping for Wal-Mart’s with Santa Claus
and a thousand times more psychologically demanding
than Freud at your door on Halloween.
You say you know that it’s not my fault
if they got your order wrong,
if the calf got turned around in the cow,
you know I’m just doing my job
trying to deliver it to you,
you don’t blame me for their idiocy
but I’m the lonely voodoo doll within reach
of the needles in your whiskey-voice
and it’s a lot more gratifying
to demonize the living than the dead
when you discover they weren’t listening
when you told them not to put garlic on your garlic bread.
There goes the tip, the kind word, the smile,
another firefly of warmth dying
at the end of a long winter mile
as I realize that’s it’s colder inside you
than it is out here
and wonder under my billowing breath
returning to the car
if the reason you’re such a sour frustrated thing
is because you told them
not to put the human in your humanity
and somehow someone messed up and did.
It’s hard not to like a man bringing you hot food on a cold night
but I’ve discovered as well that a lot of people
define themselves by their tastebuds
and the gardens of flavour that bloom on their tongues
are not the well-pruned, perfectly-tuned myths of the eye or the ear
but a darker, warmer whisper much more intimate and near
that tells them who they are
like the myth of origin in their mouths
that divines the sage, Alfredo sauce,
and pale-legged caterpillar of green pepper
as the beginning of everything from hogs
to the nectar and ambrosia of their butter-fried gods.
And maybe in a way it’s a mode of evolution
to eat the wings of birds that have never known the sky
in hot sauce with bloody fingers
as if you could stuff
the impersonal secret of life
into your sentimental little heart
by eating enough eagles to fly,
and it’s one of my more refracted speculations
to wonder if Jesus and the Devil
got together in the wilderness
to open up a small pizzeria
to break loaves and fishes for the mob,
Satan keeping the ovens hot
and Jesus the obvious early morning dough cook
if the deliveries would be run
by Gabriel in feathers and light
or Mephistopheles in scales and night
or maybe Charlie Manson in the guise of Charlie Chaplin
would show up at your door
like a downy dinosaur,
a raptor with fledgling wings
that brings its horns and haloes to heel
on your doorstep
like the vipers that fell like rain
after the blizzard of bread in the desert
that offered you the choice
of infernal or celestial toppings.
Any job can be a do or enlightenment path
for those still lost enough to need to look
or anyone still literate enough to read
what isn’t in the book,
and that’s the way I approach mine
in every underwhelming detail
to give it the dignity of the mindstream it is
that has rooted itself like a river
that flows into the lifeline in the palm of my hand
so that I who could wheel in the lyrical heights
of mystic nights alone among the stars
high above the mortal muck of earth
my wingspan of fire and light
spread from dawn till dusk
across space and time
and no pain in the effortless beauty and power
of the abyss that has sustained me longer than the wind
could grow to understand
like a bird who now hops from branch to branch,
threshold to threshold
door to door
with a pizza in its beak
how surrealistically extraordinary the ordinary truly is
when no one needs to leave home to find what they seek.
I greet little old ladies like dandelions gone to seed
waiting for the wind
who come to the door frail and bent
making excuses for why they don’t want
to cook for themselves tonight
as if I were some kind of culinary confessor
as I laugh like an exorcist at their tiny demons of sin
or Gulliver at their Lilliputian transgressions
to take the hook out of their mouths
like a fly-casting demon
and throw them back in
to the small measure of their fingerling appetites
to eat what they want when they want and can
and enjoy the small jewels of the blessings
that hide under the tiny stones of their sins
without sticking troubled angels
through the good dolls of their voodoo hearts like pins.
And I’ve been cursed , threatened, humiliated, scorned
told I’m a loser, patronized by midgets,
looked upon as a criminal eclipse
of the harvest moon with a classic crust
by a lot of chump-change Napoleonic goldfish swimming in a shark bowl,
tipped like a local charity
and feared by the munchie-haunted hippies
looking down upon me from an upstairs window
like the only member of a rural swat-team
walking up the stairs of a seasonal drug-bust
with a black flak-jacket pizza bag concealing an M-16.
And the hyena crackheads on their far-out funny farms
bounded by pit bulls and impossible roads
are so so suspicious
of anyone arriving from the nether world
they offer me beer, blow, tokes
and the occasional drunk woman
to see if I’m one of them and ascertain
through the social bonding of mutual addictions
if the encounter is a meme more dangerous than delicious.
I play the clown and turn them down
with laughter and best wishes
from the burnt-out sixties
and happy to return to the country dark alone
look up at the nightsky
to make sure
no one’s railed the stars yet
and the Milky Way still runs
through Cygnus and Aquila
without being buffed by the moon.
And I’m everyone’s episodic social life,
two minutes with a hook,
the opening act of a pygmy play on Broadway,
full of sententious one-liners
and stray threads of poetry,
a humming bird of verse
and comic soap opera all in one
trying to draw a smile like nectar
out of the bitter things so many people must suffer
just to hang on to a little sweetness in life.
And it’s impossible to know what to answer
when someone tells you
in red slug-lines
as if they were a journalist coldly reporting the news,
they just got cancer.
I leave them their cinnamon buns
and chicken quesadillas
and put a finger to the lips
of all my sad human see ya’s
like a hood over a funeral bell
so the little birds can sleep through the night
without bad dreams
and return to the car
like a wound without a moon for a scar
savagely indignant before what I see of human fate
by a light that is cruelly flawed
that I’m not God.
And it’s getting late.
I’m just the pizza delivery dude of Perth
and though there’s no spiritual immunity
in my functional anonymity,
I like it when the teenagers wave
and scream out PIZZA HUT as I drive by
pretending I’m Nicholas Cage in Gone in Sixty Seconds
when I know I’m only a mutt on a clothesline
strung out between two black holes,
running back and forth
between the due south and true north
of a spacious oven and an insatiable mouth.
I’m the twenty-first century unrehearsed tradition
of the Canterbury Tales
moving from one house to another
now the pilgrims are going nowhere
because the shrine now comes to them,
the mountain to Muhammad,
like my red Sunfire comet
driving like a maniac
in my balding all-seasons
over the black ice
that waits like a snake along the zodiac
to knock Chaucer off his mule.
The Wife of Bath still sweats like a pepper
And the Knight who is allergic to tomato sauce
is still as gullible as ever.
You hate whom you hate.
And you love whom you love.
And it’s hard some nights to remember
you should touch everyone like a warm glove
when their fingers and hearts go numb
just for the fuck of it
as if you were a drunk or a child again
sleeping on the floor of the same homely dream
even in a world where no good deed seems to go unpunished,
and the rose sheds itself like blood
long before it falls upon its thorns,
and everyone’s lying to themselves like water in a mirage,
even so, even so
as Basho said burying his dead son,
when you cry for people deep inside
for what even they may not know they’ve endured
and suffer still without a cure
so much has the pain estranged them,
even if you’re crying into an empty lifeboat like rain
and know it,
raise the full sail of your compassion
and running before the wind
like the ghost of the skull and crossbones
that once flew from your heart
make room for everyone’s face in the mirror of your own
and expand yourself like a habitable atmosphere through space
without giving a shit like water and light and air
whose face you fall upon
knowing everyone is looking at everyone else
through the same pair of eyes
as if they were theirs alone.
Or to bend the mystic light a little
with excessive excuses to Ruysbroek,
the same eye by which I see you
is the eye by which you see me
but we’re not fixed in each other’s sight
like guns and telescopes lightyears apart
or fireflies in a mason jar
trying to tell lies to the constellations
about who we are
and how far we’ve had to come like day and night
through everything and everyone we’ve ever been
just to be these little bleeps of lucidity
looking out through this darkness of ours
as if we couldn’t be seen.
And blazing may be a kind of blindness
but even the stars can’t hide in their own light for long,
the bird in the grove of its song.
And this is the pin of insight
in the heart of hell
the angels dance upon
in the arms of an unbreakable spell:
What you see and feel and hear and think and taste and touch is you
improvising the world as you go along with your own music
or a page of your own story,
all those chapters of autumn
that fall like leaves on your mindstream,
and all that sheet music you never learned to read
because everything that is is talking and walking
with what is not
down the same long road to here and now
as the constellations get turned over like cards
in a nightwatchman’s game of solitaire.
And looking at your body from the inside
as if you were immersed in starmud
like the iron in your blood
isn’t the same as becoming aware
that even the stars are illuminated by your shining.
On long deliveries late at night with no one on the road
my car turns into a muse
and things come to me like stars flashing through the trees,
the broken plinths of tiny mirrors of insight
that are washed from my eyes by blood and tears,
things so beautiful and moving
you’d think you’d fallen into a white hole
where even the snake of all this black ice before you
you’ve been riding all the way to Rideau Ferry
hoping your luck knows how to charm this flaring cobra with a flute,
suddenly sprouts wings like a dragon
and flys away
the highest and the lowest all in one
as this snow road of the Milky Way
we’ve all been following
turns into that serpent of stars
in the claws of Aquila
that angels its way into feathers.
And things so terribly human and acutely alone
even death feels like better weather
as I pass through the night unnoticed
like a storm that blew over
while everyone was sleeping
because I don’t have the heart to make things worse
and though my lightning isn’t tongue-tied
my thunder still hasn’t learned
to quote chapter and verse
to scab the wounded moon
with the violent lies
a man in a straitjacket will tell to his spirit.
What you see when all your eyes are open
like stars in all directions
and your skin turns into moonlight
and your blood glows in your heart
like a lantern in the night
that’s been all over the world mountain
looking for you only to find
yours were the eyes in the light
that were doing the looking
and what you sought and what you found
were the grails and ailing realms of your own seeing
that bloom and fall back
like stars and flowers
paintings people pizzas and poems
into the dark ground that illuminates your being spontaneously
in everything you see
like birds that drink at the night fountains
of the capacious lucidity that sustains the life of all,
buddhas and fools alike,
because the honey of light
is no less sweet in the hives of killer bees
than it is in the mouth of the holy of holies.
Just stop trying to be what you see
and realize that you already are
the star in the harp of the willow-tree
that sings to herself down by the Tay River
like the spirit of water
of everything that passes
like the snow and the stars
and the birds and the blossoms in her hair.
And you’re the dead branch that breaks into leaves
like a poker-faced queen of spades
with the universe up her sleeves
who makes good on her bet
to sucker the thieves
by leaving herself open like a window
to what everyone believes is their own.
In a world that is perfectly unperfected,
where nothing’s missing from the giving that goes on
like gift-wrapped butterflies
in cash-strapped spiderwebs,
or clever sparrows
gleaning the dead dragonflies
from the radiators of parked cars,
who needs to look up like fire at the stars
when they’re everywhere underfoot?
When you look at a star in flower
you’re the root of the shining.
You’re the darkness that breaks into stars
and arranges the myths
around their desert fires
to tell tall stories in the shadows
that shed their petals like flames.
You’re the great silence and the mother of names
that were said from a long way off
long before they were heard
here on earth among these hills like birds.
Inside me isn’t just atoms and words.
Inside you whole worlds within worlds abound
like the harvest moon in billions of drops of water.
And you’re the dark watershed
that gives to each their being and eyes
and enfolds them like space
in the untouchable skin of your infinite skies.
All those straw effigies of self
that went up in smoke and flames like wet hay
and you still haven’t scared
a single phoenix of life away
who comes like a fire-god looking for fire
to enthrone you like enlightenment
in a fool’s palace of gratified desire
where your flesh and your spirit
are neither one nor two
not one the light and the other
a shadow in the night,
but the unwitnessed clarity of a passionate intelligence
that delights in being you
whenever it feels that way.
You can only be what you see momentarily
because the seeing is creatively free.
But yours is the life of meaning
and yours is the mysterious fountain-mouth
of all the meanings of life
that come and go like words
that leave no trace upon the waters
like waterbirds upon the flowing.
All the myriad aberrant ways of going,
all the straight paths with their snakey curves,
and you’re still the only way to walk them all.
The wind sets and corrects the sail on its own.
Ask any star where you are
and it will answer from within
we’re here where we have always been.
There’s a seer. There’s a seen.
There’s a knower and a known.
There a dancer and a dance.
A cosmos. And the chaos that gave it a chance.
But you cannot separate one from the other
anymore than you can separate
the reflection of the moon
from the water it glows upon.
Because there are not waves enough
to overthrow the ocean of your knowing.
Nor stars enough to exhaust the light of your seeing.
And you might feel like the leftover stuffed crust of a pizza
harder than bone in the box,
or the ostrakon that cast the old asteroids out
as I hand you a new solar system
with pepperoni planets and sleazy comets of cheese,
but you’re not just another pebble
life’s stopped to empty
from a worn-out shoe
by the side of the road.
Mr. Wong drinks in Tokyo.
Mr. Wang gets drunk in Seoul.
Or to say it in cowboy Zen
if you weren’t hungry I wouldn’t eat.
And though I may be a mystic Neanderthal
that’s given up meat to live on light,
dragging my knuckles up your driveway at night through the snow,
I’ve answered enough appetites to know
if you are what you eat
then everything else you see must be
what eats you.
Grazing grazers and grass
or a meatlovers pizza in barbecue sauce
like a surrealistic rendition of a traditional barnyard
seen from above by a hungry flying saucer,
we’re all flowering mouths on the vine of the same appetite
waiting for a delivery from the hive
and for all the insights into the souls of the pilgrims
whose stories we listen to along the way
as I do bringing you these plastic mangers of fettucine
and as everyone of you is my biography
and all of us is to each
all the tales are inextricably about Chaucer.
Many petals open and close like eyelids and doors
and there’s no end to the genius of flowers
here on earth where things are homey and round
or in the wild pathless starfields beyond
the last known address that held you like a cup
before you drank everything up
and returned like water to your homelessness.
But everytime you open the door to your living room
whether you’re a nasty candy-assed wannabee
or the whole orchard of apple-piety in bloom,
as common in your humanity as a broom
or as rare as a ruby of blood
from the stigmata crucified stones,
beautiful, bright, old or young,
dumb, mad, broken, bad, or wiser than gold,
cheaper than a church with your cash
or as generous as an all-night casino,
mother, father, rapper, junkie, child or wino
I greet who I am in everyone of you
who summons me out of the night
like some genie from a lamp
or thrice-blessed Hermes of the spirit
or some affable familiar of food
who shows up like a moth to the light
out of the darkness of this vast solitude
that binds us by our appetites
to this tiny crumb of mother earth
that empties one bag to fill another
like the pizza delivery dude of Perth.