Wednesday, August 1, 2012



Up on Heartbreak Hill at night
with a 2.4 inch, 60 mm, refracting telescope,
a cat, and a journal of poems,
deciphering those immensities of sky
as if every star were the sacred syllable
of an inconceivable intelligence that explained
everything in light, and the light were singing.

Earth noises in the broom bushes and Douglas firs.
The air rife with the spirits of those
who had their necks broken here by a prison noose,
and had more of a right to be here than I did
who felt like an intrusive guest in their house
even though the darkness was common ground.

Eventually they learned to ignore me
as just another adolescent longing for eternal responses
to the expiry date on life and love,
and not one of them without a silent understanding
of what a star could mean through the bars
on the windows of their prison cells.

Up here on the hill I was a temple above
the imperial rhetoric of toppled garbage cans
expurgating on the fate of fallen empires
that took themselves way too personally in restrospect
than they did at the time, as if the wound,
even the children had to amend like a religion,
grew deeper and more volatile with age.
Up here, just the executed ghosts of perversity and rage.

The whisper of something beautiful
no one could smear, soil, smudge,
out of touch, though I caressed
the skin of the stars as if it were as smooth
as the lenses and mirrors I used
to watch the fragile radiance of how they danced
so intimately across the apertures
of my field of vision trembling before
their scintillation the way I used to make
some spiders vibrate in the morning
like sewing machines or the clappers on fire alarms
by simply touching their webs
as if all the strings on a Spanish guitar
were trip wires in a terrorist museum.

Light as the only liquid in a desert
for many dangerous miles around,
the stars were cool jewels of water to me.
I could almost taste them like the tartness
of wild blackberries on my lips, lemons,
the deadly nightshades of experimental girlfriends
testing out cartridges of new lipstick
the first time we kissed in the shadows
of the new moon behind the abandoned warehouse.
It’s impossible to see a star as it is
until it’s become part of your love life
or, at least, until you can learn to flirt with the light
like a firefly at the window
of this thirteenth house of solitude
where the homeless gather like an avalanche
of the misplaced cornerstones of condemned temples
that like the stars, are always updating their past
about things that shine, but don’t last.
If the medium is the message, and it is and it isn’t,
then seeing must be a kind of love as well.
I saw the stars through the eyes of the stars.
I felt the weight of the billions of years
there wasn’t even a one-eyed sea to look back at them
for intimate insights into its own impersonality.

Hard stars in the winter, soft stars in the summer.
Stars can see further into the darkness of the human heart
when it’s cold out for everyone and clarity
stops breathing on the mirror like evanescent nebulae
sensitizing the light to the chromatic aberrations
of the disappearing veils and crushed rainbows
synchronously aligned with my poetry at the time.

I could feel the passage of the stars
like migrating Canada geese in the autumn
the shamans read like rosaries in retrograde orbits,
an abacus of wandering planets, and one,
whose name was unknown
rooted in the ground of itself like a strange silence
that had whispered the world into its own ear
like the dark secret of light upon light
as everyone looked up like mirrors
with tears in their eyes as big as lenses
trying to overhear what was clearly not hidden
through the keyhole of a telescope up on Heartbreak Hill
when seeking wasn’t a way of avoiding what was revealed.




Not with the eye, but through it
easy to see all the pristine faults and flaws
in the immaculate mirror of the lake
that asks me to surrender my sword
as proof the scars on the mirage of my identity
were not self-inflicted or mythically inflated.
Sometimes the mind is nothing but a fraud of water,
a handful of starmud from the bottom up
with an ego like the snapping turtle of the world
savaging the plumage of the moon,
a wild swan thawing like an ice-floe
riding her own reflection downstream
like the pale fragrance of an elegant loveletter.

This place is the downgraded stuff of dreams
that animates the misfortunes of decay
with calendar-eyed views of propinquitous mortality.
Stakes of ghostly bones embedded like fractured trees.
Red ochre cedars like the fragile skeletons of filigreed fish.
Dozy limbs of basswood on the damp shore
pulped by a flesh-eating disease
like the hard heart of an old man gone soft
in the limelight of a circus of fungus on tour.
Not an outrage, but a lingering kind of odium,
this whole place smells like a human on its death bed.

Stealth in the indelible silence of the dead
undergoing their dissolute transformations
into the effluvium of the living in the wake
of their passage through life. What was
solid and upright as the rung of a ladder of oak
or the lifeboats of the oar-winged maple keys
before they went down with the ship,
good captains, all, with nowhere left to fall,
let’s its hair down like wavelengths and willows
and returns to going with the flow of things
like ice melting into water again, everything real,
with nothing to stub your toe upon
like the imagined intransigence of the world.

Wing of bat, eye of newt, heart of toad
and the perfect pitch of a virgin hummingbird,
mummified skin from the leaves
of the star clusters of borage sapphires,
the ashes of a poem that immolated itself
like daylilies that no one had ever cried over,
the unreasoned ennui of a seasoned wizard’s
attitude toward suffering to play musical chairs
at the periodic table and rise above the salt
where you properly belong enthroned like a dragon
on the skulls of your incommensurable ancestors.
Salt the earth and it will burn green as leaves
in the fires of life nothing can put out.
The axis mundi stirs the seabeds of the ocean
and visionary wraiths hang above it like rags of mist
summoned to the cauldron of the lake
like a seance to the endless first step
of an ongoing beginning that calls them out of exile,
like the lords of life from the last exorcism
they went through like the imperfectible ideals
of the wind sweeping stars and deserts off the stairs
of an underground passage burial
that aimed its spirit at the stars in Orion
but whose bones only made it as far as a flashlight
in the nervous hands of a grave robber
startled by his own amazement
at whose likeness embers in old gold
on the death mask that greets him like a twin of time.

Waterlilies blooming nocturnally in algaic scum
as if they were spreading their feathers
for any chance encounter with the stars
they’ve fallen in love with in their own images.
Stumps of the beavers, and here and there,
the occasional chain saw, I hear a man shrieking
in the tent of a field hospital trying to heal the Civil War
with the tools of neo-lithic carpenters.
I hear the crow barking orders to its officers.
Significance by association with the lost and fallen
bleeding out like flags on an abandoned battle field.
You fall through the cracks if you don’t jump the gaps
and the rest is just the history of electricity
prodding you to twitch like the puppet-master
of Giovanni’s frog prodded into leaping like the dead
trying to keep pace with the measure of their hearts
like lily pads wired to circuitous nervous systems
grounded in the silken muck at the bottom of things
that has settled like a peaceful sediment
over the useful refuse of our unsalvaged dreams.
The encyclopedic detritus of our arboreal souls
we keep recurring out of like cosmic eggs
in a deep sleep of inconceivable wonders to come.
Wingspans of the galaxies in the eyes of the seed-atoms,
I sow my thoughts and feelings like symbols and images
as far and wide as the Milky Way, the Road of Ghosts,
like an old farmer I heard of who went mad out here
sowing the deep woods, holding on to the tail
of a black bull that tugged at his heart like a new moon
or the harvest of stars in the wild rice fields of the Pleiades
adorning the horns of Taurus in a garland of light
so the wide-eyed native women could thresh them
into the bows of their birch bark canoes.

How long ago was that? Is there still
an Algonquin village around here somewhere
that didn’t surrender its gates to the urgencies of time?
Some memory smouldering like a fire pit under the leaves
that have written over the history of this place
like draught after draught of an autumnal lie ever since?
Did they ever come down to the water like me
to watch the moonlight ricochet off
the wet anthracite scales of a rat snake
sliding its S-curves back into the water
like a wavelength of darkness alone and homeless
in the occult palace of its black diamond eyes?

Did they feel the same chill of recognition
when it disappeared like a sacred insight
into an abyss of enlightened unknowing
that’s as boundless as the myriad infinitudes
of forms and events that arise
out of the creative destruction of the mind
efflorescing out of its own ashes, sunflowers at dawn
when the urns convulse like wombs,
and flowers imitate the garish rainbows
of our afterbirth like the palette of a masterpiece
that’s caught the ruin and renewal of life
in the enigmatic features of our photogenic minds?

Posing like mood-shifting chameleons
aurorally lifting the veils of a dark mirror
to reveal our own eyes looking back at us
when the night turns around, saturated
like ripe fruit with the mysterious sorrows
of being alive to witness our own windfall
like a rootless tree well-seasoned in letting go
of the orchards that once danced with the wind
in their wedding gowns, climbing up
this scaffolding of bones like a serpent of picture-music
helically winding up the stairwells of our vertebrae
like a thought making the rounds
of an unbroken circle of zodiacal skulls
like boundary stones in an unsustainable orbit,
all living things perfecting the simplicity of death
in the labyrinth of their own elaboration
by reducing it to an axiom of collaborative absurdity
then erecting it like a meteoric cornerstone
above the graves they dig for themselves
monolithically from the sky down,
one foot in the boat and the other clinging to shore.

I can hear the music of the spheres
in the hidden harmonies of dark matter
I’ve been listening to for light years
like a song with an impact crater for a sea bed
I just can’t seem to get out of my head and heart.
I’ve apprenticed my darkness to the mastery
of a dying art that might make the dead
a little more lyrically approachable
when the picture-music shepherds them
like black sheep born under a new moon
into the available dimensions of the future.
In everything I see and say and do here
I celebrate the emergence of the carrying forth
of the light out of the dark urgent with expression.
I say tree, stone, star, love, birth, death.
Lonely nightbird, or one of the frogs at night,
I make my sound like my mark upon life,
I add my eddy of light, the ripples of my fingerprints
to the flowing. As ignorant of where I come from
as I am of where I’m going, as homeless behind me
as it is ahead, there’s an expiring calendar
of tree rings in my heartwood, waning or waxing,
always seems to be growing. What has my tongue
ever been, but a leaf on the wind, or my eyes,
if not stars coming out of clouds? Delusion
or clarity, the crazy wisdom of the madly enlightened,
or sorrow looking for asylum in its own vulnerability,
the lab rat in a random experiment with genetic lotteries,
or my voice disappear like the homing bird
of a word in the distance flying toward
the violet hills that adumbrate the sunset in residence?

A physics of the heart, or the logic of metaphor,
two ends of the same sky-borne telescope.
Whether they’re eyelashes or my eyes
are sprouting wings for the journey ahead,
effortless effort of the absurd,
or a labour of elusive significance,
I struggle to celebrate the vital stillness
that animates the heart of all things
into being carried away on impulse
like water and love and life and light
or thousands of fireflies swarming the valley
after a storm of insight, trying to acquit themselves
like constellations in a chaos of starmaps.