Monday, August 6, 2012



Are you trying to convince me
that kindness does no good?
That no good deed will go unpunished,
that I should do a good deed and duck,
that trying to love and understand you as a friend,
give more than you dared to ask, have the power,
but not use it to reply to you in kind
when I pull the sacred syllable
like a pin out of my heart
and hold it tightly in my hand
like a white phos grenade I don’t dare let go of
because this starlight’s so blue and hot
it can burn right through your skin like the Pleiades?

You rage pre-emptively as if in everything
you were defending yourself vehemently
against some bootcamp of an injustice
your childhood went to to learn how
to stand up for yourself even when you’re in the wrong.
Do unto others before they do
what you imagine reflexively
they’re about to do unto you.
I get that. So many times I’ve blunted
the edge of the sword on the rock of the heart
I drew it from, bent its blade for the grave,
tempered it in a trough of hot tears
I shed like a dragon for what you
had suffered alone at the hands of those
who were supposed to love you
but always seemed to find a way
to bungle it in the second act
of a tragicomedy for angry tricksters.

So I’ve treated you like a dove
in maculate feathers for the last ten years
and stood down like a scarecrow
whenever you lured me away from my watch
to amend the commotion of a lapwing.
I’ve been a good friend to you in all things.
There when you called. Generous
when you needed, streetwise wolf doctor
when you asked for an oracle
to howl at the moon with you
in an agony of unanswered wounds.
And I know it’s hard to be proud
and grateful at the same time
as if needing someone’s help
as we all do, were conceding
to a weakness in the hill fort of your vulnerability.
So I’d put out the white flag
from my window first to make sure
you didn’t have to conceive of surrendering first.

Anyway when you walked in just now
fuming like a star mass
of inflammable hydrogen gas
I was feeling like a firefly
for the first time in a long time
remotely at home in the universe
as it went off in my face like the Big Bang.

One moment I’m on an endless firewalk
following the signs the stars left me
to catch up in my own good time
and the next I’m listening to an arsonist
make up alibis in her own interrogation room.

And I’m asking God, after you return me
like a splinter of my former radiance
that won’t wash out of my third eye
because it’s lodged like a nail in a jellyfish
candling like a parachute in its own tentacles,
to the relentless intensity of my abysmal solitude,
thinking hard, hot, flashy thoughts
that cut like the sabres of a meteor shower
through the ionically charged upper atmosphere
where my spiritual aspirations inflate
like weather balloons disguised as ufos
even as my demonic descents back to earth
are making a big impact on an extinct species.

God, I say, apostate, heretical, or demonic
I may be. Do ut abeas. But I didn’t ask you
anything back for this kindness I do left-handedly
not to ameliorate doing my time standing up
nor as an infernal sacrament on the altar of hell
that rebels like a lion lying down with the lamb,
but just to put a smile on the absurdity of it all
as if there were no harm in trying it your way occasionally
by stopping the war between
ceremony and the sanctimonious
long enough to remember we’re all
dying of one thing or another in the same lifeboat
floundering on this fathomless night sea
of shoreless awareness we’re all immersed
over our heads in like the tears of the unblessed.




Dancing with an old man under the moon
with nothing but your tattoos on,
as it rose over the treeline like a mushroom
and as beauty is to wisdom,
the blossom of your fire
to the smoke of stacked firewood
waiting to be immolated in the Bonfire of the Vanities
like an library of fingerprints on paper
just to prove that we were here once
long before this autumn made a ghost of us
and we could feel more naked with our clothes on
than we ever have done with them off.

Junkies hitting up in a snakepit of desire,
the Burmese python a heroin addict in a swamp,
the high-wire act of the rose in the circus,
the aerial acrobatics of our noblest emotions
swinging through the unimpeachable air
on a one-handed trapeze that was the axis mundi
of the world in the aberrant orbit
of a lightning struck weathervane.

Your body, a guitar; your soul, an inflammable violin,
when I wasn’t burning bridges with you
like connections we didn’t want to make
we were going for long firewalks among the stars
hand in hand like a couple that grew up
in the same neighbourhood that paid no attention
to whether they went out into the world and made good.
I was improbably inclined
and you were desperately uncertain
and we kept the little that was chaste between us
bucolic with shepherd moons
and major and minor dogs trying to pasture a rabbit.

Some women are beautiful like moonlit gazelles
and Greek vases are, and you stand back silently
as you would before any masterpiece of classical form
cooly and contemplatively as if you were musing
in your amazement on a first magnitude star
it would be an aesthetic desecration to touch
with anything as unshapely as a human in love.
But you knew how to swing your hips like an hourglass
and I’ve always been happy to be suckered by time
into filling in on the night shift for a sacred clown
who had to meet a dead line, finishing a cartoon
of the constellations he drew for a newspaper
like an out of date starmap that had to cut back on its print run.

You came with doves, I saw them, with plaster casts
on their broken wings, deadly nightshade, black orchids
that had once been the shadows of beauty queens,
and the fragrance of big pheromones charging
the summer night in your eyes with an aura of urgency
you kept hid under the eyelids of your innocence
and I could never tell whether you were the salvage
of the witch that was drowned in a trial by ordeal
or the one that showed everyone how easy it was
to walk on water when you had to save yourself.
Intrigued by the dawn of your smile, by midnight,
I was ready to sacrifice myself to the cult of it
like a Druid with a lunar sickle to the apple-bloom
of a tree alphabet deranged by the dissociated sensibilities
of an occult muse just coming out of eclipse.

I was making catalogues of the stars
that lay like ashes in my eyes when you suddenly flared up
like the saline spirit of a green flame burning in all my firepits
that began to feel they had the vision of a young dragon again
to see such foxfire blooming in the eye-sockets of its urns,
after the dark rain and fire storms, the excruciating pain
of living a life of coal predicated upon the possibility of diamonds,
the transmutation of the low into a union with the high
like a snake with wings that could ride, by God, it could ride
its own mystic wavelengths like a plutonic alloy
of the early Bronze Age just as the heroes were getting ready
to cut the umbilical cords with their hysterical, Medusan mothers.

Gratitude? Yes. You braved the taboo of the wizard
like a night bird on my windowsill, like a star
through the bars of my isolation cell
in a covert observatory buried underground
like a radical theater in a dead planetarium
staging doomsday scenarios for an unenlightened think tank
that never turned the light around on themselves
to discover that their third eye isn’t the lens of a telescope.

And maybe you were the last hurrah of my flesh and bones
but, baby, you didn’t leave anything elegaic in my blood
to prove it and I think it came as no less of a surprise to you
as it did to me, beyond the shadow of the searchlight of our doubt,
love had removed the black spot from my heart
like a planet in transit across a Venutian sun
and put it on your cheek like a beauty mark
in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent
to tempt Hafiz into offering Samarkand
to a young slave girl if she would only take his hand
among the rose bushes on the banks of the Ruknabad
even if it meant he had to account to the khan
for what he squandered like gardens on the moon.

Born with wings on the heels of my cowboy boots
instead of spurs, who so club-footed
or cloven-hoofed and sodden
as camels in a B.C. gold rush
as to dance with you in sensible shoes?

Your hair was autumn. Your eyes were spring.
I lived for awhile, o who could know how to thank you,
for six months like a supernova in love with a black hole
at the vernal equinox in the thirteenth house
of the zodiac I still consult like a starmap of your tattoos
when I’m out walking in the woods alone
with the full moon that hasn’t paled them in its light
even after all these years, still dancing with you in the night,
an old man circumambulating the fires of a dark bliss
by himself, certain he knows who he’s dancing with and for.