Saturday, August 18, 2012



Coming out of a blue funk, this seal,
under a sky thickening like sheet ice all day
has found an airhole it can breathe through for awhile.
Been wondering about my life. What
it’s been doing to me for the last fifty years
for the sake of poetry, for the sake
of pursuing an earthly excellence
though it hardly matters why anymore.
I used to have an answer on the tip of my tongue
when I was young and thought more
with my mouth than my heart. Less so now.
Time, death, suffering, love and the devil,
certain intense realms of creative bliss
attuned to the dark harmonies of hidden roots
that flow back like the delta of a river
to the watershed of a single drop of water
that got it in its head to do something big with its life
and turn something trivial into the sublime.
Did not the sun and the moon, the whole of the sky,
fit it like skin? And that was just the outside.
It would take more than light years to measure
the wingspan of the abysmal spaces within.
Even time would run out of itself
before it got to the end of anything.

My life in art has been like keeping a fire alight outside
in a rainstorm of tears. To see clearly
through windows that thawed in the heat
of looking through them with the compassionate ferocity
of a crystal skull poured out of a terraforming meteor impact
like a prophetic lump of coal, a diamond in the rough,
that refused to burn in the furnace to prove it had the right stuff
to shine like a star, no one could follow, on its way to somewhere else.
Not a sign post. Just a sign. Your eyes
once you see it, are never going to be the same again.
You won’t look at a starcluster like the Pleiades
as if you were waiting for the traffic lights to change.
You’ll take your three and a half pounds of brainy starmud,
like a meteoritic kissing stone, a falling star,
and run it through a diamond tipped bandsaw
and discover the jewel of life that’s been glowing
in the core of the ore since time immemorial
like a dna molecule wasted on space
that transforms the medium and the messenger
into a voice, free of content, that’s the whole of the message.

I walked out to this dark, deserted place, redolent
with the duff and detritus of life, the flotsam and jetsam,
where the half life of the rate of decay of my insights
into your heart, eludes being used as an atomic clock
to determine the agelessness of either of us.
I came out to look at the stars but I’ve been startled
by the photonic discharges of your bioluminescent fireflies
ever since I started looking up like a starmap to make sure things
were where they were supposed to be. One moment
you get in my eyes like the sandstorm of a mandalic power painting,
a masterpiece of the wind, and the next,
I can feel the intransigence of your vulnerability
dyeing your hair like a comet to attract the attention
of the sun at midnight looking for asylum from a black hole
where it’s third eye used to be.

You’re a mermaid on the rocks of Andromeda singing to a telescope
to look up to see how far its got to sink in an ocean of stars
before it hits bottom like a shipwrecked moonrise
gone pearl diving for habitable planets
that can say I love you and mean it like an atmosphere
it’s not going to lose again. Only in the Braille
of the scars on your heart so far, but I can read your pain
like the glyphs of an Aztec temple
I’m still clearing from the jungle of my indirections,
that recorded in imported stone how many times
it’s been torn out to please the gods with a kidnapped sacrifice
worthy of the priestcraft in the sacred abattoirs
of modern drug cartels when you’re too susceptible
to feeling too much, the same as me, when I’m thinking mythically
about what I’ve endured to be acceptable in my own eyes
that might shine across these aloof distances like a star into yours
that lights you up from the inside like an intimate familiar
whispering into your ear like a dream grammar of sacred syllables
that have liberated themselves from the syntax of the stars
just to speak subliminally in the same sign language as you
like the chaos of fireflies I see in the black mirror of my mindstream
bending space like the surface of a lake at night
where you can hear the echo of a loon ululating
like the wavelength of a mysterious love song
among these dark hills shapeshifting in the moonlight
toward you like a mirage of picture-music
emerging as something real in this wilderness of transformation
like a new constellation of fireflies I want to overhear with your heart.




It’s not enough to hinge a new door to your heart
when the house is built on flowerless quicksand
and the chimneys have acquired a taste for books;
poems are the birthmarks of stairwells climbing themselves,
of hawks and serpents boring into the corks of wine
to get at the heart, the passions, the dreams, the rage
of the vine that set out like a road that got carried away
and fell in love with the intimate strangers who took it home
and danced all night among the swords as if they were thresholds.

Born in the shadows of unbearable bells, early I found
they were bound to the cord of my spine, like the moon
among the kelp that oils its tides with the black sperms of creation,
and I learned to pull on their iron parachutes to ease
my harsh, hot descents into wingless, mute oblivions;
I discovered there was a voice beyond mine
that could gather and disperse, celebrate and divine
the secret weddings and deaths of the bridal ghosts that came
like castaway bouquets to the refugee altars of their torn veils.

And there’s an indelible secret as old as the eyes of the wind
that can whisper sand into pyramids, that won’t receive
the vows of the petty and clever who traffic in the shadows
of the great, wild dead who wore their battered crowns like fire.
Let them crib their poems on the back of another man’s eyelids,
real constellations don’t shine like this and the wells are mute
whose waters taste of fireflies; and there isn’t a river on the moon
that knows how to plead with the sea for a widow that mourns,
that knows whose prodigy of blood unravels on autumn’s horns,
or how the waterlily in the mouth of the dragon
is more dangerous than a shrine full of blind snakes.

Behind every name, behind every door with a brass threshold
is a man who was forgotten by his own violated treaties
with the indentured mirrors he consulted to cheat the lakes,
who comes up over his horizons like the solemnities of the moon,
looking for the pillar of his lost reflection in chunks of coal,
in the underfed crematoria of his sacrificial backyard fire-pits
in the lifelines of the empty hands he misread like maps of smoke.

Poetry isn’t an orphanage or asylum for the disenchanted,
though there is a deranged abyss under its relentless solitude;
not a showcase Colosseum for famished lions at a petting zoo,
though mauled minds and bodies litter the unwitnessed field;
there are no paths through its unanswerable distances
strewn with petals or thorns, no bridges or waystations,
no branches of hospitable trees to perch in for the night,
no dawns that can erase what’s been written on your forehead,
nothing that can blind you to what you were born to see,
no rain that can douse the squandered fire of the poppy,
though the messenger is smashed like a bottle between
the tide and the rock; the star, the candle, the nightflower
snuffed by the morning, the last breath of the deathless moon.

And you must die enough to not be there
when the world picks up a pen like an axis
to spin in the direction of its wounded inclinations,
you must not walk into the house wearing a face,
your breath on the glacial windows of the furious stars
full of secret fingerprints, love-notes, names,
you must be more conversant than a ghost on a bridge
or a rose, or an empty mailbox, or a road that followed you
to where the river turns, with shapeshifting,
with pearling a body around a syllable of sand,
with showing a galaxy its shadow in eyelids and eclipses,
with standing like a scarecrow in the cornfield
that shucked the cob of a smile to batter you with birds,
with lying beside the dead like a lantern in a morgue
as if your blood crossed the threshold for them,
with waiting in the earth a long time, a root
that conceals orchards in the furrows of its dirty hands,
a buried boat that unfurls the blossoms of its sails,
the starcharts of the blind moles that shine underground,
like a voyage in search of the rudder of your tongue
to pilot it safely out of the ports of the moon,
a flame, a breath, a feather you’ve cradled for years,
the small measures of belief in an oceanic grave
that enrobes the flowing in the wake of severed waves.

Be stone, or be space; the emptiness is the same,
silver ore, or the motherlode of a black hole,
let your heart pan the long rivers of the night
for what the stars value, jewels of life in the light
that can be grown like a menagerie of blood and tears,
the eyes of the blackberries, eyes of the radiant bee
on the flutes of the wind that plays for a handful of seeds.