PLAYING CHESS WITH MUNDANITY TO SURVIVE TO WRITE
Playing chess with mundanity to survive to write.
Evading destroyers disguised as Everyman
who hates what I do because he thinks he can’t
and ignores it, forgetting I’ve been trained for oblivion
and writing poetry is the only way you can breathe
when you’re swimming in it and the moon is in the corals
trying to grow gills. All the useful functions I serve
I had to make up for myself. I express things
with no regard to having a useful function
though things shape themselves around me as a result.
Let them. I’m as supple as space on a balance beam.
Younger, I sought a name in the fountain mouths of humans
to actualize the pretension of what I hoped I was,
real carrot, real stick, real donkey, by consensus,
like reality, until I began to smell the methane,
and the swarms of squabbly seagulls, and uncover corpses,
and realized the pursuit of fame was just trying
to be something shiny in the garbage dumps
of other peoples’ mouths and minds, and any thought
of a literary career came candling down after me
like a collapsed parachute that felt like a punctured lung.
I don’t really care how many books you’ve got published now.
I’d rather howl like a wolf on my own above the timberline lamenting
the loss of the wild spirits that used to animate this wilderness
where my instincts are not blunted like swords of moonlight
on the skulls of first edition gravestones. All those books,
songbirds in an aviary of caged words that have turned you
into a voice coach. I’d rather howl with the wolves
than chirp with the birds, or teach the pigeons to sing
under the eaves of the safehouse built on quicksand
that’s taken up residence in you. Moonlight feathers the tarpit
and the rat snake’s scales gleam like sequins in the dark
as it slips like a wavelength back into the lake of the abyss.
Try writing four lines that are remembered for nine hundred years
because they intrigue the human heart with the sincerity
of our mortality caught in a rainstorm of bleak sorrows
far from anywhere, and the struggle of blood
to keep a small fire burning in the encroaching solitude.
Humans will keep your memory alive only so long
as they need you to hold out your lantern into the emptiness
like a lighthouse teetering on the brink of a vertiginous precipice
to see if you grow wings on the way down when you jump.
Experiment and experience. Though the former’s
old science by now. Objectivity is as obsolete
as a steady state universe with a planetesimal theory
that sank like a cue ball in the pocket of a decaying orbit.
Mystical science. All phenomena are numinous things of the mind.
Two of an infinite number of windows in a palace of water looking out on
the leafless autumn trees like coathangers stripped of their wardrobes.
All seeing is creative. And the dark, a beginning
that isn’t trying to upstage the stars it engenders
out of its own inconceivability with waterless mirages
that reflect nothing but what they depend upon for a living.
Focus like a telescope on any star of your choosing,
steady your tripod like a body in meditation and just sit
like a clay owl on the roof of a barn to scare the chickens away
until you’re flooded with an inundation of clear light
from the inside out of your usual direction of prayer
and you realize the crazy wisdom of what you’re doing here
is neither random nor absurd, nor particularly instructive
given you can’t step into the same mindstream twice,
but an occult chance to revel in the light of secret meanings
all of which are your own hidden paradigms of a shapeshifting universe.
I’d rather drown in an outrageous northern river,
slash my wetsuit and puncture my raft
than sail around the rest of my life in a system of locks
in a game of snakes and ladders. Money talks
and the silence walks like the darkness away from the stars.
Don’t devote your immensities to the sparkling of tinfoil.
But if that’s enough. It’s enough. Just as long as you know
that the shamans aren’t going to waste good magic on you
if an obvious fraud is enough to satisfy you
and the water sylphs won’t reveal their picture-music
like muses with something to sing about if you’re afraid
to plunge in and get wet pearl diving for the new moon
that’s been growing like a sacred syllable under your tongue
for more light years than you’ve had occasion to regret
you couldn’t hold your breath in your own depths for that long.
The mystery of the wellsprings of life and inspiration
is that it only receives swords that have been broken in tribute
to the fact that everything must be returned in time
not words or lives that can be retrieved from the river
to be used again in a recycled holy war that never leaves a scar
worthy of the blood you had to spill to lose it
as if the singularity of your devotion didn’t mean it
or the gatekeeper hadn’t informed you on your way in
that poetry, like the heart it takes to live it, is all entrance. No exit.