Sunday, November 4, 2012



Tarred and feathered by your own words
or basted and rolled in stars until you were sugar-coated
on everyone’s tongues, you remain a stranger to yourself
just the same. Nothing further from home than fame.
Notoriety just another unconvincing disguise
for your emptiness. A deathmask that never quite fits.

I remember the day I gave away all of my books
like a life raft I’d built to get to the other side
of the sewer that aspired to be a clean mindstream
to a coke-bound woman who needed them
more than I did to sell for drugs. Book awards
I’d won as a welfare kid in grade school.
I let them go, I let them go, I let them go
like a dragonfly emerging from its chrysalis.
I wanted to see what was standing on the other side
of me and them. Rid myself of my compendious identity
by exorcising the library of its most infamous ghosts,
mine among them. I shed them like scales
of snakeskin that hadn’t evolved into the flightfeathers
of birds yet. A whole cemetery of well articulated gravestones
shelved like a jury of hung witnesses setting their own precedents.

After light years of isolated incarceration in the scriptorium
when the midnight sun burned within me like candlelight
and I was consumed by the blazing like a moth
going crazy among the stars, I wanted to live
under the law of my own imagination even if it were
to have none. Walk skinless in the world, clear
of the mummies at last, like a wild rose in autumn
carrying its own ashes in a green urn with the withered star
of a jester’s cap on top like another clown nobody
knew very well, least of all me. No inside. No outside.
No forwarding address that could haunt me like a bill
I owe to the past. No medium trying to find my own voice
among the myriads of those that I’d summoned.

A whisper of earth worms in the grass and a wall came down.
No more gates that ask you to abandon everything
when you leave your soul on the threshold
like the windshield of a spiritual vehicle with starmud on it.
The mystic turned inside out, happy to be earthbound
to a specific time and place. To see his own face
like a lifemask carved out of accumulated projections
like a hologram of the pineal gland when the third eye
is sitting for its own portrait. If you stare long enough
at anything, it will begin to look like you after awhile.
I stopped peering into the dark, looking for signs,
when I discovered I was the revelation I was waiting for.
Presence of mind. Hamlet was right. Awareness is all.
Ghosts in the mirror, pale fire to the blind,
won’t burn on the moon however you blow on the flames
like a dragon with a ferocious sense of compassion.
But ripeness will come in time like a windfall
of glowing embers to a winter solstice that longs
for the heartwood of what it remembers of the life behind it.
Dismembered like a wardrobe for disobeying the sumptuary laws,
I let my Orphic skull bob all the way
like a black walnut to any uninhabited island
that had never seen the new moon rise before.
I came ashore as if I’d just been keel-hauled
down to the bone on the hull of my own lifeboat.
And though I’d slipped my moorings, I was
still singing like the cries of the waterbirds lyrically
that knew of the long night sea journey ahead
I had yet to go before I was wholly beyond myself
and everything that was said that was worth listening to
after that, took on a life of its own hardly distinguishable
from what the dead thought they were going through.

I was interdependently originated by everything else.
In this desert of stars, I stopped chasing mirages of light
and started drinking real water from my own two hands
as if I were holding them up to the mouth of humankind.
The man or woman who knows, aren’t the ones
who understand. Until you’ve deepened your ignorance
of the mystery of life and your thought waves
are crashing in a rage of breakers against the sea walls overhead
you’ll never know the ease of those who drown and drift in it
like the unpredictable undertow of a black hole
draining the stars like water in a Sufi whirlpool.
You’ll remain a shore-hugger and all your crystal skulls
will cry themselves to sleep at night like tidal pools
cluttered with the relics of those who died at sea.
And all your creativity observe the protocols of salvage.
And all that light turn into a false dawn
scrying lightbulbs in a lantern as lost as you are
until it’s lit up by the fireflies and stars that shine
brighter for the wayward stranger, than someone
who clings to the path like the last
remaining wavelength of the blind
to see where they were going like an optic nerve
that didn’t have the axons it takes to wander off without a guide
through your own mountains and valleys
shaped out of the starmud along the banks
of your own mainstream in the course of time
like a waterclock passing the word around
like the Milky Way from mouth to mouth,
that we’re all drinking from the same watershed
as the dead with tears in their eyes, who took a different route
and those with stars in theirs that their tears just can’t put out.




Even when the road is missing
like the absence of God, or a woman I love,
I praise that emptiness for the freedom it accords me
to create a way of my own like a river of stars
and for the universe it’s left me
like a travelling companion I couldn’t improve upon.

The gate shut, the door closed, the window locked,
I slip a key to a poem under the welcome mat
and say my house is your house anytime you call
and then go get drunk with the moon down by the lake.

And after awhile we’re laughing at ourselves,
rolling in the leaves like the groundswell
of two happy vagrants with homeless hearts
making off with our lives for free as if
we’d just pulled off some cosmic B and E.
without leaving any sign of culpability behind,
except for the joy of our felicitous crime.

And when my moonboat’s in port for repairs
like bedsheets in a backyard fleet of laundry on the line,
I don’t mind being land locked for awhile.
I just take a walk along the shore of the lake
and gather moonlit feathers
from the scales of the waves
that have evolved from raptors into swans,
and binding them together
like Daedalus did for Icarus,
take a joy ride into the sun at midnight
not really caring too much about whether
I’m at zenith or nadir as long
as I’m transiting something akin to a threshold.
The sun can hold Venus on a short leash,
and me on the chain of my spine
like a barnyard dog barking at wolves
trying to tempt it deeper into the night
but the last crescent of the moon
will cut right through them both
like the umbilical cords of a new life
where we can both roam free
like rogue planets from star to star.

Empty-handed and full-hearted I come by day
to a low place looking for fire
from the daylilies with a bucket and an urn,
because I’m so tired of what I’ve had to do
to stay alive for the past fifty years as a serf of poetry
to keep it a calling, instead of a career,
and suffer the consequences of not attending to it
as a business that makes a profit off the stars,
but by night I’m a starling of creosote in a chimney
singing my heart out as if I wanted to eat it
because it has all the virtues of a noble enemy
and there’s no poetry or protein in the junkfood of fame,
though I think that might be a trifle ingenuous.

Impoverished Druid, you lean on a crutch for a tree,
as a flying buttress to your sacred folly,
and running out of time to avoid
a head-on collision with eternity
all your devotions the ghosts of yesterday,
you kick the stool from out under your feet
and garotte yourself from the bough of an oak,
like the berry of a single moon of mistletoe
and the last crescent of a golden sickle just out of reach
of the harvest season of the King of the Waxing Year.

Poor heart, what a battered shoe
of a vital organ you’ve become, a bone box
for the sacred skeletons of hummingbirds and elephants,
a Burgess Shale for the creative fossils and footprints
we both had to evolve through to come to this
inconceivable moment without a time scale
to measure how far it is from then to now
like the last leap of faith of the waterclock of life
into the abyss without a bucket for a safety net
or any deep assurance of even having a bottom anymore
to fall out of the ongoing over the edge of a precipice
as if even the rivers of Eden sometimes
had to seek release from it all and fall
even without a parachute to candle
like an exclamation mark all the way down,
a descent into hell creatively much to be preferred
than stagnating in paradise with nothing but apples to eat.

But still you know you won’t do it, given
the number of times now I’ve come running
with a chair and a rope to let you down
out of the window of a burning building
not knowing whether we were committing suicide
or I was running to your rescue as I always have.

Your daring has always said feathers and falling
has always taken wing like Pegasus before,
and what a wild strange radiant white water ride it’s been
across the high unbounded starfields of the shining
with Vega and Deneb goading us on
ever further like spurs of Spanish silver
just you and me, my blood brother, together
in the vastness of a mutual solitude.

My God, when I think of the flights we’ve taken.
When I think of the things we’ve seen,
and the orchards of sorrow that found more bliss
in the fruit than they did in the blossom.
And what did we ever write about all those stars
that didn’t declare how impossibly illiterate we are
compared to the lyrics of light and time and wonder
they’ve been singing all these lightyears
since I first opened my eyes to why I’m conceivably here,
though here can be anywhere by now like a bird
that loses its bearing under the stars everytime
it tries to get a fix on where it’s going like a photon
jumping orbitals like tree rings in a flash of insight.
When you’re light, when you’re foolhardily alive
you don’t need to pay heed to where you’re going
because there isn’t a single stage, place, or phase
that isn’t the destination of what you’re shining up at.

And I never thought the day would ever come
when sadness would sweeten into wisdom enough
to take pity on the mirrors like the eyes under our lifemasks
when we went down to the river to drink
our own reflections like faces from the lifeboat of our hands,
like a rain of mercy far out at sea far from the sight of land,
when we first began to understand how clarity like unity
can be broken down into little pieces of sand
that reflect the whole universe as readily
in their mystic particularity
as the stars and the sun and the moon do
when they lay their swords and feathers
and flying carpets like wavelengths of light
down in tribute to our third eye weeping its way to the sea.

And you were surprised, admit it, weren’t you,
to find so many white horses like you running ashore,
mustangs from the waves, to check out the new guy’s wings.
And me standing there like an avalanche of winged heels
wondering why I didn’t make as big a splash
and if all we walked away with was a detailed starmap
who could say the journey really wasn’t worth it?
Let the shore-huggers do what they want with it
to find their way around in the dark like fireflies.
Leave it to them. We were ever explorers
from the beginningless beginning to the endless end,
and we’ll rise up again on a gust of stars
caught up like a dust-devil at the crossroads of earth
and ascend on a thermal of the sun, the stairwell
of a star-studded chromosome that could
take a coil of flypaper and turn it into a poem.