TARRED AND FEATHERED BY YOUR OWN WORDS
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.