Monday, November 19, 2012



Having walked out of one millenium into the next,
an illegal immigrant crossing the border,
an alien wearing the desert for a watch,
the nights are no darker, the mornings no more
unforgivably beatific. As before and before
and before the days go by,
jaded ambulances and women I will never know,
though I come on like a freshly painted crosswalk
with two virgin passports
and a green card to pick lettuce on the moon.

Eschatologically deranged,
I was prepared for a big change
that no one else would notice, not the debt-collecting goons
of Apocalypse and Armageddon
that show up at the door
to break your kneecaps like fortune-cookies
if you’re not homeless by tomorrow, not
the rotten needlepoint of those old dooms,
but something with stars and grass and wild water
a bag of pot, wine, cigarettes and a woman beside me,
midnight at noon, charging the air
with the sexual wyrd of her approaching eclipse.
I thought, what the fuck, everyone’s entitled
to a soft sundial
in the available dimension of the future
even if it’s de rigeur to cultivate the bleak,
and who knows, I might start a trend.
Let no one divulge the improbability of a dream.

Now I’m eleven years into the twenty-first century
and my heart is a nightwatchman in a morgue
looking for a flashlight in the dark,
trying to keep the light on long enough
to see if I can recognize anyone.

There are more ways than one to get home,
or so I tell myself leaving the solar system
like a space probe
into the indigo realms of the open,
packed with symbols and curios
that might pass for signs of intelligence
should I meet a sphinx.

I’m grounded in the emptiness,
a seed on the wind with nowhere to root.
And though I may have unfolded like a flower
in the radiance of the sun,
I was dropped from a bridge
into a river that has no banks
by the hand of a faithless lover.

Exiled by exiles into exploration
I keep sending back pixels and poems,
postcards from the edge of nowhere,
but I don’t know if anyone is listening
as the earth recedes
to the perfect point of a vertex
and disappears among the stars.

And it’s not that I’m running away, it’s just
that oblivion is sometimes a means
of keeping things in perspective
as I proceed deeper into these dwarfing spaces,
an ambassador with a suicide note
from a self-destructive planet
screaming out for attention. Contact.
A universe we can panic into caring,
something astounding
that knows how to love
in a way we couldn’t manage, a brilliance
that doesn’t horde armies in the shadows,
an enlightenment that isn’t a growlight in a closet.

But do forgive the voyeurism of my longing
for something better than I left,
there are no echoes here
and no one burns a candle in the window,
or slips a tormented apology under the door
to heal the wound of my departure
with the sin-eating maggots
of beautiful lies. Not to rehearse
old catastrophes on a revolving stage in modern dress,
the litany of horrors on the playbill,
or waltz with the heavy velvet
of theatre curtains at a gala of crude beginnings in a mosh-pit,
the metaphors all elbows and bullies,
and the music, the head-banging metronomic mania
of amplified crustaceans, a swan-song for Nazis,
but the history of our encyclopedic species
is still the unholy shriek
of a cosmic ape in an abattoir and our indifference,
the universal background radio hiss
of the big bang reduced to a whimper,
the white noise that attunes this cacophony
of crime and folly and war to our stupefied silence.

I’ve been gone for such a long time, tell me,
are the gas-chambers empty, do we still
turn humans into soap
to wash the blood from our hands, have
the concentration camps been closed in the off-season,
do the children still drink from sewers
and play hide and seek
in a garden of ripening land-mines,
the stumps of their arms and legs,
the Venus de Milos and Apollo Belevederes
of savaged dolls? Is hunger
still the direction of prayer for millions,
and disease the fly that shadows them?

How is it with the rich man and the poor?
Is the daughter of one
still the whore of the other
in charity matinees for medicated mothers?
Does dawn still prime the ghosts
in the mass graves of empty wallets?
Are the young still free
to find their way in the world like roadkill,
or has ignorance squared the circle at last
and turned the corner on depravity?

Do the corporations still own the rain in Bolivia,
and patents pending on the genes
of hybrid animals, logos and slumlords
in the ghettos of gravity? Tell me,
before I mistake a garbage barge
for an island in the distance,
are the budgets of small countries
still awarded to movie stars and athletes
for a trivial excellence
while seventy-five million people die of AIDS
in the next five years of global warming
and there’s a young genius
with a cure and an answer
dying of cancer in front of a firing squad?

Do the teen-agers in Bagdhad
still draw the contagion out
with a poultice of explosives
while adolescents on ecstasy in L.A.
desiccate their spinal fluids
in a Roman orgy of wheelchairs?

Are the redneck rap-stars of rural Perth,
the ‘wanna be’ pimps with faces like cow-pies
still sharing infected needles
behind the empty foodbank?
Has anything been settled?

Are the generals satisfied
and the purse-snatching governments
weary of stealing from their own?
Is there a school
that doesn’t drink spit from another man’s mouth
for anyone with a mind, a science
that isn’t the bitch of money and power,
a religion that doesn’t teach a child to cower,
an art that isn’t the atrocity of the hour?

Look me straight in the eye
like a satellite or the Hubble scope or Houston
and tell me has anything changed
with the falling of these first few grains,
the last eleven years of my dwindling out
in the new era of the hourglass? Are the old
still wise alone behind a wasted windowpane
and experience an ore the fools cannot refine?

Are children taught to crave
before they learn to give
and the trees of the city still in concrete and chains?
Are the cruel romanced
and the gentle scorned, the best
belittled, and the least exalted?

Are there old men in the park
trying to stare themselves to death
and five hundred chemicals in the very next breath,
is the sky a cataract, the rain a poison tear,
the earth, contaminated real estate?

When we turned the page
of the voluminous century
to read on in search
of indubitable proof
of our renewable virginity
were the hundred million people
we killed in the last saeculum
of our genocidal curriculum
somewhere in the footnotes?

But you needn’t answer that.
I’m only talking to myself
in this huge, mute, brutal place
where the earth isn’t even a microbe
and time is defied by the enormity of space
that lies before me like an ancient future
that has already happened here and now
faster than light
and disappeared without a trace
a waterbird, or the shadow of something in the night,
or a flame the fire gave to the wind,
or the name of someone written in sand,
who tried to understand
the long disgrace of the human race
through years of rage and tears,
and sent out like a dove to look for land,
epochs of blood in the murderous starmud,
buried his face in the valley of his hands
where he used to pray for deliverance,
and nothing to say that would make a difference
left, unmanned.




All these busy, busy entrepreneurial poets
trying to substitute their usefulness for talent.
If you can’t sing well enough to bear your own voice
to get lovers and applause on your own merits,
manage a band, control those who can,
network like gyspy moths in a Dutch elm,
take two creative writing courses
from a narcissistic mystagogue projecting
the fraud of the Wizard of Oz on the unsuspecting
listening to a firefly of talent talking like a starmap
about shining, about black holes and supernovas
dark energy and gravitational eyes, and the myriad galaxies
he teaches on the lower rung of a swing
in an institutionalized aviary of higher learning
as if the closest he’s ever been to the light
was a dead starfish among the usual relics of a low tide
or sodden firecrackers of insight on a Halloween night.
He teaches you to take out whatever there was never much of
to put in. To strike the definite article
like crab grass out of your well-mown lawn
so you ending up writing in the patois of a robot.

Listen to this swarming starcluster of gnats
in the sunset of the word that’s wondering
where all the songbirds went. Maybe it’s me
and I’ve grown reactionary without knowing it
into a vicious old age but I swear my stomach
can’t turn another page of a saddle-stitched chapbook
that reads the tea leaves in the broken skull-cup of the moon
like a bowl of soggy cornflakes that taste like breakfast haikus.
You can’t live like a maggot and write
like a wounded dragon of the soul. You can’t
paint a tsunami in watercolours and claim you know
what it’s like to be caught up in the emotional undertow
of a tidal pool that threatened to sweep you out to sea
until your guru or your shrink reminded you like a tugboat
you have to sink before you can call yourself a shipwreck.

I think of Van Gogh. I think of the intensity of a man
of immense humanity, and it occurs to me if he were sitting
on your saffron sectional in your coffee-book living room,
going on obsessively about the nutritional value of cadmium yellow
you’d commit the same sin of omission and condemn him
to his solitude like an asylum for the underfed
listening to the voices in their head telling them
they’re better off mad or dead than living on
the aesthetically modified junkfood
you drop in their begging bowls like chump change.
And, o yes, wouldn’t you just be the exception to the rule
who knew how to tell the difference between a sad joke
and the rage of a sacred fool eating his palette like buttered toast.
I think of all the poets that have been crucified
as a proxy for you like kings and queens of the waxing year,
as you try to step into their shoes like the waning twin
who isn’t Orphically dismembered between July and December
to ensure the creative fertility of your cloned cornflakes.
Merd! Rimbaud screamed as he stuck a knife
through the hand of a pompous muse-molesting poetaphile
and abandoned his rational dissociation of the sensibilities,
denying he ever wrote poetry, to run guns in Ethiopia.
A temper tantrum over the point size of your name
on a poetry poster and the publishing hierarchy
that sorts the planets out from the shepherd moons
by the order in which you’ve been asked to read
isn’t the same as the creative demonism of a real enfant terrible.

You can’t rent a ghost in a creative writing class
and then wear its deathmask around as if your persona
were tragically haunted by the past. Or pretend
you’re a bad ass from a bourgeois suburb where
the closest you ever got to a slum
was your Mommy’s makeshift studio basement
and an album cover you shot on the wrong side of the tracks.
Fifteen minutes of fame in a photo op with a candleflame
isn’t enough to shed a lot of light on a regressively darkling world,
or even turn the head of a single sunflower.
You need more than a flashlight to get a rose to bloom.
You might be the loudest toad on the biggest lily pad
in a small pond, sounding off like popcorn
in the lobby of your own double-feature,
but you lick your sticky fingers clean with a long tongue
when you sup with the devil like an award-winning liar
and there’s no long oar of a spoon in your lifeboat.
And even when you claim to be a damselfly in distress
I don’t see any starmud caked on your winged heels
after you say you crushed the head of the snake
that bit Persephone in the spring while she gathered wildflowers.
You might sleep with the Lord Of Jewels, but who said
you could sing? Though I like the bling
of all your dangling participles ringing like wind-chimes
in synch with the dissonant cosmic hiss of universal bliss.

Kunaikos. Dog. In classical Greek. Diogenes the Cynic
asked Alexander to get out of his light, not turn it off
because the music was over and all there was left to glean
were the random seed words of an abandoned alphabet
that will never come to flower like sacred syllables
in the mouths of scavenging birds pecking among the pebbles
at the feet of a crucified scarecrow where the literati
are rolling snake eyes for the emperor’s new clothes.
What did Horace say when he’d had enough?
Terence, this is stupid stuff. As the cynics bark
like barnyard dogs at every shadow and blade of grass
that moves in the dark woods beyond the knotted chains
of their dying dactyls while the wolves bay elegiacally at the moon.

Which page of this book did you suffer the most to write?
Clever the way you put the climax of the narrative on the cover.
Best place to hide is out in the open. And, my God,
just look at the quality of the quotes you’ve
called into court like a twitter account to verify
your inability to write an alibi for why
your works aren’t literate enough to speak for themselves.
Odious the stink of number 2 book paper and hot ink.
Worse the lack of the use of your nose when you’re writing.
Or the way you abuse your eyes by looking at the world
through a glass darkly as if you were aging the wines of life
like a total eclipse of the new moon in an antique inkwell
no one draws inspiration from anymore since the bottom
fell out of the bucket when you replaced the Pierian spring
with an unenlightened fire hydrant in a volunteer fire brigade.

And who more reasonable than you about
all the aesthetic atrocities going on in the world.
When murder is done I know of no one
more eloquent than you about not raising your voice
for fear of polarizing the situation unnecessarily.
But peace isn’t a euphemism for cowardice
and if your words aren’t guilty of precipitating a confrontation
then your critically acclaimed silence is complicit.
When did the sheep start practising hunting magic?
When did the m.b.a.s start chanting like Druids
and the gleemen of the king make a jest of their calling?
Are you still experimenting with taking all those
tiny fractals and digital pixels of retinal experience
and one day elaborating them by cutting and pasting
into a unified field theory of the visionary continuum
that focuses on the infrastructure of the scaffolding
at the expense of Michelangelo who had to scramble up on it
like monkey bars in a playpark to paint the origin of the species
as he saw it in his imagination before the plaster dried?

Here, if you give me an award, I’ll make one up of my own
and give it back to you in return. That way everyone
can feel special about their mediocrity. Watch out, Mozart
here comes the lunar fire of the lime they throw on your corpse
like desiccated moonlight before the dirt. Burn, baby, burn.
The fire hydrants are learning to play the harpsichord like amputees.
And Keats is trying to pick out a more buoyant font
than the lead of his despair to write his name in water.
The roots are dead, the leaves are gone, the blossom flown,
the fruit has dropped and the branches dry and brittle
as an old woman’s bones. Pageants of funeral barges
floating down the Thames like the wilting lilies
of long-necked swans that used to make
the most beautiful compound bows out of the arrows
of their fletched reflections. The timber clear cut
and the underbrush flogged to death by the bush hogs
and snarling chain saws in the mountains of the muses.
What do you think, is Shakespeare still out there somewhere
leafing the stumps with the magic rods of his imagination?
Is all the world still a stage, the airy nothing
he gave a local habitation and a name, or merely the dream
of the crone mother of the muses on her death bed, Mnemosyne,
reaching for a cellphone, trying to remember who she was
before they erased her on facebook and disconnected the internet?