Wednesday, November 21, 2012



Five dolphins swimming off the bow of my forehead,
glancing encounters with the moon that lacquers their skin.
I’m in a lifeboat under the full sail of a blank page
just to keep up with them, though I know I’m moving
into deeper night seas of awareness, too far out
to make it back to shore in time to make the curfews
of the lighthouses trying to keep the shore-huggers apart
from the salvagers who run down to the shores in a storm
taking over from the mermaids like a nightshift of scavengers,
who want to run you up on the rocks just as surely
by holding their lanterns out like the tinfoil constellations
of false hopes on the event horizons of precipitous cliff walls.

I revel in the glee, the ecstasy, the rapture
that doesn’t mean anyone’s coming to save me
of running free with my imagination for the pure joy
of living with it as the only known antidote
to the decrescent moon that had its fangs pulled.
I give my flightfeathers up to the wind off the sea at night
like a seagull to a sky burial that sheds them like apple bloom.
Mediocrity thinks that words are the sounds you make
like the names of things when you’re beating
on a hollow log of a muse. Amplified echoes
of a weak pulse. Thunder without lightning. Life
without water and blood. Sex without lust.

But words are living creatures with an integrity
and mystic specificity of their own that don’t need
anyone’s voice to animate them, because
long before anyone was born to stick them like fingers
and things of the world into their mouths,
words were speaking for themselves
like nightbirds in the woods, the shriek of the hawk
as it whistles by like an arrow between the talons
of its parentheses, the hermit thrush and the mockingbird
that speak in the tongues of words they’ve cloned from sound.
How else do you think the fox in winter,
following the pheasants tracks learned to print,
and then later the leafless trees taught it cursive script?

Sweesh-ka-ka in Kwakiutl means robin.
You can almost hear it on a green bough
outside your window in the spring when the crows
from their island rookeries are squabbling for squatter’s rights
with hopeful migrants from the south of winter.
You can hear it in the way a star splinters on a moonless night
like a chandelier in an ice storm. I don’t write
as if I’ve been talking to foreign ministers all my life
with urgent messages from an abandoned embassy in Babylon
that shredded all its clay tablets like papers
for my eyes only to keep them out of the hands of my enemies.
Words aren’t memos to feel something you didn’t yesterday.
Or the gravestones of dead metaphors to help you recollect
things you’ve buried in your past like a bone box of loveletters.

Abracadabra. Grammar is magic. Words cast spells on the stars
that turn them into bulls and fish. Black and white magicians,
witches, sylphs, sibyls, incubi and sorceresses
that can curse or bless the dancing ballerina on top
of that music box you keep like a secret aviary in your larynx
to jinx the silence of a false dawn with the sound of rain.
Can’t you hear the mirrors crying to be liberated
from the same old reflections on love you bare before them?
Words aren’t a collection of old shoes you’ve shed in a closet
full of skeletons like flesh and snakeskins
you’re never going to wear again. However long
the firewalk you’ve got to go barefoot if you ever want
to wear wings on your heels whose flightplans
don’t need to be measured by the width of your feet.

Words are demons. Words are wounded angels. Words
are drunks slumped three stairs up on the fire-escapes of hell.
Words are dragons that swallow the cosmic eggs
of sacred syllables trying to break out of their shells
like fledglings. They’re not the vicars of your moral life.
They’re not forensic evidence of how wonderful you were.
They’re not the yarrow sticks that wrote the Book of Changes.
They’re not a memory system for the absently-minded
collective unconscious talking in its sleep
elliptically to archetypes of the definite article. Isn’t The . . .
enough of a biography to factualize the fictions
and fictionalize the facts of anyone over the course
of a lifetime drilling wells into a watershed of mirages
to get to the bottom of things like a shipwreck in a desert
when it rains? Everybody gets wordy about things
they know nothing about. In the beginning was the word
and so on and so on sound begat sound, but what gets lost
in translation like the prequel of the lightning flash
before the rolling thunder, is the genesis
of the imagination playing by itself in the dark
like a blind child listening to the rain on the roof
crying its eyes out for things that can’t be seen in the light.

Comb, coma, comet, comma. Ball, ballet, ballistic, symbol.
The dead word in the living voice of the undertaker
as he combs the hair of your corpse, isn’t poetry.
It’s just another night light on in a morgue
without a midnight or a dawn to know what hour it is.
Don’t be fooled by the luster of the polished stone.
Or the transparency of the crystal skull. The dark ore
conjures more stars to the window than the candle lures moths.
You miss the point of your seeing altogether like a black dwarf
if you go out to look at Orion on a winter night
and come back in singing the praises of your lenses.
The gold of the rainbow pours from the ore of the storm.
You don’t need to bury yourself alive to mine it
or make a sluice of your tongue, a forge of your heart
to refine it. Or open your mouth like Crassus
among the Parthians to wear the corona of your eclipse
like a sun that shines at midnight, coal in a wedding ring.

Five dolphins swimming off the bow of my forehead like Delphinus
nudging a poetic sailor who jumped over board from Job’s Coffin,
or the Black Turtle of the North to the Chinese astronomers
on a nightwatch without an astrolabe ashore
as Nicolaus Venator from Palermo repeats
his Latin name infernally backwards in the dark mirror
of the nightsky like the alpha and beta of its two brightest stars.


Note: The poetic sailor referred to is Arion, the poet reputed to have been saved from drowning by a dolphin. Nicolaus Venator is the Latin name of the astronomer, Niccolo Cacciatore, which, spelled backwards, was given to the two brightest stars of the constellation, Sualocin and Rotanev, though, modestly, only of the fourth magnitude.



Darkness, let me enter. Oblivion, open your arms.
Sweet liberty, lengthen my chain by light years.
Venus in the Pleiades, let me feel your charms.
I want to ride the light, o yes I do, as far as I can
toward some flowering of the mystery
I can add myself to and bloom as the stars do.
My most intimate familiar, solitude, eras of it,
yet it’s never known my name. My best feature
once you get pass the indignation and the anger,
compassion. And though love seems to me
the sum of many hearts, trying to express itself
as one, when have I not been a doorway to the dead?

When have I ever preferred my happiness
even as my last rainbow bridge went up in flames
and there was no where else to cross before the falls,
to that of the ironic beatitudes of the forbidden and the blessed?
Make me a star again one day with a few habitable planets,
each with at least one moon that can make me crazy as this one.
Promise? Promise me it will be so and mean it.
I will continue. I will keep on. I will endure like a mountain
that never capitulated volcanically to my own rage.
I’ll walk the road standing up. I’ll traverse it on my knees.
I’ll be the nightbird. The green bough. The apple bloom.
I’ve learned. I’ll listen. And when I’m overwhelmed by words,
I’ll give you my voice and let you speak for yourself.

Whoever, whatever, you are not or you are,
though I hear you’re too ineffable to get to know,
should the day ever come you want to disclose yourself
like a hidden secret that wants to be known,
I’ll understand that, I’ll be the night in your mirror
that shows you four hundred billion stars in the eyes
of as many life forms and more in the multiverse
than you can see without being astonished by the beauty
of all the secrets you’ve kept to yourself for light years.

Even if I’m just talking to myself like a waterclock
pouring my mindstream from one ear into another,
whether you’re there or not, or just the matriculated anima
of a pineal gland projected onto a holographic space time continuum,
and my spirit be no more than my own breath
condensing on the diminishing window of this cold sky
where I write the name of someone I’ve never met
with a frost-bit finger, longing for encounters I won’t regret,
let me flow into your awareness like a wavelength
into a river of light or let me burn in the immutable darkness
a firefly of thought, a thread of lightning, a distant star,
a thinning fragrance of a wildflower you might have known
a long time ago that reminds you of someone
so many changes away from anyone you’d recognize today.
I’m not looking for someone to whine to.
I’ve been omnidirectional since I turned forty-five
so I don’t need anyone to tell me where I’m going.
I’m not looking for a soft shoulder of the road to cry on.
After so many nights of laying my head
on this hard rock pillow of a world
that’s refeathering itself in scales and razorblades
I’m not dissing the occult wisdom of my consolation dreams.
The way it seems is the way it appears. Let it.
I grew up on the streets, drastically. I know how
to break a mirror in case of a catastrophe.

Just let me pretend for awhile out here in the woods
where I always feel as a human it’s the first day
of a kid in the schoolyard until I make friends with an owl
or the occasional, curious bush wolf wondering
what I’m doing so far off my natural turf, and why,
just like a dog from the city abandoned on a farm
I feel so disowned sometimes I should learn
to snarl back at the moon when it bares its fangs at me
instead of baying its praises to the rest of the asylum.

Just let me suppose for awhile that a poet
isn’t the orphan of the absurd, that there’s
a bloodline of meaning that still seeps into everything
like the dye of a black rose in the night that steeps the heart
in all frequencies and colours of the clear light of the void
that tastes like the mystic poetry of the waters of life
on the tongue of a stranger who’s just wandered in from the desert,
his lips dusty with the stars he’s been drinking
from an hourglass rimed with sand and salt.

I don’t want to receive everything only to find out
I prayed for nothing, so I won’t, but if you’re
the shapeshifting creatrix of subtle intelligence
I intuit you might be sometimes when I’m alone
with the stars like a childhood that hasn’t forgotten me,
and there’s a sudden breeze out of nowhere
that grazes the back of my neck like a sabre of the moon
so close I could swear we were lovers in another life,
light a candle for me somewhere in the universe,
and you be the light by which the light is known.
Show me your smile like moonrise on the lake.
Let me see your eyes in the rain, so inter-reflected
they can’t help shining out of everything as if
no one could keep you a secret for long, except you,
and for the moment, at least, I’m not accepting this.
Don’t care if I’m painting a lifemask to put on an abyss
of molecular indifference. You should see the tears
I’ve smeared under my eyes to save face
with the sacred clowns I’ve been from time to time.

You keep your distance and I’ll play hard to get as well.
You take one step toward me, and I’ll go the rest of the way.
Devotion’s always been a weakness of mine. One sign
and I’ll light up like an esoteric zodiac that just went electric.
I’ll meet you on a bridge at midnight, and I won’t forget
when fire comes down to the water’s edge, fire
has to use the bridge as well. Just tell me that you care,
if not for me, for all these humans that die like roadkill
stunned by the highbeams of oncoming circumstance
as if nothing in life, however rightly or wrongly,
however young or old the blood on the hands of the clock
that kills them as if they were as devoid of characteristics as you
could console them for the loss of what they dared to hold close.
That’s the gamma ray burst of the protest that has kept us apart
since my innocence first started bleeding in childhood
for the impersonality that mutilates 3.5 billion years of evolution,
the sum of all our infirmities and strengths, as if there were
nothing to cherish or venerate in us, like a homeless drunk
beaten to death on a fire-escape in a back alley just for the fun of it.

That’s the thorn in my heart. I watched my mother
half beaten to death three times by my father before I was seven
and it wasn’t you, it was me, that picked up the ax
to put a stop to it. Who could aspire to heaven
when that’s going on in the snakepit at your feet?
How do you return to your toy truck after
the cop cars and the ambulance has left with your mother
and the absence is so terrifying even the nightmares
don’t dare echo an answer that isn’t an atrocity of guile
that lies to a child about the good that will come out of it.

I’m sixty-four now and ever since my eyes were pryed open
like the petals of a flower that wasn’t ready to bloom yet,
everywhere I look, the indignity and ferocity
of intrusive happenstance inflicting itself upon life
with a few intermittent truces to lick our wounds
like razorblades in candied apples. Yes, I stand my ground.
Knock me down. I’ll get up again. And I’ll carry my pain
in my heart, in my voice, in my art, my blood, my arms,
in the urn of everything I’ve ever cherished
like a silver eagle, a placard, a birthmark back into the tear gas
of the last crusade that never had a chance, if I must,
until the human divinity that broke the seal of our suffering,
small as our light may be now, leaves an indelible impression
upon space and time, or you, if you’re there,
like the labyrinth of a fingerprint you can’t ignore.

And I’m not asking for an emergency exit,
just take the gate off the entrance and let everyone in
on the secret of why everything seems so brutally true
in the bright vacancy, dark abundance of your absence,
and I’ll dance with you in a garden on the moon
until the lemons turn blue as the wild grapes in late October
when you shall be my folly. And I shall be your fool.