Saturday, November 24, 2012



No gravegoods in my solitude, no trinkets
from any spiritual world inside or outside this one.
The totem belongs to the dream that’s buried with it
as the flower’s engendered by the root it’s taken from.
Mind is matter. Matter is mind. And it isn’t as if
one is blind to the other because one shore
isn’t parted from the other by the flowing
of the mindstream in between. Try to separate
the reflection of the moon from water in a dream state.
The moon is a characteristic of water as the water
is a feature of the moon. If you want to mediate
until you turn the vertebrae of your spine into a bridge
to get to the other side of a life you’re already standing on,
that’s ok as long as it’s burning. Otherwise it’s just going
to obstruct your path when you’re shooting the rapids
of the Milky Way like your own spring run off
trying to saddle a rush of stars with a rudderless liferaft
and oars for spurs. Better to be a waterbird
with wings of your own, but what a thrill
to ride the snake until you can fly like a dragon
among the stars like Alcor and Mizar, the horse and the rider,
in the handle of the Big Dipper like a warrior Bedouin
testing his eyes on the dune of a tribal hourglass to see
if he can tell what hour it is by the dance of a distant binary.

It’s getting late. Nightwatch at the well. The town
unpeopled by sleep. A choir of train whistles
practising their inquisitive requiems at every crossing
like Canada geese migrating south when the autumn stars arise.
More lonely than mournful, I can taste the shadows
in the honey of life as readily as the light. I can smell
the fragrance of time like the first snowflakes
in a lover’s hair, trying to turn her into a constellation
to sweeten the night air. And even in the ashes
of the starmaps the shining sets afire
and scatters like a library in the urn of the heart
on a wind that carries away the passions of this art
of exhuming more life out of a shallow grave than went into it,
I can still burn in the dark like the ore
of undisciplined diamonds. I can still squander my light
on the eyelids of the fallen flowers like a final kiss farewell.

Time wastes a death on me. Years ago the wind arose
and blew that candle out in the open window
of an abandoned house and ever since I’ve been
drifting like a ghost of smoke in a diaspora of stars.
I bequeath to the rose, the blood of my wounds.
To the thorns of the moon, my scars. To the night
I leave my eyes. To the wind, my breath. My voice
to the nightbird whose longing put my lyrics
to the picture-music that’s haunted me all my life
like the song of someone who loved me once
before I was born and began to forget. But my heart
that I could judge the worth of like a bell bound to the earth,
or a feather of fire in hell, in the palm of my hand,
I give that to everyone like the windfall of a tree in a storm.

Black walnuts and wild apples. Solar systems
of peaches and pears in the leftover orchards
of organic gardens bearing the fruit of a habitable planet
at the autumn equinox of the New England asters
and modest suns of the Jerusalem artichokes
for the birds and the squirrels and the bears.
You can’t keep what you won’t give away
and it’s no good to you in a grave when it comes time
to throw yourself overboard to stay afloat
and weather the squalls on your own sea of awareness
like an empty moonboat drifting through the fog
calling out to anyone who’ll listen on the coast
of a new universe that discovers you like Atlantis
to a ghost of the old world looking for a passage
back to the more familiar labyrinth of home.

Liberation is freedom through creative form, not from it.
Liberation is life. And life is all entrance, no exit.
And you weren’t asked at the door for any i.d.
And no one’s going to stop you from lowering the fire escape
to get away from yourself. And if you were to ask
the mirrors of your own awareness, they’d stop staring at you
as if they’d never seen a new world savage before.
Everyone’s going to leave an empty chair at the table
sooner or later. Like the skull cup of the moon
you’ve got to pour your prophetic lees out upon the earth
if you want to give your abundance another chance.

You can make lanterns out of fireflies in canning jars
or you can abandon them to the spiders
in the corners of your eyes like dreamcatchers and kites,
but if you want to shine of your own accord,
albino fish in the darkest depths with stars in their eyes,
you’ve got to see the sun flowering at midnight,
you’ve got to greet Venus in the Pleiades at dawn.
You’ve got to unsilver the mirror like a stripper
until you disappear like a bird in the house of life
through an open window like a crack in a cosmic egg
to feel the vastness of the sky that transcends
the limit of your wings. Despite the eye-witness
in the mirror, where time is always in arrears to eternity,
you’ve got to give it all up like your shining reflection
if you want to stay here for your own protection.




I wake up late again. 3 pm. More afraid
of what the world can do to me in the light
than in the dark of the night. Depressing grey
of the clouds smeared on the windows
like the salt and dirt of last winter
still clinging to my third eye where the rain
can’t reach to wash it off. Why is dread
always the alloy of the pain I feel
as soon as I open my eyes to the devastation
I have made of my life, to write something real
in fire and roses and ashes and blood, to pursue
an earthly excellence from world to world
well beyond the bounds of an ugly life
out of the suicidal folly of staying true to an art
that’s keel-hauling me like the moon
over the hull of my own heart encrusted
by the corals and worms of my worries and griefs,
the gnawing anxieties knotting nooses
in the frayed shoelace of my spinal cord?

And the only ray of light at the end of the tunnel,
this stoic sword that’s always tempting me
like an exclamation mark, to fall upon it like a man
and put an end to this long apprenticeship
in a guild of sacred clowns. Put the pen down.
Leave the page blank. Take my hands off the wheel
of this apocalyptic moonboat in a pyschic storm
of stars arising in the desert every hundred years
like the lost imam of a long-awaited mahdi
surrounding Khartoum like a galaxy of dust and doom
being swept up into the black hole of a vacuum
nature abhors. I steel my will like the sabre of the moon
and imagine I’m anti-heroically carrying on
this long-standing, counter-intuitive aesthetic tradition
of winning every battle and still losing the war.

Just once I’d like to surrender before
shooting out the stars, raise this white flag of a page
and say here, take my sword, give it back to the lake
I found it at the bottom of beside the herb of immortality
the snake stole from Gilgamesh, bursting his bubble
as soon as he came up and fell asleep on the beach,
exhausted by the trouble he’d gone to to underwhelm death.
As I do, night after night, in a living coffin
of a smoke-filled room, shedding my life
like the scales and skin of an old circumpolar dragon
trying to keep the horns and stars of its constellation,
dry as powder above the uneventful horizon
of the false dawns in the whites of their albino eyes.

I play with my kitten. I talk to my goldfish.
The walls are lined with a thousand books
I never want to read again, including my own. I attend
to the voices in my head by the third summons
and wait for the mercy of nightfall to put an end
to my relentless beginning. I never wanted
to suffer the humiliation of another art martyr,
still too angry at what happened to the solitude of Van Gogh
for the cheap consolation of a guilt-ridden reputation
he doesn’t even know he has. I live and work in protest
of all the good reasons I have not to paint and write.

I know I’m diving for pearls on the moon.
I’m saying a mantra of sacred syllables over and over
again to myself, like a rosary of eclipses I made
to remember the names of God in the echoless valleys
of an eyeless abyss. But she doesn’t care
if I can’t bring myself to paint another panicked wolf
to make up what I owe on the rent. Or feel like the farce
of another domestic morality play of my uncommon sense
in overcoming my biological imperative to live
by writing another poem in my own breath
diminishing on the cold window
in this neglected orphanage of literature
where I’ve grown too old to be discovered,
and too accurate about my darkest prophecies
to believe that Venus is ever going to cast my shadow again
like the lyric of another heartwarming loveletter
on this blanched page of snow on a moonless night
at twenty below the worst case scenario
of the frozen thermometer that’s become of my bloodstream.

O, yes, I still dream of some random fluke of circumstance,
some crumb of luck in the corners of my eyes when I awake
every day to the same recurring nightmare of white magic
sounding the depths to find Moby Dick and remove
some of these harpoons like tacks from a starmap,
needles from the eyes of a voodoo doll, axial pins
through the thorax of transfixed butterflies
like the critically acclaimed collected works
of a posthumous die hard with a rock solid alibi
for what I’ve done to myself in the name of poetry.

If it weren’t for the indignity of the past fifty years
of my prolific life in art, I wouldn’t have
any self-respect left to live up to the aristocratic penury
of the birthmark on my heart that singled me out
to wear this laurel of stinging nettles to the grave.

Three bucks for a loaf of genetically modified
twelve grain bread, two cans of tuna, 1.07$ each,
ranch dressing, 1.57$, and a buck for three lighters
because I haven’t got matches to light a candle
to smoke a cigarette-butt from the midden of the ashtray
at three in the morning, when nothing’s open
but Mac’s Milk and the wound of a penniless poet,
contemplating maggots in place of commas
to keep it as clean as a run-on sentence
as he searches the lean windows for a star
like a blue jay gleaning a leftover sunflower
over the blockade of tar paper rooftops
starving the eyes until one window asks another
for news of the sky out of sight of the heritage lamp posts.

The silence sings like a stave of hydro lines in the rain
this dark hour of the morning dogpaddling toward dawn
when the ghouls will fill my mailbox
with discounts on a funeral I still can’t afford,
as a way of thinking ahead on behalf of a family
that doesn’t belong to me anymore if it ever did.
And God forbid I importune my loved ones with death.
And the longer you live, the less your suicide means
to anyone interested in the arts. I’m intrigued
like a landlocked sailor in the desolate music
of irreconcilable extremes as the furnace pipe
knocks and taps and snaps its untimely rimshots
like someone practising the drums like the pulse
of a damaged heart, or ice cracking like my lifelines
under the next step I take toward the blowholes
of the mermaids who don’t sing to me as well as they used to
clubbed to death like baby seals shrieking in e minor
the moment they come up for air and open their mouths.