IS SILENCE THE NEGATIVE SPACE OF WORDS
Is silence the negative space of words,
darkness, the stars? A fact is just a fact,
static and inanimate, until it moves and breathes,
a dynamic of the mind, sinks into the heart
and mingles in a confluence of the nuances
of chaos that characterize each one of us
in solitude, is it alive, one eye plucked out
of a voodoo doll, a sunflower at a black mass,
a fable of truth in time that time, too, will pass.
Venus and Jupiter near Spica in Virgo
and Arcturus in Bootes, still stand offish
as it was through the canopy of branches
of the black walnut trees this summer.
The worst place to discover your loneliness
is when you’re dancing like the new moon
in the old moon’s arms, and it’s the old moon
that’s having all the fun. Everyone wants to
fly with the waterbirds. The third eye of the river
turns itself into a simulacrum of the sky, but still,
it only runs. As the star that would efoliate
like the starclusters of the New England asters,
merely burns like a chip off the focus
of a magnifying glass in the hands
of inquisitorial children cooking butterflies.
Here is a bend in the Tay River about ten miles
outside the town of Perth. When is another
cold night on earth I had to get out of the house
to bathe my nuclear cabin fever in the heavy water
of the moon washing over me as if a lunatic
were immune to the craziness of going sane.
Why is the content of life that counter balances
death’s bad sense of timing. How is a matter
of doubting the cure and trusting the pain
to turn you into someone you could never imagine.
The fish don’t jump. It’s Lent for the blackflies.
The leaves have torn up their book. The retina
of the river is partially detached. There’s
more resentment in the woods than there was
even a month ago. As if the only way
you could live here were by trespassing.
As I do, furtive as a fox, wary as a wolf
listening to the distant barking of farmyard dogs.
The air’s taken a vow of chastity that burns my face
in the warped clarity of the hottest part of the flame.
The atmosphere’s renewed its virginity
like a windowpane in an infertile November rain.
The grass brittle and the starmud hardened
into shards of pottery in a midden of ostrakons.
I’m exhilarated by the way I’m threatened
by my own vulnerability at the possibility
of being eaten alive by the elements, rather
than expiring slowly en masse like the hungry ghosts
of the homogeneous consumers back in town.
No place for an old man, maybe, but the young
don’t fare much better here either. Birth
is on the clock. No one’s born on the nightshift.
Only the salt lick left out for the deer
isn’t frosted like a cake in a famine
of mean-hearted snowflakes that don’t adhere
like toupees and wigs to the judicious skulls of the rocks
but blow off in any slight gust of the wind
like tears of dry ice that don’t know what there is
to cry about, and keep holding themselves back
like the locks out at Murphy’s Point or the boats,
their sails furled like daylilies and withered poems
at Rideau Ferry. Even the dragons that used to
feather the staghorn sumac in their flames
are barely a skeletal candelabra of wicks
that have gone out. Just the dendritic deltas
and bloodlines of dynastic lightning whose roots
go all the way back to the sky, but don’t
flash their sabres as much in the legendary storms
that once made them famous among
the usurped crowns of the sacred oak trees.
Laureled in poison ivy, their blood slows down
like the xylem and phloem of imperial Rome
wintering north of the Danube or Ovid in exile
on the Sarmatian shores of the Black Sea,
waiting for the Ister to freeze like a meat locker
while a tryst of sorrows pleads to be forgiven
for the joys they once took in living life erotically
as if frost-bitten toes were as close as he
were going to get to Augustan purple in his afterlife.
I wonder what my eyes have contributed to the stars,
what might have been added to their shining over the years
I’ve looked up at them, if anything at all,
in this inter-reflecting hall of incommensurable mirrors
warped by the mirages of my frozen tears
in this desert of snow grinding them into lenses.
Clear. Cold. Far things brought near out of the darkness
like moths and stars into the more intimate fires
of my heart. Per ardua ad astra, I reach for the stars,
the lamps and the urns, the eagles and swans,
and they scatter my ashes like a snow squall
along the Milky Way disappearing into a black hole
in a mindstream of its own like images of this occult art
of reviving my life by returning it to deeper, darker waters.