Thursday, December 6, 2012



You take the solitude out of poetry.
You rob nobility of its grief.
You pursue an earthly excellence
like a posse, you hang poetry
like a horse thief with wings on its heels.
The nightbird no longer sings
about the way it feels to lose its voice
in an aviary of half-hearted appeals
begging bird seed like begging bowls
from the dawn. Something’s gone
from the light, when you deny
a moonrise its black pearl. It’s true
that orchids bloom in the shadows
of outhouses, and waterlilies in swamps,
but if you only want the star and not
the mud its rooted in like a brain,
the shining’s tinfoil, and it never rains,
all your Chanticleers are bronchial weathervanes.

The highest, most difficult path
isn’t for petty people. The trail
isn’t well worn or warm to the touch
of your bare feet firewalking the ashes
that bite like thorns of the reflexive wavelengths
of the red shifting snakes in the aftermath
of greater spirits. Even horned reptiles
can’t fledge an arrow with scales
without first turning them into feathers.

The snake’s got to achieve its wings
if it wants to fly with oxymoronic dragon sages.
If you suffer your dismemberments
like a picket fence losing its palings,
it doesn’t say much for the lion gate.
Maybe your sacred grove
with its toxic unicorn is nothing more
than a twig of kindling and a bundle
of firewood for a homeless oil drum
cooking stolen barnyard birds
stuck in their own throats like wishbones.
It’s well known Apaches don’t pluck chickens
to make war bonnets, and it’s hard
to convince paper lifeboats on the moon
they can still float, after the captain’s
jumped ship like a plague rat in 1348
and the defection’s beginning to catch on
like a popular meme of what it really means
for a flea circus to act great and black and tragic.

Celebrity bubbles keep rising like weather balloons
until they burst with a big bang
of narcissistic mythic inflation,
parachutes tangled like Medusan jellyfish
in their own powerlines, come back down to earth,
candling like condoms, wind socks
and withered daylilies off the charts
of their heart throbs on life support
that never got over the analeptic shock
of you letting them down like a dandelion
that roared as if it had a mane and teeth
to back it up when all else failed in diaspora.

Poets into gleemen, gleemen into entertainers,
entertainers into court jesters, court jesters,
into fools, fools into idiots, idiots
into morons, morons into experts, and experts
beating on a pinata of paper wasps
like Chinese lanterns and burning box kites
that don’t yield honey or wield their tiny stingers
to tilt quixotically at windmills and real dragons.
And then come the donkeys to the well
to see the well looking back at the donkeys
like the shameless celebrities who are famous
among crows and nightingales alike
for not being able to sing even so much
as a riff of an honest lullaby to themselves,
late at night, and they’re alone, and nobody
applauds the braying of a jackass at the moon
in front of a make-up mirror in the green room.

You can go to a Grateful Dead concert
and huff laughing gas like a muse.
You can moshpit your way to the front
of the crowd elbowing other people
out of the way to a seat on the celestial omnibus
that isn’t leaving for anywhere in particular
for a couple of thousand light-years yet.
You can piss on everyone’s parade
like the golden showers of Zeus
tinkling like a horse-haired glockenspiel
on their watercolours of starmaps in the rain.

You can act as if you’re mad when you’re sane.
A nasty being with a beautiful soul.
But you take the black hole out of poetry
you’re Orphically afraid of descending into
and try to fake it like a tunnel of love,
you rob the river of the sea, the road
of its homelessness, the bloodstream of its heart,
the galaxy of the sense of direction it’s had
from the very start like a prayer-wheel
turning into the wind like a jinxed Sufi
at the crossroads of where it all begins and ends.

You take the ore away from the gold.
You take the coal away from the diamond.
You liberate the star from its dendritic chains
of black matter in the darkness, the mystery
from the occult, the history from the bloodshed,
the eyes behind the mask you wear
like a fancy poultice at a costume ball,
the arsonist from the mouth of the fire swallowers
you surround with emergency exits and alarms
and stumpy fire hydrants waiting in attendance
like an ambulance upon a fire engine,
the poison in one fang for the sake
of the antidote in the other, you’re only
milking the crescents of the moon like a snake trainer
with a bird bone flute to bite other people
without taking a risk of dying of the spit
you drink out of everyone else’s mouths
like house wells you’ve been fracking for snake oil.

You want to die a trivial death, a volcano
buried in the caldera of a firefly, flaunt
your sex appeal in front of a jealous muse sometime
and try to convince her you’re as real
as the falsies in your padded bra
you’re palming off as poems. Or cod pieces
in the dancing leotards of prosthetic anacondas.
And she’ll show you soon enough
she’s not an inflatable doll on a long shipwreck
and you’re not the swan she’s going to stick
the copulative sibilant of her neck out for, when
the the double-bladed axe comes down
like the crone phase of the moon
on a chopping block of a real fox
inside the razorwire of a chicken coup
born running from the shadows of hawks.




How many ways can you die in a day?
How many ways do you want to?
As if things had been settled once and for all.
No one to say farewell to anymore.
Grey, this anonymous day that does not
serve me well, though you can never tell.
Sometimes the worst is for the best. Fat chance.

No more excuses. No more alibis. No more
reasons for why dying seems so much
more sincere than living this waterclock
of a life constantly shooting white water rapids
without an oar or a raft when everything’s on the line.
More a drainage ditch than a device for telling the time.
Too late. Too late. Too late. No flowers in the fields.
No stars in the sky as a sign of things to come.

I look around. Circumspectly numb. Is this
wisdom, or just the calm before the storm?
All the snowmen are gone. Am I the last dolmen?
Tired the rocks. Of never having anything to build on.
Weary the air. Of this labyrinth of ins and outs.
And sad, sad, sad, this sea of oblivious awareness,
almost sweet, that accepts us as a matter of course.
The pursuit of an earthly excellence, even achieved,
isn’t much of a success in the world’s eyes.
You can hope, though I’ve come to understand
that hope like despair is often more of a curse
than a blessing. Like those little blue clearings
in a grey sky that somehow seem to make things worse.

Me? I turn to something like this poem
when I’m alone in the abyss in the absence
of any other way to exist except as a gesture
of absurdity, and maybe with no suggestion
of changing anything, an existential protest
against circumstances that progressively don’t resist
but insist nevertheless on a form of repressive tolerance.
On the principle that if I know the name
of my enemy, when my enemy is merciless,
a word, a single name, an atom, a photon of insight
is enough to empower me to transcend it.

But even that’s growing a little thin these days.
No insulation on the heart of the dragon.
No up or down to it anymore, just one long flat line
like a horizon with no rolling hills
bluing in the distance cyanotically like frost bite.
Stern the windows like moral lessons left unlearned,
grimed by the weather and the world. Real estate offices
decked out in flags as if they were the last
true nations on earth. Can’t even bury your dead
by the side of the stream where they caught minnows
in the early spring run-off every year as an excuse
to get outside, without somebody holding their hand out
pleonaxically for more and more and more.
I want to slam the coffin lid on their fingers
and make them gnaw on a crystal skull immune
to maggots. Let the maggots go hungry for awhile
and shrivel up and die like emaciated commas.

Further out at sea, ineluctably, the flood pours over me
caught up in the undertow of the providential tides
I took at the full but are now sweeping me away
like a mirage in a desert, salvage under the flying carpet
of this derelict shore. I’m somnambulistically
piloting myself through the reefs of a waking coma
and it’s better the less I feel what’s happening to me
than it is that I do. Soma sema. The body a tomb.

What could Orpheus bruised like deadly nightshade
by the glare of the unnuanced day, in for the night,
with less than he left with, possibly hope to attain,
his eyes adjusting to the darkness within, his voice
to the dread silence that wears it like a death mask,
but the right to exhume his own remains in a land
of dark jewels like the tears of the dead, without
looking back at where he’d displaced his own
prophetic head like a skull in the firepit of a moonrise?

Ably said. If the cold doesn’t go through your bones once,
how can there be apricot blossoms in the spring?
But what happens if the ice age keeps repeating?
Do these latter day dire wolves gather waiting
for the vintage blood, that tastes of fear and panic,
for a baby mammoth to thaw its way out
of a glacial crevasse that’s breaking water like a mother
that gave it the best she had without meaning to?

All these post-mature, amniotic fluids are turning to glue.
The waterclocks are slowing down. The lockmasters
have swallowed the skeleton keys of our ups and downs
like anchors in drydock. The hull of my moonboat
is being refitted with coral on the bottom, and sharks
in the nightshift cafeteria are playing ping pong
with my rudder and a fishing net in a valley of shadows
between the sundial and the sun, not one burning bridge
between here and forever, to stand on and watch
the river run between one extreme and the other
like a balanced approach to life that took the initiative
into its own hands like the ghost feeling of an amputee.
Orpheus remembered by dismembering his poetry.

What would the white-robed priests say about
exstasis then, if he ate of the little tree, the fly agaric,
amanita muscaria, ephedra, rust on the wheat, the apple,
haoma, or any one of a number herbal options,
and became as one of the gods of vulture capitalism
circling the sky burials of neolithic Turkey
where the victim is always a poor substitute
for the sacrificer? A scapegoat fattened on food stamps.
Or the ambrosia of macaroni and cheese.
O Great Artificer, explain that to me. How it
comes about that it isn’t the meat, the ram, the lamb
that reaches your nostrils, but the piety of the event?
Do we die and go to a foodbank for the poor
as unwanted at the end as we were at the beginning,
scraps off the altars of other people’s religions?
Do our bodies rise up to heaven like incense to you?