Saturday, December 8, 2012



Sometimes the deeper I’m lost the happier I seem.
Missing. I go looking for myself
with Mason jars full of fireflies and a crystal skull
I send out like search parties into the woods
but I’m getting more selective as I get older
about who finds me. I’m a lighthouse
cowled in the hoody and cape of an eclipse.
A sinister cardinal with a heart of gold
that’s been burnished in the forges of hell.
I doubt if I’m anything at all except
the bone rack of the skeleton I climb up on
to paint new provisional creation myths
to accommodate the growing sensibilities of the stars.
I keep tearing myself down and building myself up
as occasion and opportunity require.

Known a few angels that got in my way for my own good
but said, no, you’re looking for my brother, Jacob,
and went on limping my own way with the old demons
that keep things running smooth as the last ice berg
of a comet in an ice age riding its own thawing
like global warming breaks the spirit of a wild glacier.
It’s not a warning. No one needs to convert the Roman Empire.
The stars come out in the dark. The flowers
come out in the light. I’ve got a damaged heart
but there’s more art in the bruise than in the caress.
You let the dead speak through you. You can hurt your voice.
And what the living who accuse you of putting words
in their mouths like cockatoos in the aviary of a zoo,
have to say for themselves, when called to account,
is self abuse however you try to dissuade them.

The way of the stump is the jedi of trees in a swamp.
I’m rooted like a molar in a lower jawbone.
I’m the sunken caldera in the archipelago
of an island hopping volcano and I’ve got my fault lines
like a small delta of tears reaching the sea
in the corners of my landlocked, Mongolian eyes.
Most of my genes have come to me as a surprise
from my ancestry spread out all over the earth
as if their prophetic skulls were trying to cover
all their bets. I have high cheekbones like the ledges
of a precipice I’m always on the brink of.
In the absence of a soul, I get by with a little love
from my friends like a cowboy Zen master
from the lunatic fringe of the West Coast sixties.
Good possibility I’d scare you in my silver-buckled,
black leather belted avatar, but it’s the snake skin
of a new moon I don’t intend to shed just to blend in
with the inoffensive twilights of a wedding cake into yoga.
Not as tough anymore as I used to be, but it still
gives the mail lady a cheap karmic thrill
if I play the part. Never hurts to act as if
you’re into the dark, nemetic arts of the occult.
She says my shades look like the irisless pupils of a shark.
I tell her they’re just eyepatches to cover a detached retina
in my left eye that hurts like a spider wincing
in the glare of the flashlight that caught it in the corner
like a moment to remember forever on You Tube.
In truth, I’m a hermit thrush. I’m inspired by the dark.

I can wow you with the way I keep
my heart in my mouth like a strawberry chocolate
without getting lockjaw from the rusty nails of the saint
who keeps following me around trying to pull
the fangs of the snake with the claws of a crab
when what he really needs are the dental pliers
of the first and last crescents of the moon,
but his polymorphous, atavistic perversity
isn’t nuanced enough for that. And there’s no gold
in the albino ore of my happy, happy crowns.

Comes a time when your body begins to feel
like a used mattress someone’s throwing out
like a corpse from a trunk in front of the Sally Anne.
I work out like a hair sculptor labouring in carrara marble
but I’m not a masterpiece of Michelangelo,
more Moses than David, but I’m still not standing
in the puddle of a melting candle of body fat
at a black mass. I drink my own blood. I eat
my own flesh when there’s nothing else in the house
but the last full moon of tunafish in a Mayan calendar.

This might be the Last Supper, and I’m sitting here
in an upper room by myself, but I’ll go without
if I must, give up my place at this desk below the salt
like a peasant abdicating his throne to avoid
the protocols of the princes he’s trying to be free of
even if they say their coup d’etats are all about love.
I’m not a tenant farmer. I’m not an habitant along the river.
If I pay tithes at all these days, it’s to an extortion racket
that threatens to cut my secular lights and heat off
or the internet when things get really rough.

I juggle things around like a balancing act on black ice.
As Willie P. once sang before he died, wouldn’t
be in this mess if I could take my own advice.
But who am I to tell anyone what to do
unless they’re hurting someone else, and isn’t
that precisely the whole point of art? To get yourself
out of the way to let other things come into play?
To disappear like a volunteer at an exorcism?
To be the gold that synarthritically mends the crack
in the skull cup of the Great Schism that broke
like a collection plate at a Japanese tea ceremony?
Even if sometimes taking shelter from the storm
can lead to Pearl Harbour or Megiddo in the valley
of Jezreel. Or Icarus trying to hang on to his tar and feathers
like a wing and a prayer in a two bedroom apartment in Perth,
with north facing light as circumpolar as the wheel
of death and birth someone once told me they were turning
like a cosmic starfish, but I took as an idle boast
and went on burning like Arcturus caught like a kite
in the powerlines of a sacrificial host. Less Holy Ghost
than a last lifeboat drifting like a lost starmap
to the jewels in the land of the lotus eaters on the West Coast.




Always aware of how unknown it all is
even when I’m familiar with the path.
You can love someone for years, share
the same air they breathe, stand in each other’s light
and get along as well as plants and mirrors.
You can paint their lifemask through your tears
or you can watch the crackling spread
like the roots of their hair and know the names
of all the stars that take shelter in their eyes.

Then one night, who knows what it is,
the downdraft from the chimney on a winter night
parts the hairdo of the fire a different way,
a snowflake gets blown off course, the auras
evaporate like the Northern Lights, Orion
rises in the west, and you realize, for the few
you have, how many veils will never be lifted,
how mysterious and inexhaustible a face is,
almost eerie, as if you’d just stepped on another planet,
and that was ok, but you didn’t know anything
and you were seized by a terror for a moment
as if the unknown were deeper than solitude.
There’s an impersonal vastness under
the most intimate encounters with the world
that embraces everything like space
as an apprehensive, new dimension of awareness.

You cohabit with the strange. The leaves
you kicked through yesterday like someone
happy among their thoughts, are no longer
what they seemed, nor the small winds
that knew you as vividly as they knew their own breath,
bear any resemblance to your feelings.
They stay the same, limited by your understanding,
defined by the boundary stones of your relationship
to them, but irrevocably changed in a way
that scares you a bit, though you love them
as you always have, how do you love
what’s unknown about them with your heart
and your art, and your discipline, when
you don’t even know if that part knows you exist?

As with everything when you’re walking with a mystery
and it’s got no personal history except
the one you give it. The allegorical smile.
The mythic correlatives for the light in someone’s eyes.
The copulative metaphors that say this is
like a Rinzai Zen master who isn’t fooling around,
or the more gentle similes that suggest
the world into being without the imperatives
with looser fitting likenesses that appreciate the nuances.

Be like this isn’t as much of a straitjacket as Be this.
It leaves more room for the living to approximate themselves
like a garden, and leave a little out for the birds.
It’s humbler in a way because it doesn’t try to say it all.
It doesn’t presume upon the true nature of the secret syllable
we’re all trying to say to each other in our own various ways
as if we wanted to communicate, not just our names,
not just the facts we gather like dead twigs of one another
to start a fire on a bed of ashes, like sumac in the spring,
but the whole wild apple tree, the bloom, the leaves, the birds,
the lightning roots of our neurons with their tenuous hold
on the handful of starmud we’re attached to like the earth,
but what’s so eloquently unsayable about us
it catches in our throats like a starling in a chimney
trying to scratch its way out of a black hole
like dawn in an aviary of summer stars
going down in the west like a windfall of secrets
between the light and the water and the endless discretion
of the inescapable silence of the night sky
according each of us, with trillions of brilliant reasons why.