Monday, December 17, 2012



The night is not a friend. The stars
are far too fierce. The clarity of the air,
the absence in a small room where someone died
in a cold tone of voice reflected in the mirror.
Even the snow is mean. Things are crushed
and broken that yesterday were supple.
The river reeds have stiffened their wavelengths
that used to go with the flow into hippies
that want to stab you to death with a tuning fork.
Ice scalds my face. A deathmask of glacial acids.
All the close-knit intimacies have migrated south
and there are bearfuls of berries sleeping it off
like body fat blacked out in sensory deprivation tanks
in the grottoes and crevasses of the hills nearby,
waiting for spring to wake up in a recovery room
as the raccoons plunder gap-toothed cattle corn,
semi-hibernating to keep things cheap and low profile.

Life rationed. The earth on food stamps.
The pike idling like paramilitary razor wire
under ghostly encampments of the snow
closing its iron locks like jaws on the river,
eyelids of depression glass ice placking
one of the main arteries of the mindstream
that’s lost heart for awhile with its own resurgence.
Wood chips and burlap on the roots of the roses
brutalized by the permafrost. I cup my hands
around a small poppy of blood I’m keeping alive
in a lantern of goose-down feathers
like a petty theft of Promethean fire
more existentially pragmatic, considering the hour,
than the eternal flame the occasional drunk
huddles around in front of the Parliament Buildings.

Hunger unmarrows my fingertips
like an amputated candelabra gnawed on
by the ghostly feeling I still possess my digits
and they’re not lying on the ground
like the skeletal twigs of a leftover scarecrow
that’s lost the use of its excruciating hands.
Bush wolves and muskrat abound. The blue jays
still turn upside down upon the hour
to peck out the skunk-striped eyes
of the humbled cuckoo clocks of the sunflowers
at their prayers like old ladies bowing
their desiccated heads in a reign of terror
looking toward the earth for sanctuary
in the tomb barrows of the star-nosed moles
among the chthonic gods of their ice-age ancestors.

Juniper shrieks like a bird in a flash freeze
of its evergreen plumage in the snow
and the deer mice thwart the fox
under its prickly wings. The frozen swamp
thatched by abandoned herons’ nests,
is trying on dead trees like the peg legs
and crooked crutches of a piratical age
of prosthetic miracles. My breath steams
out of my mouth like shelter for the night
over the heating grates on the sidewalks
of Old Montreal, mother of many homeless men.

And the stars, the stars so viciously clear
I can feel their abysmal impersonality
even light years away, growing nearer and nearer to me
from the inside out like a crystal chandelier
in an ice-storm I wasn’t invited to
though I firewalk on the enlightened splinters
and glass thorns of their shattered plinths
like a one-legged man learning to dance
the pain away as I shadow waltz with myself
in the void bound snow palaces of the shining.

How cold the dead must be tonight
under their blue-lipped gravestones.
The severity of the wind toys with my jugular
like the switchblade my father tested me with
to see if I were as inhuman as his fearless genes
to be worthy of them when I was three.

The willows scourge themselves with knotted whips.
The anti-rabid hawthorn lacerates the mind
with psychotic antidotes crusading against
the contagion of mad skunks and bats,
the improprieties of blind drunk foxes
that don’t observe the subtle protocols
of paranoid slyness and nuanced cunning
and approach you like the writing on the wall.

Subliminally guilty as long as I can remember,
for reasons too abstrusely adult for me to recall,
asking for forgiveness from an indifferent intelligence
I don’t believe exists for having been born without it
like a question without an answer looking
for a graceful exit without culpability or repentance
from this labyrinth of cul de sacs my heart’s
been twisted into like an emotional escape artist,
playing kick the can with the grails
the ladies of the night offer up to the moon on meds,
as they weep like dew on the webs of the relationships
they’ve woven out of their straitjackets and chains.

I’ve taken grim chances and subjective risks in life
that made the dice themselves close their eyes
and not want to look. I ventured everything,
and I saw it all. The losing was always more intriguing
than the boredom of anything I ever won.
I was disciplined by a strict code of disobedience
and though I could wear an eyeless life mask of albino marble
long before the paint wore off the lower Apollonic orders,
sooner or later the wild irises of my moondogs
began to give me away like the dark haloes
of my heretical upbringing and everyone saw
I didn’t wear rose-tinted contact lenses like those
they took out like phases of the moon at night
only when they wanted to close their third eyes.
The reptilian shutter of my orbiting telescope
blinked like a lizard with interchangeable mirrors
at the dancing stars that came into focus
like radiant wildflowers rooted in my field of view.

Came the rain and the fire, the tears and the desire
of the dragons of dark energy that looked at the world
for what it is and what it seems, the vertiginous precipice
of dangerous raptures where lovers throw themselves
like fledglings on the rocks below, and the unassailable valleys
that slashed through the mountains as deeply as they were high
like a razor mutilating a young beauty’s thighs,
trying to cut the pain out like a sacred syllable of lies
embedded in her flesh like a starmap without any eyes.
May the changing life themes of your own mindstreams
stitch them up in time for you to follow the scars and the stars
of your own contiguous narrative back
to the lost innocence of your efflorescent moonbeams.

Sweet dreams in the madhouse, ladies, sweet dreams.




for Newtown

How to speak when no word can be spoken.
How to grieve when even the bells are broken.
How to shriek one note so high and pure
at the implacable heavens, even space cracks
the wine-goblet of the silence with a flash
of black lightning like a tuning fork where the roads
unravel like strong ropes, and the rivers
that were joined like one journey on the same bloodstream
at their sacred meeting place, put out their fires
and mourn the murdered children like an apple
the death of its seeds in late autumn. And the six doors
of the teachers and parents they were meant
to walk through without any locks on their thresholds.

How to comfort the inconsolable. How to heal
the expanding darkness of the eyeless starless abyss
of an open wound in the tangible absence of the flesh within
no scar of the moon will ever close. No candle
will ever cry hard enough to catch up to,
its single feather of a flame beating against
the impervious windows veiled in black drapery
for the fall of so many sparrows. Does God know?
Does God keep up with her songbirds so intimately
she knows them like an elementary school teacher
knows them like the lullabies and stories of her own childhood
she can sing in a closet to keep the horrors at bay?

Knows them by their smiles and the pink shrimp
of their fingers, knows them like the myriad centers
of the magic circles she draws around them
like rain and haloes on the ground she embraces
within the boundless folds of herself to protect them
like a lapwing from the snake that strikes at the nest.
Treachery come to the blessed. Blood
on the broken Easter eggs the sun
doesn’t rise from anymore like gold
from the albino ore of our highest hopes
fallen like fledglings from the dead boughs
of a false dawn the children sang to nevertheless
not caring whether it was true or not, knowing
that their praise was the only way to prove it otherwise.

Twenty buddhas and six enlightenment paths.
Six planets and twenty shepherd moons
smashed like lightbulbs and streetlamps
by a madman on a delinquent joy ride with death
shooting out the stars with a semi-automatic Bushmaster
when the pilot light went out on the furnace of his brain
and the cold crept in to a vacant space
where no fire burned in the ice-age of his blood
and the waterclocks of his tears stopped dead like glaciers.

We know the holiness of our children by the sanctity
we pour into them like homegrown wine distilled
from the vineyards of our own hearts, and we know it, too,
by the desecrations of the pariahs cloaked in darkness
like an eclipse had been pulled over their eyes like a stone
rolled over a tomb, come in the night to poison them
like housewells, to destroy all signs of the innocence
they weren’t brave enough to let master everything
they were afraid of bringing into the light like spiders
hanging rosaries of flies like trophy lines from the webs
of the ruptured safety nets of their neuronic constellations.

I bring wheat. I bring poppies. I bring chicory and asters.
I bring the crickets and grasshoppers of the field.
I bring maple keys. I bring cedar boughs. I bring
dolorous resins of pine and lunar goblets of morning glory
buzzing with honey, to entwine in their hair like a Milky Way
you can touch to your lips like the skin of their eyelids as they sleep.

I bring human sorrow, confusion, anger, shock, horror
at the insanity of the unsymbolic inanity of the event
that enshrines the absurd in the vicious indifference of the void.

I bring a sense of empathy osmotically saturated with grief
so that a stranger’s tears can run in the same creekbeds as mine
toward the same sea that binds us like the tendrils of grapevines
on the skeletal trellises and scaffolding of our own human divinity
trying to climb up and paint roses in the wine of our creation myths.

I bring my eyes and my voice and my blood
and this encrusted paint rag of a heart that’s been
wiping mirages off my brushes for lightyears
like a bouquet of brooms in a desert, hoping
to keep it clean for deeper mirrors to see
the same stars in the dark shining after me
that I once spoke to in an interrogative language
that had to be translated into the answers of my mother-tongue
before I could understand who I was listening to.

I bring a raw apple of love that isn’t soiled by polishing
to the graves of the nascent heroes and heroines
who trusted their dreams enough to achieve great things
even within the limitless confines of such small bodies,
great victories of life in everyone of their cells,
cosmic imaginations with room for stray dogs
and wounded butterflies, grail searching light swords
among the galaxies where even the black holes
looked forward to a happy ending with a cool drink
of something garish from the watering hole of a local fridge
and vowed to show up the next day with their homework half done
to begin the dance all over again. Nothing hidden. Nothing sought.

I bring the same secrets we all know but cannot say to anyone
because our voices have not grown into them yet,
and the silence is too small to contain our most sacred syllables.
I bring wisdom in the stern of an empty lifeboat
and love in the figurehead of a dauntless maiden at the bow.
I bring the same numbness of grief that will no doubt
later thaw like frost-bit fingers into ten triggers of vengeance
when the pain begins to flow like a volcano
instead of an ice-berg nine-tenths subliminally submerged.

Off in the distance, I bring a small, tender wind-chime of a child’s voice
like a shy nightstream whispering through the woods
like a stray wavelength that fell from the stars like a ribbon
undone on a gift of light, as if she were puzzling out her wonderment
like a weathervane trying to align herself
with all directions of prayer at once as she asks me
how is it possible to hold a human accountable
for things that God can’t even explain to herself.
And I place a sheathed sword of enlightenment at her feet
and refuse to mar the waters of her mindstream
with more bloodshed, until eye for eye, we all go blind.

Sometimes the insight of a firefly is enough to astonish the stars.
Or a chimney spark from the hearth of the human heart
a whole new spontaneous order of things beginning with itself.
Let us be fire on the water. Let us make the darkness whole again
with the humility of our shining filling the empty begging bowls
of our hearts pouring even the smallest grains of our light
like a harvest of stars into the empty siloes of space and time.

Let the death of our children who have fallen from us
like the fruits of our flesh, teach us to love as they did
when the whole earth was a windfall of small miracles
and the most amazing of all, them, who saw what we did not.
Let us ask from each other the same aspirations
we request from God, and let us rejoice in the labour
of meaning as much to each other as we try to mean
to our ideas of what we’re all doing walking around on the earth,
looking up at the stars, wondering if they can hear us way down here
or see their own reflections like fireflies burning in our wishing wells.

I bring my solitude to a communal place among trees.
I bring my doubt like a stranger I befriended along the way.
I bring a lost pilgrimage of children fired up like spark plugs
to go the rest of the way on their own, as if the training wheels
had just come off their mountain bikes, and they
were flying among the contrails of the stars
with streamers flowing like comets over the whitewater mane
of the Great Square Of Pegasus running the rapids
of their creative energies heeling it bareback but unbroken
through the surf of the Milky Way as if in all ten directions
of the nightsky the universe were one horse wide,
and time were nothing but the wingspan of the ride.

Child by child, life grows at its own pace
like a celebration that’s always just getting under way
like horse-drawn floats of apple bloom in a spring parade
or when winter carves crystal chandeliers out of ice
the coals in the eyes of the snowman by the mailbox
catching fire like diamonds caught in the highbeams of the stars
because some child stared at it from the living room window
to keep it from feeling all alone by itself in the front yard.

There may be universal laws that abstrusely govern here
as if one size fits all, but it’s the mystic specifics
we abide by like the fragrance of light on a child’s hair
when a mother is drying it like a comet in the rain
after a cucumber-coconut-apricot bath wash
she just had to try like a new flavour of candy on her skin.
Or a boy being brave as his father about a bruise.

The paradigms of the constellations might go out
like a candelabra in the firestorm of an apocalypse,
and the petals of the daisy chains huddle close
to one another holding their hands together like buds again
to ward off the eerie perils of a per-emptive eclipse,
but it’s the life we store like dreams in the corners of our eyes
as we glance by a child among her crayons on the floor
proud to teach her chaos to colour inside the lines,
delighted with the dawn if it should bring the sun back
like a ball in the mouth of a slobbering mongrel
that licks her face like a salt block
just to hear her squeal with delight as she
throws it over hand without expecting it
to ever come down again like a childhood
in a solar system organized by helium balloons.

Improbable concourses and course corrections of happenstance,
alarms and guards and gates and small arms licensed to kill
and what was visionary about the way we saw one another
all singing in the same lifeboat together rowing for shore,
not knowing whether we’d make it past the reefs and rocks
like salvage or salvation, now a narrowing of our field of view
into a mistrustful invigilation of our own kind as we learn
to live in the shadows of the black holes and haloes
of trap door spiders that don’t want to be recognized
like strangers in the light of our street cameras with eyes just like us.

Let the loss of our children empty our arms of the things we were
mistakenly carrying like burdens we took upon ourselves
into a wider embrace of the new moon in the old moon’s arms
like a disparate reunion of opposites in the circumpolar bear hugs
we give each other in tears around the graves of the very young
who bring us together to weep like bells in unison
for the kyrie eleisons and consolation dawns
in the swelling clarions of our clear-eyed grief.

Let us remember that it is our eyes, purged of ashes,
though constellations appear and disappear like mirages
on a starmap in an hourglass of pyramids and quicksand,
that keep the fires of the stars alight on the nightwatch
that looks in on a sleeping child, and leaves the door ajar
where the intimate mystery of life embodied in flesh and blood
goes on dreaming like growth rings we can understand
the infinite measure of by the enlargements of our heartwood
marked like a calendar of full moons rising in the doorway
like the floodwaters of love overflowing the starmud of our mindstreams
as if there were oceans of awareness ahead that only a child,
one hand after another, could guide us through together
like blind prophets and despairing oracles fearful of our own weather.

Let the house of life not be dismantled by inclement elements
or lowered into the grave like an orphanage for dead children
and even if the wolf huffs enough to blow it down
let us raise it again like the strong rafters of our children
blooming like the crocuses of pup tents all over the back lawn.

Let us follow them through a hole in a fence a child wide
that can’t keep us out of paradise for any longer than it takes
to be the last to enter like twenty six bodhisattvas
rising like the starcluster of the Pleiades in the east
to mark the trail of what they didn’t hesitate to reveal to us
like fireflies in a telescope with eyes full of wonder at both ends,
unborn, unperishing like the flight of hinges on an open gate
as if our exits and our entrances were two wings on the same bird
singing on the dead bough, singing on the green,
of things as there are, seen and unseen, like the blossom
of a moonrise in the orchards of spring, like leaves
in the autumn summoned like a choir to a seance
of inner fires that burn like distant stars without smoke
by the dancing masters and singing coaches of the wind
that knows each by the dawn they’ve come to rejoice in
and at nightfall, the unique inflections of the bells in their voice.