THE NIGHT IS NOT A FRIEND
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.