AWAKE AS THE DAWN APPROACHES
Awake as the dawn approaches, my cat
curled up on the desk beside me in her liferaft of a bed,
three goldfish sleeping at the bottom of their tank.
Ashen-blue in the urn of a sky burial wounding space
with the lament of a nocturnal bird disappearing
into the distant hills like the moon and Jupiter.
Intimate, almost hallowed, the stillness of a bell
hangs in the air, breathing through the gills
of the local steeples under the eyelids
of their half-opened air vents. Cerulean seepage,
venal blood that’s lost its way back to the heart.
Awareness quiescently strange, I’ve been listening
to the silence of solitary voices all night,
the medium of a seance I never summoned
but attend by acclamation at the urging
of natural selection. Meditations of a mutant gene
observing the red shift in the wavelengths of its blood line.
Haphazard paradigms, astigmatic mandalas
trying to take the guesswork out of being alive
as my thoughts run their numinous fingers
over the chasms and cracks that have been appearing lately
like a prophetic earthquake in the sign of my crystal skull.
My brother’s leg amputated by tree-cutters
to keep him dying from number two diabetes.
My mother, ninety-three, I’m afraid of her death
like a species fears extinction and I can’t help wondering
why I’ve wandered like a rootless tree so far from home
for so many years as if it fell to me to be the exile
in the family, so they could stay together on the island
and I could pursue the inanities of a lonely excellence
with Chaplineque holes in my tragic socks.
The rough-hewn complexion of heritage field stones
flushed by a beatific rose of the flowering light
glowing like a mood swing warming up to sunflowers
in Naples yellow. Even at the beginning of the day,
I feel displaced as a winter constellation paling
brilliantly in the west by the advent of the vernal equinox.
An epilogue of the ice age receding like a glacier
into an underground watershed on the moon
that hangs me like a polar locket around its neck.
Has there been a hidden purpose in the shining,
a gravitational eye that bent the light
of this long, dark journey way off course
the original flightplan to return back one day
along the path I made behind me, a comet
looping around the sun, a moth around a candle,
enraptured by the fire of the stars in the sails
of seagoing dragons set like blossoms on the wind
for the coasts of anywhere, warrior land namers
carving their totems on the dolmens of runic asteroids
falling like first stones without sin on the heads
of the dark glassblowers in the pellucid menageries
breaking the limbs of the evergreens like a fragile paradise
in an ice storm? Black sheep surviving on wild islands
in the desperate straits of their shipwrecked shepherd moons?
Life thaws. The mind thaws. The heart weeps
and the viscosity of the melting windows turn into rain.
The body is a medicine bag of wounded seawater
leaking out of nine stigmata. Time can walk one foot
after another geared robotically to the mainspring
of a wind-up, mechanical, alarm clock, but mostly it flows.
Even given you can’t step into the same river twice,
but wanting to clarify the ambivalence that most people feel
about the things they do in life, what are you going to do?
Run back with a monkey wrench and tighten a bolt on the river
to keep it from wobbling up ahead? Regret what you said
because you’re practising silence and sitting still?
Train the lightning to bite other people, or discipline
your emotional currents and mental whirlpools,
to accommodate themselves to your navigational charts?
You want to make a change to change, that’s ok, too,
but it won’t make a difference. Change just comes upon you
like morning to the nightshift retiring with the stars.
Everyone’s going to make the sea in time their own way
even if it isn’t to care whether they get there or not.
No river’s flowing the wrong way, every vein
is a path back to the heart, every drop of rain
is a jewel of the sea, oceans in its eyes. We’re swimming in
what we’re on our way to. You can’t pour the universe
out of the universe, and which of all the rays of light
from a star is heading off in the wrong direction? You can’t,
nor is there a need, scrub the darkness out of the light.
I remember getting up as a schoolboy in the morning
and seeing my mother’s, sisters’, grandmother’s slips,
bras, underwear hung out to dry like morning glory
blossoming on an eight foot long unplaned board
gradually being pushed through the open hole of the hot plate
with the portable teapot handle into a roaring black woodstove
with curd-coloured enamel chipped like teeth
as each of them collected their lingerie like mail.
Now I’m sixty-four years old and it’s millions of words
and thousands of miles later than I think. And my absence
accuses me like a sin of omission I wasn’t there to commit.
Like the sound of a small town waking up to what it rarely wants to do.