Monday, February 18, 2013



Listening to the nightsong of the silence
in a clearing in the woods that used to be
a field someone rocked and ploughed for cattle corn,
and left the crooked timbers and fieldstone foundations
of a log cabin to be swarmed by the rat snakes, their blood
as the cold comes on, slowing down into
long red wavelengths of hibernation that drives
the raccoons, the bears, and most of the locals
who can’t afford migration, to dream half the winter away,
soporifically numb by the woodstove, or numb outside
from the air gnawing at their fingertips and noses
as if they were being whittled out of ice
or numbed by food, sex, alcohol, gossip and drugs
into the Land of the Lotus Eaters in the middle of an ice storm.

Chronic boredom of a white screen they’d
rather smear with something than look at nothing at all,
whether cadmium red on a blank canvas,
blood on the snow next to the hollyberries
the foxes and blue jays have been feasting on,
or the mythic inflation of their own personal offal
gone viral on an internet of a sky full of stars
spreading the rumour around. Wonder what
the drunk loggers of Burridge back in the day
when the cops were afraid to go there,
would have to say about their whiskey barrels
being sawn in half for flowerpots of flagging petunias
and forlorn coleus on the streets of Perth today.

Or me out here on my own looking
for the Orionid meteor showers where the dark
hasn’t been distempered by the bottled light of the town.
After thirty-five years of living among these woods and lakes
I still come here as an unrooted stranger to the place
who finds it easier to relate to the wilderness
taking its own back, than the ghosts that abound
like Huron women in the moonlight
beating the wild rice at the edge of the ponds
into the bows of their spectral canoes
silent as waterbirds parting the veils of the waves
before smallpox, Jesuits, and the Iroquois wiped them out.

And yet how beautiful the stars are above the birch groves
just before moonrise, when you see them in isolation,
and you feel your heart gripped by a sense of wonder
so transfixing and sublime, you embody it immediately
as the deepest intimacy of time you’ll ever experience
in your passage through it. And it doesn’t matter
what the message is, whether you can interpret
the signs or not, or come away any wiser for the sight,
or mistake a knowledge of starmaps and constellations
for real light, you’re assured, without ambivalence
of the mortality of the witness, as a deep humility
startles your flesh into realizing its tenuous brevity
is only a temporary deferment of death, long enough
to be stunned by the profundity of these fireflies of insight
as if you’d just dug up your own prophetic skull on the moon.

Death soon. No need to make a fact morbid
by denying it. Right now I’m still a seance
of living fire in the woods the shadows of those
who dreamed and fought, wept, longed, loved,
lived, laughed and died here competently long before me
gather around as if a whole beehive of ghosts
turned out to bid the last flower of the fall farewell
or I were the axial blackhole at the nave
of a prayer wheel galaxy flowing into me
as if the black queen of the sweetness of life
were founding a new colony of natives, exiles,
and immigrants deep inside my soul like the portal
to another world than this one that exhumes and exorcises
all that lives like starmud in a repatriated body.

Or as the Ojibway figured out, ten years
of leaving me food and cigarettes at the sunny side
of my burial hut before my bones turn to dust
and my ghost is free of my fire, before the Canada geese
embody my migratory soul on a long journey south,
there are rituals and protocols of life and death
that must be upheld with a patience and grace
born of understanding how vital it is to adorn
what can’t be understood with osprey feathers,
cedar boughs, sage and sweetgrass, growing wild
in the starfields of our dream mothers
leafing the alders in the spring with new metaphors
for the wind blowing through the catkins.

In the beginning was the imagination.
Imagination is the mindscape we’re all aboriginals in.
Reality is still a theory fasting on a mountaintop
looking for a totem of itself while it remains awake.
Imagination is a three-feathered chief at peace
with whatever it dreams, even if it dreams it’s awake
when the elders gather to name the newborn
after the dancing waters and fire talkers
consult the wisdom of their silence and solitude
in the presence of the inexpressible events
that create the things of the world
like the sensory simulacra of a story
that always dying to be told around the fires of life
in a voice full of distance and time and sorrow
like the wind blowing the blossom of the moon
out of the leafless crowns of the trees
so death might wax fruitful when life is all ears.


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