I DON’T WANT TO HAVE MY EYES GLAZED OVER NACREOUSLY
I don’t want to have my eyes glazed over nacreously
if I were a grain of sand, a diamond in the rough,
living in a pearly world. Cataracts in the eye,
flowers in the sky. I don’t want to live in a spiritual trance
blissed out like the first crescent of the moon
smiling down upon everything as if I weren’t
attached to any particular atmosphere and all
the waters of life were frozen like tears in a jewelled locket
I kiss once in awhile in a rush of gushing devotion.
I love the mystic details of the concrete specifics of the world.
The stylus of the birds that can write with their beaks and feet
like cuneiform on the skin of an apple,
and wormholes that burrow even deeper
into the sweetness of the flesh, neolithic barrow tombs
aligned with the vernal equinox, and that soft blue talc
as if the dew had turned to powder that clings to the autumn grapes.
I like the spelling errors fate makes
on the staves of our foreheads where it writes
the picture-music of our destinies in such a way
that everything that’s written there, over the course of time,
our eyes will live long enough to see.
I don’t want to turn my spirit into a cosmic perfumery
and extract my essence from the ambergris of my presence.
I don’t want to transform whale vomit into an alluring fragrance
that isn’t naturally its own. Or suggest to certain flowers
they gargle the rain like mouthwash, or smear
the eyelids of the rose with a snailtrack of stars.
What did the Zen master say? The stone is lustrous,
but there’s nothing inside. The ore is different
but from it comes gold. Why hide the bruises and scars,
sunspots like black eyes, or the pitted complexion of the moon
from the third eye of Galileo’s telescope trying futilely
to show a Vatican cardinal the mutability of the firmament?
Things are rough out there, and happenstance is neither fair
nor unjust. Things pass into their return like the earth
going around the sun in a five billion year old roulette wheel,
and every asteroid might dream it could grow up to be
the cornerstone of a planet, and then come down
on the dinosaurs like an avalanche without sin
that threw the first rock at Mary Magdalene.
I don’t want to disperse every breath I take and exhale
aurorally like veils, as lovely as they are, over the face of the sky
as if it had something indecent to hide like snow on a dungheap.
I don’t think the dung needs to be dressed up like a festering virgin
that needs to be purified. Snowflakes on a slow methane furnace
I think the dung and the snow go the way of all flesh
though some walk, some run, some flow, some evaporate
and some are just inflammably combustible, but all
know their own way back to their roots as well as anyone.
Never known a river that needed a guru
to find its own way back to the sea, or a cloud
that was ever unhappy about the way it was shaped by the wind.
I wash my hands, and I’m bathed in the waters of Jordan.
I open my eyes, and God says fiat lux, let there be light.
I walk over to the window and look down on the morning street
and Muhammad makes that my quibla, my direction of prayer,
and under the eaves there’s a mourning dove
singing the shahada like a muezzin to its young.
I put my clothes on, slowly rising to consciousness
until my thirteenth year and I’m wearing my tallit and tefillin
at my own bar mitzvah, listening for the Aliyah
to call me up and recite the Torah. I admire the stamina
of the petunias still brimming over the rims of the whiskey barrels
municipally placed between the parking meters
in a biting autumn wind, and the Buddha hands
Ananda a flower and smiles as if I could understand him.
I rescue a fly from drowning in a toilet bowl
with a piece of kleenex like something it can cling to
because I think one day that could be me
praying for a lifeboat, and Beelzebub commends me
for my lack of discrimination, and Lucifer’s intrigued
while Jesus befriends me because my compassion isn’t fastidious.
What’s so unspiritual about mundanity as it is?
Samsara is nirvana. Delusion the door to enlightenment.
Every chore, a religious ritual, a do, a path in a participatory world.
Every farmer in the Perth Restaurant at their daily coffee clutch
a sage as wise as the rocks and stumps he’s cleared
like a backhoe from his fields laid out like scripture
covered in mustard, goldenrod, vetch and purple loosestrife.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. You want to touch the soul,
it’s not out there out of palpable reach, it’s
the starmud between your fingers and your toes,
under your nails, the sweetmeat of your brain
in a black walnut shell, the very stuff your hands are made of.
And this is more of a mystery than looking for it anywhere else.
The black-eyed Susans, the New England asters,
the last of the wildflowers aren’t just things to look at
but seers in themselves the stars consult like oracles
of what’s to come, and when you look at the maple trees aflame
who needs anymore martyrs or heretics than that,
and sometimes you can even see Raphael throwing his paintings
in the Bonfire of the Vanities while Savanarola rails like the wind
against the Medici he’s trying to drive out of Florence
or the Taliban trying to purge what’s she’s reading
out of a young girl’s eyes with the formic acids
of stinging nettles and ant heaps clinging to the Koran
like a no trespassing sign at all the crossroads of life
where the Sufis whirl like galaxies into rapturous extinction
and Allah sends no more rasuls like prophets with books
and forgoes the words for the grammar of natural things
as signs of the Friend within and without
and everything’s a metaphor of the tauhid and unity
of the worlds within worlds in light upon light.
Work is as much a form of worship when you see it right
as the Hindus do, as love is. So when you’re feeding the cats
or putting out oats for the horses, this is the mysticism of action
beyond the contemplative, actualizing the abstract
in an act of devotion such that for every roofing nail
a carpenter drives into a rafter, a temple is built in the heart,
and hundreds of loveletters are released for free
like doves and flamingoes or sidereal swans and eagles,
Japanese plum blossoms into the sky that writes back like the moon.
And, yes, there are times when I go mad in my isolation cell
and fling my inkpot at the wall like Luther at the Devil,
and want to get out of here so badly I set my desk afire
and let it drift like a Viking funeral ship all the way to the bottom
and the next thing you know coral’s trying to grow
a Gothic cathedral out of it, complete with angels and gargoyles,
virgins and saints, and grief turned fluid once more
is flowing like a river of stone back to the sky again
as all the masons and their families that laid the heritage field stones
dance around it like fish in the Great Barrier Reef
as the cardinals stand around in their bifurcated, goose-necked,
bi-valved barnacle hats astonished by what metaphors can achieve
polyp by polyp, drop by drop in a limestone cave, star by star
in an expanding universe, or cell by cell in the body of a human
when imagination is free to work in tandem with the random
like genetic mutations on helical stairwells of dna
sliding down the bannisters as if even evolution
were a game of spiral snakes and ladders with oxymoronic rungs
and if you’re lucid and want make things clear as starmud
you have to resort to speaking in tongues.