O SWEET FREEDOM
O sweet freedom to be nothing for awhile.
To blindfold the clock
with its own shadow
like a masked bandit
and let it get away with something for a change.
I love the cheap thrill
of feeling like a thief
with an ageless sense of timing.
One tug on my serpentine spinal cord
and I unplug my electric identity
like a searchlight
that keeps its eye on me
like a blackhole it doesn’t know anything about.
I’ve stopped looking for meaning
in the flight of the doves
I release from their cages
like words stuck in the throats
of Selkirk chimneys
like harps and hearts and wishbones.
The joy of a liberated dove
seems to be enough of a rapture
to give meaning to the spontaneous outburst
of an enlightened universe
as if it had just broken through
to the other side
of its own koan
like an iron cosmic egg.
Like a Rinzai master shouting Katsu!
and throwing down his horse-hair hossu.
Like me sitting here
in the middle of a small heritage town
without feeling I’m one of the original fieldstones
of the bank across the street.
O the sweet freedom
to let the waters of life
take great liberties with my roots
to let whatever flowers in the wild starfields
hidden in the white darkness of noon
bloom as they will
and whatever comes to fruition fall
like the stroke of midnight
beheading the clock on the wall
doesn’t have to hurry home from the ball.
Not to be.
Not to see.
Not to do anything
that wasn’t already done in the first place
and all the bonds that baffled the dawn
with too many horizons to overcome
undo themselves like vapour trails in the sunset
and I’m as free as space
to be ubiquitiously anywhere at once.
I don’t need to eat through the bone of one leg
caught in a trapline
to free the other.
I don’t have to go mad
trying to kill myself
to save myself from death.
I don’t have to be shamed by mirrors
that bear false witness
against my own reflection.
I can look at my own face
and casually ruminate
about whether it matters
that either of us is here or not.
I can be lead astray by poems
that come on like gold rushs
but end in lead
like the philosopher’s stone
and still be intrigued by the passion
of getting there
without worrying about
finding my way back alone.
Inside every man of great renown
is a frustrated clown
that takes him far too seriously.
I have laboured like an ox
to keep grinding out starwheat
on the millstone of the daily grind
but comes a time
when you sit down on the ground
among the grain and the chaff
exhausted by your fruitless attempt
to turn your mind
into loaves and fishs for the multitudes
and have a good laugh
at your own expense
when you see how few people
are truly hungry enough
How many are dying of thirst
beside a freshwater lake.
Open your mouth and eat.
Roll over and drink.
And go read Ecclesiastes
if you want to know why.
Mithras Tauroctonus the bull-killer
can put all the horns on the silo he wants
like the first and last crescents of the cornucopias
on a harvest moon.
I’m at large in the zodiac
playing with poppies
as if I were slaying matadors
that flare like scarlet capes in my blood.
The thistle bristles with swords.
Van Gogh cuts off his own ear
and gives it to a brothel rose
as if that were the only way she could hear
his endearing words
and that little gesture of the heart
were the beginning of expressionist art
or the artist as mummy
if you stretch your canvases like bandages
and mistaking yourself for a model
paint with them on
to keep your blood
from running into the colours
like a red sky in the morning
that doesn’t give you any warning
though Gaugin was sailor enough to know that
and beat a hasty retreat back to Tahiti.
O sweet freedom
not to have to whitewash
the truth of the graffiti under the bridge
with the genocidal lies of scripture
that paint in blood
with the same brush
they use to sweep whole nations
under the rug.
I kick the empty spraycan of my heart
down the road
like the hollow shell casing
of a losing revolution.
In order to establish
my vision of life
I had to overthrow my eyes
to justify the way I see things.
Been alone so long
it looks like love to me.
I don’t know how else to explain this
to the winners who doubt my word
except I’m a loser in bliss
for reasons you’d find absurd.
Not to have slammed the door in my face
just as it was opening
would have been a complete and utter disgrace
to the people who were waiting to be impressed.
My future’s just another afterlife
that hasn’t been made aware
of my arrival.
Still I have a lot more fun
getting around as a pauper
than I ever did a prince.
I have no interest at all
at dying in line
to inherit a dead man’s office.
I’ve learned to get along
on my insufficiency just fine
by mimicking the appetites
of a self-exiled poetic refugee
with the aristocratic poverty
of an intellectual past
and the emotional life
of the last dynast of my homeless ancestors
none of whom made it this far.
O sweet freedom
not to be related to anything
like the key to someone’s heart
lying in the grass at the side of a road
that no one’s taken in years.
You can answer the call.
You can respond to a summons.
But my calling’s
the falling of mirrors
that have run out of tears
that don’t cry hard enough to be sincere.
Some I smash like a pinata.
Al Capone with a baseball bat.
And others come crashing down like chandeliers
that thought they were better organized
than what appeared to be
a minor uprising
of disordered angry stars.
I take a broom to the cobwebs of the constellations
and sweep their reflections
like bad imitations
of outmoded myths
from the mirror.
I like to keep things clear
between me and the light
so there’s no duplicity in what I see
and no darkness in the night
that can claim to be the ancient shadow
of my spontaneous lucidity
without cooking their fire-bug phoenix
in its own flames.
The fire god comes looking for fire.
But I don’t spend much time
dwelling on the event
like a fire-hydrant in a cathedral
afraid of falling into hell.
I’ve fallen down hilariously drunk
sipping mystic elixirs
from my own skull
as if it were the holy grail
but I’ve never gotten off on
drinking from a bell
that keeps pouring me out on the ground
like bad wine
that didn’t turn into sacred blood.
O sweet freedom
what a treat
not to meet me in my solitude.
Not to lead people
like a starmap
that puts them on the wrong track
so they can learn their own way back
through all the labyrinths and lightyears
they’ve been away
and though they might recognize
the old place as home
it’s not the same threshold
the doors don’t answer
to their names anymore
and the windows have forgotten their faces
like phases of the moon
that bloomed and passed
like warm breath on cold glass.
I have looked at the stars
and sweetened the night air with wonder
that we both collaborate
in exploring the mystery of our being here
without knowing why.
The question longs
to experience the answer
the way a dancer longs for music
to go with the words
or a painter tries to explain the light
to his eyes.
But not two is the closest anyone can get
to knowing the world from the inside out
and the silence is polyglot
not a universal language
and what it can’t define
Seeing paints its own eyes
on the prow of a lifeboat
that’s been washed out to sea
with nobody in it
and nothing to save
but these endless waves of moonlight
swimming through stone
like ancient hieroglyphs
for water and fish
adrift in a desert of stars.
The intimate personal history
of the mystery in each one of us
the way the same moon
is cherished by every rosary
and millions of lockets of dew
as if it could only be known by you alone
like the absence of a lover far away
that brings you closer together.
Seeing doesn’t belong to the eye
anymore than a house belongs to the hammer
that built it
or the mind
to the starmud foundation stone of the brain
that laid it like a cosmic egg
in a phoenix’ nest.
There’s more to insight than meets the eye.
O sweet freedom
even one of your mirages
is more than enough
to appease the lightning with fireflies.
My feelings have never looked for sanctuary
in a safe heart
because the best place to hide
is out in the open
where the sea doesn’t run from its own weather
and the night isn’t overwhelmed
by a riot of stars
smashing every telescopic lens in sight
like the priest of a false god
with only one eye.
O sweet freedom
to be the only rodeo clown
in the annual funeral march of martyred icons
parading down Gore Street
with a police escort
and red lights screaming
like an ambulance
going through withdrawal
trying to overcome its addiction to poppies.
I breathe time
and burn my fingers in the eternal flame
of my blood playing with a fire it couldn’t put out.
God might not love me yet
not recognizing the genius
of her own work
but that doesn’t mean
I’m any less of a masterpiece
than any of these other jerks
or that I don’t know how
to conduct myself accordingly.
It’s just that you won’t find me
hanging out in a gallery
or behind the cover of a book
with my shirt off
as if that were really
all I had to say.
It’s not a sign of true freedom
if your zodiac is still under house arrest.
Or you’re still sending
that old refrain of madness to school
to learn to sing in the dulcet tones of a lucid voice
Success is the quickest way to underwhelm yourself.
Ripeness kicks the stool from under the apple.
Failure has more enduring effects.
A dead tree can lie down longer
like the hull of a ship
than a strong rafter
can stand up
like a mast on the bridge.
You might take matters
like the wheel of birth and death
into your firm hands
and try to weather the storm
like a feather in a hurricane
but the waters of life
still slip through your fingers
like stars and clouds and rain
and your grasp on any rival circumstance
that might threaten your survival.
The dispossessed are freer than those
that are standing in line
waiting for their own arrival.
O sweet freedom
not to send my thoughts out like missionaries
to preach to the dissipated
the importance of staying in focus.
Not to go divining the source of the light
with a prism
that enshrines its Catholic colours
in see-through Protestant glass.
There are no sundogs
under my atheist eyes.
I don’t project what I believe
like an eye-beam on a dark world
and expect to be conceived
like the image of God
as if I was born
the way I appear
from a cracked mirror.
I slip through the fault-lines
on the palms of my hands
like a hero plunging
into a gaping abyss
with legendary decorum
to save Rome from an earthquake in the Forum.
And O sweet freedom
that there’s nothing sacrificial
about taking my own advice not to.
And no disappointed expectations.
Being without disclosure.
Seeing without design.
Emptiness without intent.
or its opposite.
And nowhere a sign
of what someone somewhere once meant.
Less than empty
a measure more than enough
to keep one tiny human heart
as perishable as a strawberry
full to eternity
with the sweetness of life on earth
when there’s no birth
in the taste of the moment.