WHEN MY HEART ISN’T A HUMMINGBIRD ON A KEYBOARD
When my heart isn’t a hummingbird on a keyboard,
it’s a spider on a guitar. The long fingers of a surgeon
my mother used to say, the air bright with potential
and the creature with a purpose, a future it meant,
a destiny it was born to fulfil like a chain reaction.
Now it’s an error of evolution just to make it through another day.
And nights, sidereal ballerinas leaping like Cygnus at zenith
over the toxic wavelengths in this snakepit of street life.
Blessings on everyone’s head, I’ve shed a few lives of my own,
but I mean the nights, sometimes the nights,
scatter my own ashes over my head in mourning
like a nuclear winter that won’t let me forget.
Now there’s nothing perennial about my paradigms
and the flowers don’t grow as imperial as they used to.
Ferocious weeds spring up among the downtrodden
and swarm the gardens of the sun-king, the cattails
impaled, and the heads of the poppies on pikes by the gate.
I’m looking for new moons in the calendars of chaos
to sow the teeth of a dragon under. Soil made vintage
by the dissolution of the dead who are buried in me
as I keep on living their deaths like an impossible ending
to a recurring dream I haven’t woken up from in years.
Red alert. Don’t climb higher than the mountain is tall
unless you’ve got a star in your eye you’re going to follow
for the rest of your denatured life. But no one’s listening.
They’re all taking polls of bad examples on talent shows.
Can’t stand the artificial lights or the trained hilarity
of the audience defrocking sacred clowns at a cult ritual.
But I found a flap at the back of the circus tent
I like to slip out through and let the darkness
wash the patina of blazing out of my eyes
and encounter six thousand stars whose shining
ease the mind by enlightening its unique insignificance.
I like to blunder my way into places alone
where who I am is nobody’s business but the willows
and they’re not saying anything to the wind
that’s heard it all before. One moment you’re the canvas
and the next you’re a paint rag up to your alligators
in muddy oils trying to save an orchid from its own hysteria.
If there’s any rafter of my life left standing
it’s as fragile as a compass needle wobbling on a thorn.
One moment you’re teaching spiders to play the guitar
without barring their chords, and get rid of
those old harps of theirs that have been collecting in the corner
like dreamcatchers they couldn’t hold a note
if it were a velcro butterfly, and the next
you’re boiling strings like spinal cords in a bird bath.
But alone, where there’s no assent or denial,
and the false redeemers are orphaned
in their baskets and mangers among the hay and bull rushes,
I can juggle the crazy wisdom of myriad worlds
bubbling up in my blood like a playful multiverse
without dropping one of them, and swallow the swords
the moon lays down on the lake in tribute.
No blackboards in my freedom. No chalk fossils
among my crayons, I have been schooled
in the ghettos and still life studios of my solitude.
Here where the river emerges from a larynx of dead trees
I can think my way into the most open-minded modes of death
without having to turn around and go home again
or forget I’m just an organ of light that makes things visible
for anyone with an eye to spare, or the time
to listen to the picture-music where their senses meet
like parallel lives that have suddenly come into focus.