A SCAFFOLDING TO CLIMB UP ON AND PAINT THE WORLDS
A scaffolding to climb up on
and paint the worlds, my bones.
I climb the ladder of my ribs
like the hull of a scuttled shipwreck
on the moon, to highlight the stars.
And I sing as I work as if
I were being unsaid by everything
I’ve ever meant and I’m grateful
in a wary way because freedom
from all constraints, the golden chains,
the iron straitjackets of expertise
in residence like the Great Barrier Reef,
is always a work in progress
I never want to take for granted.
I’m not in love. Nor do I long to be
and I’m still more ingenuously grateful
than bitter for the poignancy
of the women I’ve loved like a pilgrimage
to a shrine in a holy war for my liberation.
I remember the nights the apricots froze
in a flash frost, but comes the dawn
of your next afterlife and things thaw out.
As you get older everything goes more crimson
than grey, Betelgeuse in Orion,
and the thresholds you once leapt across
like a photon jumping orbitals, feel more
like sway-back stairs you’ve worn down
on your knees, carrying crutches to Cavalry
like relics of the true cross returning like skeletons
to the Hill of Skulls, the unfeathered wings
of birds that crash-landed in an early attempt
at the transmigration of souls in the bone-boxes
of the aviaries they were buried in.
There are only so many bells in the world,
so many swans and moons and lion gates,
so many superlatives you can compare
the body of a woman to, and even fewer
the mystery of the starmaps of her mind
she binds you to like a firefly
in a labyrinth of night before she
elevates you into a constellation
and lifts her veils like Isis to show you
what her face looks like in your own light.
If I’ve had a quarrel with life at times
it’s been like a cloud of sheet lightning
rooting its lightning in the air like a dragon
in defence of all the wildflowers it remembers
drinking from the hidden watersheds of its tears.
In this life, less is a lot more grateful than more
for small things that happen in the microworlds
like off-handed miracles of a sort
that aren’t trying to convert you to anything
you weren’t already like the mirage
of your own creation myth as you gather
the waters of life up in both your hands
and drink deep from the wellsprings of your eyes.
Elixirs and potions of seeing and being,
eddies and currents, tidal surges and undertows
in the nightstreams of space we’re
white-water rafting like the spring run off
of the Milky Way. It doesn’t matter as much
to me whether it’s a dream or not as it used to.
Whether I wake up or I don’t. The gate’s open
or closed, or hanging on like a lapwing by a hinge.
In joy or sorrow, there’s only so much time
and then there is forever. No one ever arrives
completely. No one ever departs without leaving
something of themselves behind, be it a heart
that holds you dear as the ashes in the urn
of an old love affair, or just a sign carved
by a boy on the rafter of an abandoned barn
you were up here once when your daring
was an eagle that lacked the foresight
to keep its feet on the ground like poultry
that’s had its flightfeathers plucked for convenience.
Go ask the iron rooster that got fried
like a weathervane by the lightning
the other night. All my life, daring
has said feathers and falling has taken flight.
I’ve been a cinder of a crow
in the third eye of the storm
that washed me out as if it had been
crying all night without knowing why.
I’ve been the larynx of a waterbird caught
in the throat of a telescope that gorges on stars
to sweeten the picture-music of its voice
as Cygnus and Aquila rise in the east
of indelible summers ago that still taste
like the eyelids of the ocean in a mystic rose
in a deep sleep I once bent down to kiss
for dreaming of me as if I actually exist.