AFTER YOU LEFT
After you left your absence turned into more of a muse
than your presence seldom was. Sat at my desk
and fell on my pen over and over again like a samurai sword
until I got the knack of gutting myself properly.
Last of the summer’s late blooming poems,
black-eyed Susans and asters, monosyllabic tragedies,
dutiful domestic farces demanding a coven of doves
be sacrificed to the darkness I was remanded to,
my heart a cross between a spiny sea urchin and a voodoo doll.
And at night, the beautiful, September stars, my God
who would have thought something so distant
and impersonally uncaring could have hurt like that?
Loved you well and faithfully while you were around,
and gave you my assent when it was time
for you to go, blessings on your head and house,
you be the one who goes off down the road
to fulfil the promise of a new life without me,
and I’ll be the one, my last sacrifice, who
stayed at home and died because it would be
neo-romantically rude not to, without you.
Functioned by rote, the reflex habit
of a lifeboat drifting in the abyss. Too much
significance to everything, especially the things
your hands had touched, mythically inflated sublimities
that scorched my fragile equanimity with gamma ray bursts
to the third eye as my vision of life boiled off
like the last forgivable atmosphere
of the brutally habitable planet I was living on at the time.
I was precise and grateful for the hidden solace
in the ritual commonality of simple human chores
from feeding the dogs and the cats, to
shaving my face with a razor blade
and cutting my reflection a hair shy
of its jugular vein to see which one of us
would blink first. Freedom bound, I liberated
as many chains as I could. I kept the bird-feeders
full of sunflower seeds when colder nights
began to come on. Dusk was always the worst
between the prelude of the beginning,
with a couple of false dawns to start with,
and the epilogue at the end, like the last word
of the day in the twilight of the bardo state
in between when everything you are is behind you
and what you’re about to become is still nothing,
and you’re standing beside a leafless locust tree
that’s all thorns, and the stars are emerging
as the darkness saturates your mindscape like black lung
mining diamonds of adamantine insight
in an emotional tarpit with an occult sense of humour
that leaves you as bruised and numb as if someone
had just inoculated you against the constellation
you were born under like a pathogen that can have
a mystic effect on those who have not been exposed
to it before, and all you can do is stand like a fever
in an ice-age and gape, just gape through the gates
of separation at how immaculately lethal forever can be
when you’re still trying to cling to a relative state of mind.
Time can be ambidextrously ironic or it can
stare at you like a bad joke waiting for a laugh at the end
and all you can feel is something remotely eerie
and exhaustively incomprehensible about the way it grins
like the skull of the moon rising over the sacred groves
of unmummifying birch trees where we buried
the barn cats the fishers and coyotes got, placing
large boulders on top of their corpses to keep
the dogs from digging them up again. Bast
the cat goddess look over them and the white flowers
of the bilabiate catmint you planted for feline
and butterfly alike, keep blooming in the thickets
of the thousand small kisses you left them where they slept.
The dream’s moved on since, but one night up there,
I wept the stars out of my eyes like an ice storm
of glass splinters as if the plinths of the light
were all that was left under the brittle calyx
of the deft rose frost bit by the fangs and thorns
of the cold that sliced my lips like a paper cut.
For awhile after the last rose had died,
my solitude began to taste like blood on the snow
in a backwoods winter abattoir. And then the spring
and the long impassable roads of starmud
waiting for the rain to pack them down.
Love hurts most when it begins to thaw out
like the frozen fingers of a child with its hands to the stove.
Marrow aches like slush in the bone, the agony
leaves nothing to the imagination to play with.
Endured, it passes like the death of a favourite cat.
Meow. Hope I purred around you more than I roared
because there was always so much more
to thank you as I do than forgive you for.