MOMENT TO MOMENT, IS THIS MY AFTERBIRTH OR AFTERLIFE
Moment to moment, is this my afterbirth
or afterlife? Old, or sixty-five years young?
What nebulae does my breath make
on the window of life, cold and diminishing?
Pre-partum depression perhaps, the apple
falls at the moment of consummation,
and the long labour of changing the rain and the light
into a time capsule for a material kind of eternity
is over. Have I fulfilled my emptiness? Or come
to the end of a useful delusion I grew fond
of believing? Whizzed past forty, made
a pitstop at fifty to check the oil and tank up
but sixty-five’s some kind of broken wagon wheel
on a black prairie after a grass fire swept through
the night before. Adequate to all the other
eras, ages, and nightwatches I’ve kept
oceanically enough to ring the hour and shout out
to the stars that couldn’t care less overhead
all’s well, I’ll stare this estrangement in the eye
be it the mood of the fire, or an urnful of dragons.
Let it turn me to stone if it has to. I have
warrior eyes and courageous wounds that made
a fool out of me like Don Quixote charging windmills.
A habit of turning skulls over to see what’s
on the other side, however beautiful the moonrise is.
I was a boy. Now I’m an old man. Is one really
younger than the other and this sad, medicine bag
of a body, the elder of a cult of one? My bones
are firesticks. My heart a cold firepit where
the Council of the Three Tribes used to sit
at the meeting place where the sacred rivers join.
So many friends, ex-lovers, objects of gossip
have died over the past ten years of probable odds,
you can’t help counting the number of springs
and autumns left to you on the abacus of new moons
that can be numbered on your fingers and toes if you’re lucky.
More declination than right ascension, I’m conjugating
time like a Latin verb, sum, es, est, though soon enough,
eram, eras, erat. Fact. Why deny it? This
is what it’s like to die as if your fingers were
being pryed open to make you let go of things
like flowers. My eyebrows are trying to
gently persuade me my eyes are going the way
of blackberries and dusty blue grapes in early October.
My seeing’s beginning to realize how organic it is.
The telescope rots. The lens fogged in by snow.
The heart’s a benign terrorist and cancer’s moving
further east like a Mississauga rattler under
the rose-hips of the cold sores on your lips
though you haven’t had a pimple in thirty five years.
Now it’s a matter of cracks and creases as the air
slowly leaks out of the bladder of skin you hoped
would keep you afloat like Bouncing Bet, or Lady at the Gate.
I chafe like a feral dog at the short leash my body
chains me to. I’d rather burn the kite than
haul it back in like some fish I trained to obey me.
Things have come to mean so much it’s suicide to care.
Kids have jumped ship. Women have thrown
a lot of rings off burning bridges, achievements
have grown no less ambivalent, and awards are filth.
Freer than I’ve ever been, within and without,
but the isolation is galactic in scope, and o
the lavender lies that cling to the light
like a patina of soap, bubbles in a hurricane
of thorns that swarm in plagues of killer bees.
The toybox is empty. The cupboard almost
as much fun. The government finally pays me
for being who I am, though I still don’t feel
I’ve ever been approved of. Did you love me, Mum?
Or did I remind you too much of my father?
Still a poet after fifty years. That might count
for something. Never wanted you to be disappointed
by what you gave birth to. Might be unlovable
but I’ve mastered the art of being dangerously wise
as a broken window with a liberated field of view.
I got out of the egg. I know how big the sky is.
Might be people I’m dead to, not yet born,
will look upon me as an eyesore they couldn’t
get rid of, they’ve stared at so long, given the way
things turn around, they begin to accord me,
as strange as I seem, an air of original charm.
My heartwood might have been a pulp mill
but my poems all have tree rings and birds
in the branches, and even in winter, the full moon
for a blossom of apple bloom in an ice age.