STARS TONIGHT AND THE TRAIN WHISTLES JUST PASSING THROUGH
Stars tonight and the train whistles just passing through,
not dying like some wounded animal, a mammoth in a tarpit
beset by dire wolves just as the ice-age is taking its hand
off the throats of the rivers and returning the world to trees,
no drunks or teenagers lying across the tracks, no accidents
or suicides with loved ones leaving flowers and photographs
on the spot where it happened too late, too late, and no one
in a small town really able to relate to such a universal absence
like the death of the larger mammals when spring is at the gate.
I listen for the music of fate, and I’m almost always ready to dance,
but sometimes when I consider the erosively random indifference of chance
I speak as if I had to keep a tight grip on my molecules
or dissipate into space myself with no nebular aspirations
of ever becoming a star to shine a little light
on what I’m doing here as if I just bought drinks for the house,
though I’m never quite sure what I’m trying to celebrate,
but it’s enough to start a riot of sacred clowns
laughing on a winter night as they put each other down
as if the only way they could bluff themselves into having a little fun
were to put callouses on their smiles, and talk tougher than they are.
And over the course of time, the scars prove as hurtful as the wounds.
Atrocities turn into local stories and the asylums are abandoned
to the ghosts of the mad who murdered the nurse
in the moonlit flash of an axe you can still see ninety years later
if you’re driving by alone on a starless night in late February.
It’s the commonality of it all that makes it chronically appalling.
It’s the sententious acceptance of death as if it had already
been achieved sooner than later, and sooner waste your last breath
on the ashes of a dying fire than wonder why
intimately specific human beings turbulent with life
are forgotten as carbon copies of us as they’re fossilized
and remembered, if at all, as the narrative themes of morbid legends,
or nacreously glazed in mother of pearl as if the dawn were never false.
I can’t see the bright side of a black hole through the temple
of a universe that’s playing Russian roulette with itself,
but I can hear the tumblers of a solar system falling into place
on a safe full of secrets for my eyes only as if some things
came to light like undertakers chalking the faces of the cosmetically dead.
Lifemasks and strawdogs and scarecrows thrown
on the ritual fires of the crematorium after the sacrifice is said
to make the living feel better about having their hearts cut out.
Whatever gets you through the night. Aquatic Byron
reaching into the pyre to pull Shelley’s drowned heart out of the flames.
The way I seek a deeper solitude than death out in the nearby woods
where I always feel like an exile with a homeless heart
looking up at the stars like a handful of sacred dirt in a medicine bag
I’ve been saving for years to throw on my own grave
I’m holding up to the abysmal impersonality of the nightsky,
not to have it blessed by a consolation prize, but to give
the unresponsive silence of the alphas and omegas of the mystery
a taste of my humanity even if they spit me out as a bitter kind of light.
I will shine. Without a lantern. Without a firefly. Without
a guiding star. Without a radiant familiar in a desolate place.
If nothing else, I’ll keep adding my paint rag to the big picture
of the dark until I grow eyes to look beyond the obvious mirrors,
part the curtains, lift the veils, kiss the eyelids of the new moon
until the dead wake up like an eclipse of black roses
blooming in their blood, turn the trilithons of Stonehenge
until it’s aligned with the vernal equinox and the dead return
like migrating birds to the innocence of their childhoods
and the coffins they were buried are disinterred like toyboxes.