The more he tells the truth, the longer his nose grows.
Buddha Pinocchio steps out from behind his slapstick
veils of paint and poetry to take his black clown masks off,
throw strawdogs on the fire now that the ritual
is over, everything tumours and black walnuts,
the desolate autumn leaves, hungry stray dogs
in the cold-hearted wind as I let my shadow lead
as if it were its turn for the first time in my life
and it seems fair, turn and counter turn, stand,
we’re waltzing and walking together as if we were
friends, Blue Flower, Black Dog, from years ago
I don’t remember when, but the dark, cold air
of farewell on my skin is a fathom more than
I wish to sink, and the lights of the hospital
don’t wink at me anymore through their skeletal
keyholes, and there’s no mercy in the window
with the x-ray geranium on the fire-escape
that isn’t an exit anymore from anything more dangerous
than this beautiful, beautiful world for all
its gruesomeness, trying so hard to think
of something more uplifting than good-bye
to me and my broken arrow of a shadow
out there somewhere, or is it maggots
and a poultice of leaves to draw me out of the earth
like a fever or a thorn of the moon from my dream?
The night doesn’t sing to me in its linear B
of stars. This is too eyeless. Where are the Pleiades?
A democracy of pulchritudes among the store front
mannequins. How lucky they are to not have
to feel their way through this with me. I never asked
for anything I wasn’t prepared to give back
full measure and a bit beside. That made them cry.
And I’ve almost kept my word. What do you say
to the people with Chinese lanterns for hearts,
everybody trying so earnestly to show you a way
out of this, as if you were a wounded emergency door?
Is this great poetry? I can’t tell anymore. It hurts
to go there as I see scalpels on my grave laid
like bouquets of wildflowers, poppies, starwheat,
and the laurels of abandoned changelings I forgot to bathe.
The art of life is long and brief. It’s true.
An arsonist of roses in a volunteer fire brigade
that seldom makes it to this house of life on time
for anything but foundation stones. The Taj Mahal.
The black one. The dark mirror. Waterlilies
and the moon. Unassuagable lovers building tombs.
But o the miracle, not how, not why, not when,
but that we are here at all. That we’re here, though
the firefly eludes us, though the lightning branch,
the strong rafter, the ladder walking beside us
like a shadow with one rung no higher than we can
lift it to save ourselves, though we meant to save
everyone else first. Dark shedding, I could teach
these leaves a thing or two about letting go
but I save it for another day that’s never going to come.
Let’s look at it that way. The quiet doesn’t stain
the silhouettes of the maple leaves reading yesterday’s paper
as if it were news of the day on grey, grey, grey cement.
It glows with a light that’s happily bemused with itself
but you can’t tell if it’s a candle or a tunnel or something else
nobody’s ever guessed before. And my body so full
of strangers trying to party with death in the nude.
If not now. When? There’s a new exactitude
in life and it’s got a friend with a scalpel
that looks like a crooked, little smile with a twist,
almost a clown with a smirk that’s pleased with itself
it’s done its work. It’s done it well. And it’s done it fast.
Could almost admire that if it were human.
Shining, yes. A motherlode of blind pearls
at the bottom of a hopeless sea of shipwrecks.
That’s not despair. That’s seeing it straight. It’s dark
out, less so inside, and I’ve passed by these windows
many times before. Life inside going on
like mystic crosswalks that have grown lazy
labouring at not believing in themselves enough
to make it shine, even when they cry like I do,
though it’s not required. The drugs have spliced me
into their circuitry to put a smile on the world
they’re not faking this time. No migraines
and I’m not wobbling like a drunk in orbit
as the violins take to the stage like Jerusalem artichokes.
Fiddleheads of death. From Kaladar to Calabogie.
It’s ancient enough to dance to for a man facing
his own exit, both doors open, with a silhouette of himself
projected ahead as if we both knew where
we were going in black cowboy boots with
bevelled heels and Texas toes. Life was
an arduous guest we taught to shut the cupboard doors.
O, more than that. O so much more than that.
I was a happy arduous passionate apple with a star
for a heart, believe I was, condemned to be demonic and blessed,
or silver Russian olive full of hermit thrushes and nightingales,
peacocks and stars, trying like the sea when it labours for the moon
to say it, page by page, leaf by leaf over the years.
Minding the shedding. Minding the budding. Minding the threshing.
Not minding anything at all as if it were a long lost art not to.
My light burned late into the night as if someone
were still awake, doing something, who can say,
he believed in as if the stars depended on him to get it right.
Reduced to what you are, black dwarf or supernova
in the galaxy next door, you drank eclipses
from the eyes of beautiful women who thought
they saw something in you worth living for awhile.
It was a gift not to have to convince them. And you didn’t.
The full moon, and the lake, and the farmhouse
and the stars, o yes, the stars and their apprentice wildflowers
with the winding road took care of that for you.
Animals in the night, wary of their severities on sight.
Not numb. Not resigned. Flashing a little attitude
at time like an angry star on the horizon
of a cold bath in your own grave with no one
to scrub your back again to get the dust of the stars
and the gardens and the flowers you walked among, off.
And the poems, and the paintings, all the craziness of love.
As if it mattered you didn’t know why or where.
You were there. And that was more than worth asking for.