I’M SITTING DOWN ALONE AT A POKER-FACED TABLE
Day Five: Please forgive this torrent of poetry that’s about to break
like a beaver dam flooding whatever road you’re on.
In my present state of mind it’s hard to tell if I’m just
drumming myself into a trance because I’m scared
or a boy whistling down the road in the dark to himself,
ironically enough, hoping nothing in the dark bushes
is really listening to what he’s trying to say to himself
as if things were normal, and he was just talking in his sleep
in a bad dream again. And I have absolutely, do you hear me,
absolutely no right to expect anyone to feel obligated
to read anything I may well be imposing upon them here.
Feel free or not as you please to read, as I hope you’ve always done
to beat the stumps with that old shepherd’s crook of compassion
as if were just another stick you picked up in your wandering
to see if any rabbits jump out this black magician’s hat
I’m trying my very best to live in like a Selkirk chimney
or a silver rocket on a gantry pad that’s about to launch me
into God knows where but apparently I’m the lucky monkey that gets to go.
An astrochimp wired to what the cosmodoctors want to know,
or a catscan tobaggan with a laser halo in a tunnel of love
that might have people I love waiting for me at the end of it
or not, and since I’m more of a poet than a cowboy,
a moonrise I can ride off into that reconciles the two
until the dark matter’s finally resolved when my bones turn to dust.
But there I am again going on about nothing as I always have
and I don’t mean to do that. I honestly don’t. I just don’t
have it in me to be minimalist enough so I ask you
not to blame the gold mine because it isn’t an engagement ring.
I could slip a little golden zero on your finger like a halo
or the ripple of a raindrop in the sun, or an elegant moondog
the silver rubs off but it’s always been in my nature
because of the way I was brought up, to have done with it
and give you the whole motherlode, because when
has enough of enough ever been enough, and though life
might not cherish what it creates, haven’t you noticed
how it squanders what it creates so beautifully and lavishly
like stars and butterflies, lovers and children in the park,
you want to live forever as if life were never enough?
So I’m about to post four poems like lifeboats
on this the fifth day away from shore, because
this is the dock where they belong, knocking their empty skulls
together like bumper cars, or if you’re luckier, and
I hope you are, a cargo full of moonlight that might
help you one day, as it has me so far, to see in the dark.
By your fruits you shall know them. Here’s my little apple tree.
Help yourself as you please, whether you’re a bear
or a bird or a bee or an angry wasp, or even a junkie
looking for a hit of apple bloom in your life. Free. No charge.
Like that hamper of books in the doorway you always stop to browse.
I’m sitting down alone at a poker-faced table
revealing my cards as I have to, concealing the rest,
hoping death doesn’t call my brave boyish bluff
at holding a royal flush when all I’ve got in my hand
is a few peasant deuces with street smarts,
and a feeble hope I can clear the pot on the table
before it does by raising the stakes and demanding
I show him what I’ve got. Not much, and possibly
even less than that if it all comes down to one serious moment
that passes its time outside this waterclock bloodsport
of broken hearts that feel they’ve already lost too much
in life to carry on any further than the last rapid
of white water they ran, as they hear the approaching roar
of the precipitous waterfalls up ahead, and they have
no way of plumbing how deep that is, as they keep
calling out to the stern of their shipwrecked, paper-birch canoe,
closer and closer to the edge, three bells and all’s well,
man the lifeboats, but remember, and my mother taught
me this, despite some nasty attitudes who are righteously
young and primitive enough not to have outgrown a point to prove,
as they will when the first flower blooms for them
and they wake up like eyes to see whose heart
has been looking at them all this time like wind-blown
ungenetically modified or poisoned by neonicontinoidal pollen
every minute mustard seed of is the whole universe.
Women and children first as always and for a million years to come.
Remember the Buddha? I see it a bit a lot like him, it seems.
A dream, a cloud, a dewdrop, a lightning flash and fireflies.
Lightning and Fireflies. God, it already terrifies me
that I’m beginning to remember that as if I were
already nostalgically spiritual. Will I be happy,
will I be sad (wasn’t that a song that used to pick
the petals off a twelve string guitar carved out of heartwood
to see if she really loved him or not?) for the things I did or didn’t do
for myself, when I had one, and the people in my life
I ignored when they cried out the most for help?
Or will the jury hang this way forever like a blue vision
of Billy Holiday’s strange fruit hung by the neck
as if they nothing more than coyotes and coydogs
and bush wolves that used to howl with the moon in Lanark?
Watch out for the sky when it begins to shower like chandeliers
of star-frosted mirrors and tears of rain, they’ll kill you
as fast as that black comic opera of a candelabra
hanging over your head by a thread like a bouquet
of flowers all these swords of Damocles are laying
like deadly nightshade on your grave like a wreath
you received from the assassin you raised like a deathwish
and now you’re getting what you subconsciously wished for
all along. Or maybe it’s just the optical effect
of the candle burning down to the navel of its umbilical wick.
Or reading too much Rilke, or listening to an orgy of Jim Morrison
sing this is the end my only friend as somebody realizes the music is over
and it’s time to turn out the lights before you go.
But please don’t complicate what I’ve just written with courage,
I am afraid, but the only reason I could write that
is thanks to this unforgiving disciple that’s been
a slave driver to me over the last few thousand lifetimes
of going supernova and falling apart as a poet,
(Talk about a horse that ferociously wants you off its back
before it’s going to let you come anywhere near its spine
with your spurred heals dug like burrs under the saddle
on its winged flanks. Ride it lightly as you can. It’s
a cowboy pony who will do most of the work for you,
effortless effort, if you let it slacken the reins on your spine a bit.)
I could project and derive nuances of many meanings
in what I’ve just written, but I think I just gave a brief
creative writing lesson, and you have to forgive me quick
for believing I’m sure I know what I’m talking about.
Looking back as obviously I am doing now,
it would be rather pithy don’t you think if I were to say
radically enough, a kickback from the sixties, a good education
is one part knowledge, nine tenths the best guess,
and the infinity of zeroes of emptiness in a good bluff
that seems to run on only in long, incommensurable periodic sentences
and logorrheics that I keep an eye on not becoming
with varying degrees of success, because, believe me
this scares the shit out of me. Especially when,
as Woodrow said when the Irish boy fell into
a water mattress of breeding water-moccasins
that struck at him like a machine-gun, as everyone
watched with tears and wonder and fear in their eyes,
as he twitched his nervous way into death
the only thing you can do about death is ride away from it
and then looked around for some expedient means
to keep the herd moving toward Montana. Giddy-up.
It’s time to get the herd rolling again. And, of course,
I agree with Icarus, he’s right. And that’s what
makes him a man you’d rather follow than teach to lead.
He gets things going. Knowing if the river
doesn’t keep moving the waters of life grow brackish and fester
like a wound that hasn’t been attended to
and even the most ancient galaxies of waterlilies
shining out of the deep past with a Tuareg’s respect
for mirages and water gardens with underground rivers,
and even all the beautiful, creatively loving illusions of the Alhambra
revert back quickly enough into the swamp
when their lotus dream is over and the sky
is coming on again on the morning shift
to replace all those lamp posts that come out at night
like fourth magnitude stealthy Morlocks on the graveyard shift
just as the ghosts of stars are returning to the cemetery
when the sun comes up,the unbroken yolk of an embryonic bluebird.
And it’s either seven come eleven or snake-eyes
when you throw yourself around like bones in your head,
asking the beautiful woman beside to blow on the dice,
(This is getting suspiciously close to sounding like a Freudian
blowjob. Forgive me. But it’s completely spontaneous.
Like a wet dream you’re having in a love affair with life
to swipe a brownie off Robert Frost’s table in passing.)
But it’ll do. And who have I ever been to judge what’s
inappropriately imprurient and what’s not.
As long as it helps you to get your ambiguous point across
all those bridges burning behind you I’m sure
are going to replace the measure of a metre in Paris
or the gold standard on Wall Street as a way
of quantifying the quality of what I’m talking about.
Now watch this. You see the way I dog-paddle my way
around this bend in the river as if I were turning a trope
I learned like a rope trick from Shakespeare, not
Edward de Vere, I know how much a poor boy
can be hated for making money off of the pursuit
of an earthly excellence by an institution that’s not.
Money in his case. I haven’t done anywhere near as well.
And I don’t think I want to turn over that old rock
of an institutional skull to see what’s under it, but I can guess.
And I didn’t drink these words like a waterfall of spit
out another man’s mouth. Whether you think of them
as drool from the lips of a tobacco chewer, or
good saliva of the realm. When I spit. Like a cobra
not the Taliban, it’s all my own, like a toxic revelation
from Allah, or a deadly gunslinger from a cowboy movie
that’s been going on all day in my head, with a quick draw.
Remember the scene in Tombstone when Doc Holiday
said to Johnny Ringo out in the woods who was expecting
Wyatt Earp, who was a woosy in Johnny Ringo’s eyes
compared to Doc Holiday who scared him to death,
two snakes facing each other down to see who would
get one double barreled trigger finger of a lightning strike
down the middle of an oak tree standing out alone in a field,
Odin hanging on his ash as a sacrifice he makes to himself
on the axis mundi of the world gun barrel that points out true north in a flash
as pow you watch the space capsule of Doc Holiday’s bullet
enter Johnny Ringo’s third eye as if Doc were proofreading his forehead
where everything is written there your eyes will ever see,
a fate you might live to regret, when you’ve got nothing else
to live for, and there’s a gnawing emptiness inside
you were born from an egg oviparously and not a warm-blooded womb
and as soon as the breach birth baby comes out the midwives
wash it down and anointed it in the bathwaters
of its own grave, and let somebody else decide to give it a name.
That job apparently fell to me for the last sixty-five years.
And since I’ve already sworn enough in this poem
to get kicked off poemhunter because I didn’t wash
my mouth out with vinegar, but decided to go drinking
this firewater until I blacked out naturally because
I couldn’t handle it, and thought things might get better
in the morning, and surprisingly, no one more than me, have,
I’m going to say it right out loud, Who the fuck
was I while I was still alive enough to care? I’ve got
to put somebody’s name on this grave before I lose
this last chance to know before the table’s cleared
like the threshing floor of the moon with a sweep
of the last crescent arm of its crone phase that looks
more like a sickle, or a fang, or the lapwing
of an unpaired parenthesis trying to keep its shit together
or some kind of fish hook or perverse thorn
you have to push all the way through until it
either kills you or you lay it down like sword
in tribute when it gets to the other side of the river,
or it’s game over, you’re done like burnt toast
as they say when men are trying to act tough,
nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing to one.
And it’s time to lay it down gently brother, lay it down,
gently, like a posthumous loveletter you wanted to be found
like a card up your sleeve you’ve had there all along,
and never abused by trying to win anything
other than the occasional heart or two who were worthy
one way or another, for a moment or two
of getting you to break your rule like a nightbird
witching wand wish bone flute whenever it got close enough
to the housewells and watersheds of life it’s always
been looking for even as a mirage in this desert of stars
that’s shaped hemispherically with an hourglass figure
to keep you exploring the abyss for it as I will be if I can
long after my eyes have turned to clouds on the wind
and my silver tongued delusions that never fooled
anyone more than me, who almost made a religion out them,
before I cleaned my act up and learned to live like
the apostate, heretical, outlaw poet of the heart
which is enough of an error of perception to believe
that’s what I might have been over a whole lifetime
of not really knowing for sure. But acting on Blakes’ advice
about fools and sacred clowns mellowing into the beautifully wise
like butter and ice floes and snowmen that remind you
of dolmenic ice-cream cones in the Arctic when its melts,
even a good guess is enough of a persistent folly
to keep life loving you over a whole lifetime without
rapping on about it like a Hegelian cowboy philosopher,
but a poet, and that’s all I’m going to write. Poet. And that’s it.
Like a red lighthouse above an emergency exit to keep
people from floundering on the rocks of their own hearts
when they hear the mermaids singing as they did for me
when I was a seahorse and used to go jumping with them
like dolphins at the prow of the moon, and let’s be honest, a seagull, too.
Or maybe even the broken arrow of an unfledged albatross.
And I can remember like some Iranian Pythagoras in Crotona
or Ojibway out in Westport before the loggers and real estate agents
who forgot that nobody owns the earth, unless
they’re into pimping out their mothers for cash instead of apple bloom
when I was being scattered once like these ashes from the urn
of a Canada goose migrating south in the body of a bird,
a transmigration of Carpathian angels with the soul of the blues,
but as you can see, I’m just as helpless now as I was then
to know who I might have been. So I don’t know. You guess.
But don’t let me hear you say Edward de Vere wrote Shakespeare
in front of me ever again. I can remember, at least,
when I was a shrieking red tailed hawk with a moonful of open claws
about to demonstrate to some poor little mouse
whose luck had run out its the tail being held over a snakepit
whose fangs were the firesticks of the triune identity of the world
with tuning forks and the Neptunian tridents of a Pacific
west coast sea devil from the lunatic fringe of North America
when everybody advanced their dancing more than they did their careers.
Not amen. But absitomen. May no evil come of my words
other than that I intended when somebody was offended
by birds singing in the chimney in the morning as they woke me up
to what’s truly beautiful about this world when you get
to choose your own cage, whether it be the heart of a woman or a man or a child
or an art that’s never let you down like a coffin into your grave from the start.
And I’ve been given no good reason yet to believe won’t do now.
Though as I said before that always sounds braver when I say it
than when I hold it timorously within my shaking silence
not to betray it like the first and last rule of a noble calling that appealed
to a blue-blooded aristocratic poet as my mother used to say
I had a hamburger wallet with a champagne taste for women and lyrics.
Seagulls pleading in my wake for someone to translate them into nightingales
that used to blow up without warning like a squall of stars
when you were out skimming the waves of your own sea of awareness
and like the Samurai in the orchard in the movie looking for
the perfect frame of a blossom, just like the thought waves of the sea,
there’s no reason to play favourites when they’re all perfect just as they are.
But that’s just me again trying to be the Pacific unafraid of its own weather.