Tuesday, January 1, 2013



If it’s a true religion, it hasn’t got a history, it’s wholly
of the moment. No time for a teacher.
No martyrs, saints, apostates or heretics.
No Summa Theologica trying to proof-read the spirit.
Like a star, it’s always ahead of the light
it lavished on yesterday. It advances into the dark
like the root of a flower without nightvision.
The moment you say anything about it
you’ve flawed its silence with a lie. Like
the light of the star in its eye on a long road
after midnight, you can’t fly toward it,
you can’t run away. Whatever it shines upon
is true north, and the wind is its only direction of prayer.
Make a shrine of it, and it’s empty. Deny it
and it returns your voice like a bird in a valley
to a bough that lets you overhear yourself.

The world is construed from the absence of a self
like a mirage on the moon that doesn’t affect the tides.
If you want to paint the worlds the way the mind does
lay your brush aside, and watch what unfolds.
Show me a leaf that isn’t a masterstroke of your seeing.
Show me a starmap that isn’t a mindscape of your being.
Show me a book that isn’t trying to decipher the silence
as if you were written in code to disguise
the enigma of your unlocatable presence everywhere
without a sign of yourself that depends upon your magic markers.

The moment you say it is, this is it, and mistake it
for the foundation stone of a nacreous paradigm
for the new moon beading rosaries of black pearls
like the bright beginnings of a born again eclipse
you’re anointing quicksand with a desert of holy oil
and all the pyramids you took to heart, start to thaw
like the eternal recurrence of an hourglass that lost track
of history when it abandoned its perspective
for a telescope among the stars, no three alarm fires
to rush off to like a volunteer waterclock in scuba gear.

If you want to grasp becoming stop trying
to take a hold of it like like a hydra-headed snake
shapeshifting in the noose of a solitary question.
Stand away, let it go, let it flow like the wavelength
of a black river through the undergrowth of your sacred woods.
And don’t throw koans at it in the last moments
as it disappears, if you meditate in a glass zendo.
Every accusation is a confession and the karma’s
meted out in full immediately as your feathers
revert to scales, and opposites are conjoined
like dragons in cosmic eggs with wings
on both sides of their extremes such that
as it is above so it is below, a matter of starmud.
The earth in harmony with the light that shines upon it.

And you who are lost upon the nightseas of your own awareness,
whatever terrors of the deep sleep under your lifeboats
dreaming of bobbing their way to rescue
like prophetic skulls washed up on an insular beach
like green Japanese fishing floats picked like early grapes
from the vines of the nets your dolphins are tangled in,
what is there to fear from your own weather
that isn’t a reflection of the kind of love life
you’re deriving from an affair with oceanic notions
of keeping aviaries of kingfishers to quell the commotion
of the storms that pass through your life roiling
your thought waves with turbulent reflections
on the surface of your awareness rooted in the music
where fumaroles toot on the bottom of the sea
like the stops of a flute playing the dangerous lyrics of life
in different keys, making them up on the fly?

In an interpendent universe whatever your eye falls upon,
stars above, dragons below, versatile enough to reverse
the telescopic spin of your perspective of what’s high
and what’s low, anything you see is the mother of the matrix
even when you turn the light on yourself to discover
there’s no one there, just this creative absence, this
dark abundance that’s goddess enough to fill her bright vacancy
with worlds within worlds that unveil her immediate intimacy
as if she were telling the truth to herself like a secret that didn’t exist.




Watching mirrors on a catwalk
but none of them interest me.
Disembodied as a play without a stage
it takes time to know where to stand.
I take my heavy winter boots off
like two starless nights. The smoke
is wiser than the candle, but who cares?

Looking for the pure space, the little white square
the shrink told me she discovered
at the centre of my heart like an albino sunspot
but no one was there. Excruciating solitude.
Times, I swear, even death feels lonely.
Comes from looking at too many stars.

Looking for an intimacy so deep within the abyss
it turns me inside out like the eyelids of an orange
without wedging the full moon apart into segments.
The peers of my high school annual predicted
I was mostly likely to become a mad teacher,
a mad scientist, a mad poet, mad. Four careers
and I’m retroactively mastering the last.
It’s haunted me like the Sibyl of Cumae for lightyears.

I thought if I pushed the envelope
people would receive it as a kind of loveletter.
Peace in your soul you can always
live it like a dream when the craziness
gets out of hand but I was a firestorm
of sidereal insights in a lighthouse
built like an obelisk on lunar quicksand.

Sometimes you’re better off at sea
than landing with high hopes for your lifeboats
on some coasts. Wasn’t sure if mine were among them,
but why take a chance? I warned people away from me.
There were happier islands you could be washed up on.

Strange the life I’ve been living like a quixotic crusade
against all ideas and forms of art that lack compassion,
breaking up continents like loaves of bread
for the ugly ducklings and the mysterious black swans
that move through the water like the reflections
of total eclipses, just to diversify the species of my solitude.
Poetry has made a thematic habit of my discontinuity.

At the top of every totem pole I’ve ever carved
out of the forests of Vancouver Island I was raised in,
there’s a hidden nightbird with its wings folded
like a black dove perched on the axis mundi of my serpent fire.
The songs I sing can’t be rehearsed by a choir.
Spontaneity keeps me from looking like a liar
in the eyes of the stars when they overhear me talking to myself.

Crazy wisdom. Bright vacancy. Dark abundance.
You’ve got to keep saying yes, yes, yes, to the light,
to the dark, to life, to love, to solitude, grief, despair
and all their attendant transformations if you want to stay sincere.
Visions of life. The twenty seven year old hooker
so strung out on cocaine in the bank robber’s house
where there wasn’t so much as a spoon or a fork or a plate,
she was a black, aniconic madonna of pain,
the paint rag of a thousand fantasies from fairy dust
to snakepits, none of them her own.
The coke white blankness of a bright vacancy
enslaving her dark abundance like shadows at noon.
The crone of her infancy, a withered spring.
I’ve been holding back my tears like an ice-age ever since.

Life can be as cold as an exacto knife as often
as it lets you feel its wisdom ripening like an apple
in the sunset just as the air is beginning to cool off
from labouring so intensely all day at minding flowers and the stars,
by God, the stars are distilled from a thousand lovers’ eyes.

The syrinx selects its own song when nobody’s using it.
And I’d rather fail, throwing my voice like a sparrow
against a windowpane keeping me from the sky
until it breaks and I’m grounded at the roots
of the prima donnas of the cosmos in their ballet slippers
dancing on the wind. Say it all in one big-hearted metaphor
like the roar of a dragon with a compassionate heart,
so that every poem I ever wrote was a fleet of lifeboats
flying the skull and crossbones like a shepherd of wolves
that knew how to howl at the moon like smoke from a distant fire
and I was poet enough to know that madness
is just another form of prayer. Be that. Without compromise.
Rather than disrespect my life and art by taking notes.

If you’re making a gift of a gift don’t call it a sacrifice.
Still within you, I swear, my gun-shy brother,
my reticent sister, despite all your wary attempts
to the contrary, there resides a jewel,
and you can call me a fool if you want,
a star sapphire, let’s say, because that’s my birth stone
and I had one once that was given to me by a lover,
a radiance like white phosphorus starclusters
that burns through everything from children’s skin
to the comets of kelp rinsing their hair in the tide
as they root their eyes in starmud like black ribbons
undone on a gift of life, or streamers on a girl’s first bike.

This jewel cuts through the void like a scalpel of starlight.
It’s an intimacy with your own awareness that leaves
everybody standing at the gate a stranger to themselves.
This is that homespun genius that makes its own clothes
like the moon to cover its nakedness in raiments of light
and takes in everybody under the cloak of its eclipse
like the leather yurt of a dragon giving shelter to birds
that are afraid of the lightning under its fireproof wings.

This is the labour of a lifetime spent on the flash of a firefly.
This is the lantern you’ve carried before you for lightyears
like a nightwatchman into the dark to see if there was
anyone else there who was as scared as you were to find out.
This is the work that taught you to be just as fulfilled
by what you failed at as you were empty
when they handed you a fictitious award.
And you knew immediately what a long way back it was
to the anonymous sixties when you were insignificant enough
to get some real work done and you weren’t famous
for the way you worship everything under the sun.

The uniqueness of your eyes might evaporate
like snowflakes of dry ice with the fragrance
of cornflowers tossed into a grave like the sad, longing
in the afterthoughts of a Neanderthal mother,
but your seeing, not what your looking at,
is as ageless and unperishing in its formlessness as ever.

And though you might have changed the covers
from pulp to hardback sometime in the early Cambrian,
none of your emotions and many yet to come
that have been left unthumbed like the novels of friends,
have grown any older under the carapaces
of your prophetic skulls trying to balance
the lunacy of a spare harvest moon on your head
while you’re crossing an exhausted suspension bridge.

Like I said, I don’t need to make a choir out of my voice
to listen to the sacred syllables whispering
in the autumn aspen trees to know there’s something sacred
in the silence that follows the wind isn’t revealing
like a poem that wasn’t written to be overlooked or not.
I’ve lapped the marrow from the broken koans
in the terrible lairs of the gods, and I’ve sung
the dead up out of the coffins of the sunflowers
knowing they’d look back eventually at their own shadows
but it might prove crucial to the state of their afterlives
that someone who loved them at least gave it a good try.

Magnificent the life within you, isn’t it? The way
its freedom never gets caught in any sudden squall
of golden chains you might want to weigh it down with
like the spiritual bling of maidens of the mist with rainbows
to dazzle the eyes of the blind into believing what they hope for?

Kids and wives, divorces like horrible vacations,
lovers that painted their nails in blood like razorblades,
brute dung heaps who snarled like distempered carnivores
under a heavy snowfall, forgetting no real shepherd of wolves
would be caught dead in sheep’s clothing. Disappointment
turned out to be more of a perennial than a one night stand.
You began to understand why God bewails human ingratitude.
And it was the folly of common sense when you were paranoid
to close your eyes like the granite crypt of your afterlife
against the superstitious shadows of the approaching grave-robbers.

You brought it all with you. Did you really think
you could leave it behind like a dogstar
you tried to ditch in the country to give it
some chance of spiritual survival like a fire in the wild
that could live off the land without it following you
like a return journey for the rest of your forsaken way?

It’s not that wonderful, heart-thawing, mystical acts
of human compassion have stopped happening
like oxygen and fire breaking into tears, it’s just
the turn of the miracles to lose their faith in us
like the hurt feelings of beautifully rejected lovers.
Something about the way love bonds both sides
of an open wound as wide as an expanding universe
like a maternal welder kissing our injuries into stronger scars.
Zen cracks in a teacup mended with gold.

Stop trying to sift through the middens of your past
like an archaeological dig in the starfields
you were trying to build an on ramp to the Road of Ghosts in,
and when you’re woken up in the small hours of the morning
by the dead who’ve got nothing but time on their hands
until dawn, and they ask you what you were dreaming
don’t answer like a seance addressing yourself to their absence.
Sometimes you just have to leave some things unburied
in the Valley of the Kings and Queens and move on
to second-guessing the tumblers like habitable planets
in possible solar systems like ours on the locks
of the stargates of Orion that will know you by the way you knock
not by the junkyard of sacred relics you’ve been hoarding.

If you dump your own redundancy, you’ll travel a lot lighter.
If you don’t forget the hidden jewel within you
has long had a place among the stars, whose eyes
I ask you, even after all these seeing nights and lightyears
of peering through a glass darkly, a candle in a lantern
released like a firefly to find its way home, could shine
any brighter than the waterstars and starmud of yours are now?