SO MANY MORNINGS
So many mornings I want to be done
with waking up as if it were always winter
and rifling through my pockets to see if
I’ve got enough cash to buy me and the cat
another day or two of life she can spend
chasing paper balls of the poems I roll up
to expend on her amusement, and for me
a microbubble of space and time I can
write and paint in without feeling hungover
from the chronic sobriety of my last encounter
with a swarm of killer bees retooled
from the dirty thirties smuggling prohibition
through the Thousand Islands. Return me to exile.
I’m the King of the Outcasts, a pure blood pariah,
a leper of the moon, a sacred clown who dances for rain
to help him recall how to cry. I’m a blue flower
in No Man’s Land someone ploughed with a cannon.
It’s a kind of protest sign I hold up
like a placard of chicory that means no surrender.
I sheathe the moon in my scabbard like a blood-stained blade.
I am the lunar trifecta of aquiline talons that grasp at nothing.
I labour at life with an effortless effort of intensity
that makes Rasputin look like a slacker among mad monks.
I have been dispossessed by more spirits I’ve never met
except as an anonymous urgency to write something
as if I were here to listen, not speak, and my voice
were merely the microphone everyone popped their p’s in
as if they were French kissing electricity, than any man I know of.
I wholly understand experientially what the Zen master meant
when he said he didn’t like poems written by poets,
cooking prepared by cooks, or paintings done by painters.
Leftover carbon in a half-hearted fire. Boulders of coal
instead of diamonds for the adamantine eyes
of an enlightened snowman wondering
what it might have been like to have been born a scarecrow,
a strawdog, on a hot summer evening in the flesh instead of
made out of stars on an immaculate winter night harder
than moonlight on the lake ice. I’ve found my way
out of this labyrinth of dead ends more than once.
The crows and the wolf gods know all the backtrails out of hell,
but it was a sadder day than I ever imagined
clarity and freedom could be. The solitude is interminable.
And even the moon doesn’t truly understand what you’re howling at.
You’ve probably never heard of Archibald Lampman
but he was the warrior minstrel of the forlorn hope
a hundred and fifty years ago plus in Ottawa
at the Council of the Three Fires where the rivers join
and I smear the same kind of war paint on my face
though the feathers in my topknot I plucked from Pegasus
to see if I’d forgotten how to write with ink and quills.
Poetry is the last sanctuary of savage dignity in the Black Hills.
I’m a hold out from way back when the Chinese
taught the Haida to carve cedar totem poles like the power nodes
of the chakras in their spines. I’ve got knots and nooses in mine.
But the principle remains the same. Having tried
shattering a few celestial spheres into the crystal chandeliers
of a wine glass falling everywhere like the fine mist of an ice-storm
with my voice to see if I could make something habitable
out of this shepherd moon that might surprise everybody yet
with life forms that defy uninspired expectations, I
turned my attention to Tibetan prayer bowls
that hummed in spirals that made a mantra
out of every line of picture-music I wrote after that
placing the emphasis on the assonance of my sacred syllables
I kissed and placed in the pyx and lockets of my consonants
as if I never wanted to forget a face that had meant
something to me sometime like an eclipse of the full moon.
Now I’d never undertake a journey
that didn’t leave me homeless at the end.
That’s what I do in life. That’s how I honour
all the prophetic skulls that have brought me to this moment.
Some things I reveal like a candle in a morgue.
And when I fall like a stone bird out of the heavens
you can be sure Medusa’s been stargazing again.
Pain to me is a naturally renewable resource,
and if I were ever to write my autobiography,
it would read like the Burgess Shale.
Hail, fellow, well met in the flea markets of poetic vision.
Here you can tinker with your revisions like hex-keys and lies.
It’s difficult to know what you’re going to say next
given there’s no connection between thought and emotion
and verbal expression, and you realize they’re not sharing
the same dream grammars when one calls you to prayer
and the other to take notes at a seance of all your former selves.
All I know is whenever it was my turn to jump out of the plane
engulfed by the abyss, to test out my winged heels, it always
seemed like bad faith to reach for a parachute as if
there were something left to save. Be brave, young Icarus,
be brave. Daring said feathers and falling took flight.
Though I’m afraid I’m beginning to repeat myself
like the white noise of an old man remembering the past.
I’ve been plunging with the dolphins on the moon
in this shadowy sea of sentience since I was first conceived.
And it’s not so much that madness became a way of life
as it was a matter of sharing what I saw without asking
or expecting to be believed, if I lived it by myself for everyone.