THE WESTERN LIGHT
The western light
comes right in through my windows
and glows in a golden haze on the dirty panes.
It slashs geometric shadows on my landscapes
like some mad abstractionist
who took them way too personally.
And all they said
was moon tree star light stone flower river sun
as if that were enough of a vocabulary
to say the whole of creation
quietly under your breath
like a secret that’s shared by everyone.
Guess I’m not enough of an ideologue
to comb the swamp for my own skeleton
like the ancestor of modern art.
I’ve gazed too long and hard
at the waterlilies in the Fall River
as if I were meditating on koans
that effortlessly open by themselves
not to waste my mind on anything
that didn’t include my heart
like a work in progress
like a river on its way to the ocean.
The night sheds petals of insight
like moonlight making waves
on the shoreless seas of enhanced awareness
where I stand like a human candle
with my little standard of flame
trying to light up the universe
so I can see what I am in the depths
of my own eyes.
If I’m the tragicomic clown of my own catastrophe
or if there’s something more profound
going on around me
than time and light
glancing off the mindstream
like birds against the delusive skies
that lie like the windows of insight
until you break through them
like the sun at midnight
shining its light
on a conspiracy of mirrors
against the moon.
I must have been mad before I was born
to see things the way I do now.
Everything is inconceivably probable somehow
like a fortune-cookie
that’s had its tongue cut out
for telling lies to the emperor
or the lack of a sign
for the thirteenth house of the misbegotten
in the neighbourhood watch of the zodiac.
Even when you lose your purpose in life
like a passport in a borderless country
you can still hang on to your identity
like a willess work engendered out of nothing.
You can still firewalk the ghost road of smoke
like stars under the feet of the dead
or follow your own breath
like a dancer that no one is leading.
It’s a surprise when you first come to see
that the greatest liberty of all isn’t death
but to cry as if you were bleeding
from a wound
so much sharper and deeper
than the poignancy of the knife that opened it
like a posthumous loveletter from the gods
reading your own fate
in the silence between their voices
as if forever hereafter
you could only be killed into life
and that every rafter of delusion
you ever sought shelter under
were the overturned hull of an empty lifeboat.
Sometimes I look at my life
like one of the splendid ambiguities
of a subtly nuanced godsend.
I try to befriend the way I feel
like the generous host
of a dangerous stranger
too cold and aloof
to introduce himself
as my shadow
my potential assassin.
I have tried to stay true to the lies
that led to the myth of my lucidity
like a mirage in a desperate desert of stars
I could drown in like an island
up to to the neck of an hourglass
in tidal waves of quicksand
laying my life down
like the foundation stone
of an inverted pyramid
that yearns for the state of mind
he enjoyed before life
more than that that won’t come after.
I have refused to put the torch out in its own reflection.
I have not tried to uproot
the beauty of the waterlilies
opening their eyes like stars
from the decay and the lies
and the scars that sustain them.
I have put to good use
the dysfunction of delusion
to make a credible raft
to get me to the other side
of this river of shadows
swollen like a flashflood
in a lunar seabed.
I have danced with ghosts
like a lonely shaman
around the unappeasable fires
of desire and death
entreating the nightsky
to rain on my flowerless roots
and sweeten the severity
of the dragon’s eyes
I have lived in such a way
to actualize the nameless reality
of a few common words
like love and understanding
I’ve kept alight like fireflies on the wind
and cherished them
as if the seeds of insight
were the perennial beginning
of enlightened orchards
that taste like the fruit of compassion.
I have lived in such a way
like a thief of keys
to relieve the locks
on the nightwatch
of their tunnel vision
that it’s not safe
to give my new address
to my old mailbox.
But even in a black out
I have not kept the light out
by plastering my windows with starmaps
or gone underground
like a blind star-nosed mole
that put its eyes out
to share something
in common with the dead
who would never have dreamed
they would all end up sleeping with their mothers.
I open them to receive the sun.
I close them to remember the stars
I’ve been dancing under
against the gathering storm
like a poor man’s chandeliers.
I have celebrated my defiance
of hitching a winged horse
to a hearse
by expressing the joy I take
in the revolutionary spontaneity
of my unself-reliance.
But of all the things
I’ve ever outgrown
like a sword from a bridge
I gave back to the sacred waters of life
the last to fall
was the ghostship in the mirage
of the image I had of me.
I poured myself out
like imaginary water
from a fountainmouth
in a real drought
to green the secret Edens
at the sacred crossroads
of the four rivers
that might come of it
as if X marked the spot
where I was standing
as the best place to start a garden
on the waterwheel of the mindstreams
that radiated out of its stillness like spokes.
Sometimes you end up stealing fire
when all along
you thought you were meant
to invent the wheel
or make up a new language
out of the echoes of dolphins
breaking into birdsong
as if they had turned in their feet
to go back to the sea
but had not forgotten
that their fins
could fly as easily
as the wings they once wore on their heels.
Many rivers flow into the one sea
and the sea returns to transcendence
back the way it came
without stepping into the same mindstream twice.
And I prefer to think
that the same thing is true of the multiverse.
Everything that shines in the night
or in the mind
down to the smallest spark of insight
locked like a firefly
in a lighthouse of ice
on the same omnidirectional course.
And true north
just the magnetic attraction
of a voodoo doll
in a haystack of needles
trying to get a bearing on things
like the right ascension
and correct declination
of a lost soul
summoned like a deranged galaxy
to the singularity
at the bottom of a blackhole
to exchange the light it goes by
by upgrading its eyesight
to search for itself in the night
on the higher frequencies
of X-ray vision
on board an experimental satellite.
And yet for all the myriad universes
that bubble up in hyperspace
like the last breath of the drowning
I have refused to live
like a diving bell in a wishing well
trying to understand
why nothing came true but the coins.
If you’ve never resolved anything in your whole life
maybe you were meant
to keep the mystery alive.
The medium is not the message
when the message is the mystery.
A meaningful medium
is nothing but meaningless words.
The sky doesn’t intend to say birds.
The water doesn’t mean fish
anymore than an infinite number of other things.
Nothing lives like a machine
for something as small as a purpose.
You don’t have to live like a lens
to keep the sun in focus.
And maybe one of the greatest blessings
of being on the nightshift
is that when the universe is out of work
it has no use for us.
We’re free to be when and whatever we want.
Or thoroughly protean.
Or nothing at all.
A full eclipse of the clock on the wall
or a chromatically aberrant nightlight
like a colour crazy star
low on the horizon of the hall.
As for me and my house
I’ve lost track of the number of times
I’ve brought my starmud to enlightenment
like a horse you can lead to water
but you can’t make drink.
The words crawl.
The words swim.
The words take to their wings
like eagles and dragonflies
and startled waterbirds.
Half a sliced pear
looks like a short-necked Spanish guitar.
But looking for the meaning of this
isn’t the same
as listening to the music.