Wednesday, January 23, 2013



It’s not enough to hinge a new door to your heart
when the house is built on flowerless quicksand
and the chimneys have acquired a taste for books.
Poems are the birthmarks of stairwells climbing themselves,
of hawks and serpents boring into the corks of wine
to get at the heart, the passions, the dreams, the rage
of the vine that set out like a road that got carried away
and fell in love with the intimate strangers who took it home
and danced all night among the swords as if they were thresholds.

Born in the shadows of unbearable bells, early I found
they were bound to the cord of my spine, like the moon
among the kelp that oils its tides with the black sperms of creation,
and I learned to pull on their iron parachutes to ease
my harsh, hot descents into wingless, mute oblivions;
I discovered there was a voice beyond mine
that could gather and disperse, celebrate and divine
the secret weddings and deaths of the bridal ghosts that came
like castaway bouquets to the refugee altars of their torn veils.

And there’s an indelible secret as old as the eyes of the wind
that can whisper sand into pyramids, that won’t receive
the vows of the petty and clever who traffic in the shadows
of the great, wild dead who wore their battered crowns like fire.
Let them crib their poems on the back of another man’s eyelids,
real constellations don’t shine like this and the wells are mute
whose waters taste of fireflies; and there isn’t a river on the moon
that knows how to plead with the sea for a widow that mourns,
that knows whose prodigy of blood unravels on autumn’s horns,
or how the waterlily in the mouth of the dragon
is more dangerous than a shrine full of blind snakes.

Behind every name, behind every door with a brass threshold
is a man who was forgotten by his own violated treaties
with the indentured mirrors he consulted to cheat the lakes,
who comes up over his horizons like the solemnities of the moon,
looking for the pillar of his lost reflection in chunks of coal,
in the underfed crematoria of his sacrificial backyard fire-pits
in the lifelines of the empty hands he misread like maps of smoke.

Poetry isn’t an orphanage or asylum for the disenchanted,
though there is a deranged abyss under its relentless solitude;
not a showcase colosseum for famished lions at a petting zoo,
though mauled minds and bodies litter the unwitnessed field;
there are no paths through its unanswerable distances
strewn with petals or thorns, no bridges or waystations,
no branches of hospitable trees to perch in for the night,
no dawns that can erase what’s been written on your forehead,
nothing that can blind you to what you were born to see,
no rain that can douse the squandered fire of the poppy,
though the messenger is smashed like a bottle between
the tide and the rock; the star, the candle, the nightflower
snuffed by the morning, the last breath of the deathless moon.

And you must die enough to not be there
when the world picks up a pen like an axis
to spin in the direction of its wounded inclinations,
you must not walk into the house wearing a face,
your breath on the glacial windows of the furious stars
full of secret fingerprints, love-notes, names,
you must be more conversant than a ghost on a bridge
or a rose, or an empty mailbox, or a road that followed you
to where the river turns, with shapeshifting,
with pearling a body around a syllable of sand,
with showing a galaxy its shadow in eyelids and eclipses,
with standing like a scarecrow in the cornfield
that shucked the cob of a smile to batter you with birds,
with lying beside the dead like a lantern in a morgue
as if your blood crossed the threshold for them,
with waiting in the earth a long time, a root
that conceals orchards in the furrows of its dirty hands,
a buried boat that unfurls the blossoms of its sails,
the starcharts of the blind moles that shine underground,
like a voyage in search of the rudder of your tongue
to pilot it safely out of the ports of the moon,
a flame, a breath, a feather you’ve cradled for years,
the small measures of belief in an oceanic grave
that enrobes the flowing in the wake of severed waves.

Be stone, or be space; the emptiness is the same,
silver ore, or the motherlode of a black hole,
let your heart pan the long rivers of the night
for what the stars value, jewels of life in the light
that can be grown like a menagerie of blood and tears,
the eyes of the blackberries, eyes of the radiant bee
on the flutes of the wind that plays for a handful of seeds.




Too disaffected to wear the mask of a wizard
yet I don’t need to dance with fire to burn.
Poetry, flowers, stars, paint and women
have accounted for most of my spells,
and when I weep in concert with the windows,
a rosary of crystal skulls streams from my eyes
at a seance of nightskies I shall not walk under again.

You can take the grain of the world, the filth, the grit
and blur it like the sun on a cloudy day
into a foggy pearl, creative self-defence,
when it all gets to be a bit too much.
Or, like me, you can bead your spinal cord
like an abacus of new moons and hope for the best
though your friends are going to think you’re a little dark,
and even more demonic if you try to explain, but
don’t underestimate how much light owes to the night
or the mythogenesis of joy to plain-speaking pain.

Getting ambivalently old now, though my emotions
don’t seem to age, and there are no wrinkles
around the eyes of my thought like the deltas of rivers
reconciling themselves to the sea. Fissures maybe
of underground volcanic cauldrons under the oracle
still feeding sweetmeats to her pythons at Delphi.
Though the prophets I cherish the most
are still the trees in a nightwind that raves
like a crazy willow and shepherd moons
that keep the secrets of life to themselves
under an Arctic carapace of magma and snowblind turtles.

My light wanders like a drunk through an expired starmap
of gravitational eyes that drew me to them
like the women I have loved along the way
that flowered on the vine of my circuitous blossoming
and left me heavy and sweet with sorrow
like the fruits of the earth that bend the boughs
of dark abundance like the mystery of receiving
more than you ever knew you needed for awhile.

Grammar. Magic. Magician. I spent my youth
apprenticed to dragons learning how to turn
my scales into feathers. My intensities into
solitudinous islands fit for someone into sorcery
waiting for the first bird to drop the sacred syllable
that would elaborate the genomic lyrics of life
like an amino acid pulled like a sword
from the kissing stone of a lava meteor
I tried to send back to Mars by way of thanks.

To the spiritual clowns. Your perceptions are sound
but you haven’t learned to play profoundly
with your visionary insights into mystic fireflies
that like to play scrabble with your vocabulary
of archaic constellations. Are you still arguing
whether the ho logos that started the world
was a legitimate word? Or merely the slang of birds?
The mountain didn’t need a sherpa to be the first
to ascend its own slopes. If you’re lost without a guide,
things you couldn’t set out to find on your own
will come looking for you like eyes
that depend upon you to illuminate their seeing
like a star that’s never been misplaced by space or time.

It started out as a book, but now my mind
has morphed into a library of gates
I’ve walked through most of my life alone
into a high field, wading through wildflowers
and a low summer moon like the phases
of a waterlily blooming as tenderly as a ghost
breathing on the rhythmic swaying
of the tall silver-green grass like the future-memory
of a muse who walked with me here once
like a delinquent prediction of what was to come
when I learned to make my own path
through the woods and she was gone
as if the night were not a reward
and her beauty were the price I had to pay
for the excruciating freedom of my solitude.

An air of gracious danger still lingers about me
now that I’ve mellowed like a diamond in the rough
into a more fluid translucency of adamantine aspects.
When you liberate a black rose don’t forget
you enlighten the thorns as well like waxing crescents.
No heart cast out, your sorrows deepen
into the watersheds of cosmic wounds
even as your joys transcend forgiveness
like the insanity of bliss under the eyelids
and behind the earlobes of your most intimate eclipse.

Doesn’t matter if you understand me now.
You will. Every flower gets to look at the sun
and the stars looking back at them from the inside
as slowly the light and the rain shed their life mask
like the white peony of the moon losing its petals
on the black mirror of the lake that will strew them
on the obvious path you were intended to take
not the one you do. The one that whispers to you
like the muse of a wayward encounter as if she knows
something you don’t that keeps you awake at night
watching the gibbous moon approaching Jupiter
in the northwest quadrant of a window inspired
by the clarity of the fire that burns in your dreams
more lucidly than a madman who’s made all the mistakes
of common sense before he abandoned the way it is
to the way it seems realizing there was no need
to efface himself in an infinite number of parallel universes.
In everyone’s heart of hearts, a black rose, thorns and all,
wearing a mirage of water like a lifemask flowering
in a desert of stars drinking from the dark mystery
that flows from the wells of our own astonished eyes.