Tuesday, February 19, 2013



Compassion is the sweetness that enters
the wounded apple of knowledge after
you’ve taken your first bite out of it.
It’s not an antidote to the facts of life and death.
And you should know by now if you’ve suffered at all,
and it’s impossible not to from the moment you open your eyes,
the night is not a reward, nor the lantern of the light
that goes before you on a graveyard shift of the stars.
Compassion is the oldest instinct of the heart
and first muse of the mind that can taste only
the blowing blossoms and bitter green apples of the spring,
gripe brain, before it ripens like a sunset in your blood.
That’s why the heart knows more about it than the head.
And I expect, on that basis, no one is more capable
of loving us who must doubt that we’re worthy of love
to live up to the truth of it than the dead who can open
the tiny koans of the seeds at the core of things
like the lockets of fortune-cookies that break
like twisted cosmic eggs in a rush to spread their wings
like waterbirds who write the lyrics of their songs on the fly.

Words for the eye. Words for the ear. Words
for the voice of the wind like black walnut trees
and kites in a storm. And if you really know how to listen,
I mean if you can hear the wavelength of a black snake
swimming across your blood like a mantra
of terrifying, beautiful wisdom that keeps its secrets
to itself, or hear the unfathomable oceans in the black rose
whose petals and eyelids are always smashing
like white eyelashes in a squall of sunbeams
against the breakwater of a white dawn that passes
like an albino eclipse in a moonlit leper colony
of extinct black rhinos. If you even remotely
hear what I mean when I speak like this sleepwalking
through a dream grammar like a prophetic skull in a trance,
words that dance like light on the mindstream
rejoicing in the clarity of the voice that expresses
the hidden message encoded in the genes of the fireflies.
You have mouths. Speak for yourselves.
Some like lighthouses along the banks of life.
Some like thieves with searchlights for eyes on a bomber’s night
when everyone is underground and the bummers are out
plundering the evacuated houses of the zodiac.
Might be the ravings of a star struck maniac talking to himself
to make sure nobody else is listening. Might be
the surrealistic lament of a Dadaist night bird
singing out loud in its sleep for things it doesn’t know
it longs for, or maybe a lunatic is waxing prophetic
in a labyrinth of his own echoes trying to sound his way out
of the mountains without end he’s being trying to befriend
like a cloud or an eagle silvered a moment
like the ore of a dream in the corner of the eye
of a moonrise coming on like a hurricane
with a black pearl in its teeth. The eclipse of a sacred lie
compassion concedes to an alibi without a myth of origin.

Compassion is the child of imagination that identifies
with its simulacra of suffering by applying the heart
like a bloodbank to the wounded eidolons of eyeless images
that didn’t know how to bleed, or breathe, or cry or see
until compassion tempered their impression of themselves
as paradigms of rationality, by shedding real tears
in an ice age of lenses that kept their illusory distance
from the stars that came out after the rain, wet and shining,
laughter radiating through our tears, because life isn’t a dry fire.
It’s the hand on the rudder of a lifeboat
that keeps you from drowning from the day you were born
in the undertow of the tides of the new moon
until the night of the full when you haul everyone aboard
who’s been swimming through glaciers of tears
like baby mammoths for the last twenty-five thousand years
afraid of extinction if they ever stopped to catch their breath.

Compassion is accepting everyone’s death as a portion of your own.
Everyone’s life as your third eye, a vital organ of your own body.
Compassion is an undisciplined action of the heart.
Compassion arises like a moonrise of inspiration
in the eyes of the older sister of the muses
who walks too much alone as if she’d devoted her solitude
to the suffering of a wounded stranger she met along the way
when she let her hair down like willows of rain
to cool the scorched earth and slake the roots of pain
until they bloomed like foxfire in the shadow of her passing.

Most poets sit around the lesser fires of their art
trying to divine the smoke of what’s burning in their hearts
like autumn leaves they’ve heaped into books
that smoulder in tears more often than they break into flames.
But if compassion turns her eyes toward you
like a star in the darkness beyond your blazing
the Milky Way runs like a bloodstream through your veins
and you see in terrifying clarity the great mystic details
in the deep watersheds of picture music efoliating
like wildflowers and galaxies, grails, fountains,
lunar herbs, and starfish raised up off the ground
to take their place among the shining, radiant with life,
in the low valleys and high fields of an imagination that heals.




Indelible, the saline taste of the tears
like words you can’t get out of your mouth
at the bedside of a dying swan,
slowly turning into the summer stars
forever skimming over the Milky Way,
wings outspread, as if childhood
had been a lonely dancer and now age
had made her bones and tendons ache
like tent-pegs trying to keep a night sky
over her head, her head above the waves
of an ocean of skin on her body
to keep her from drowning in her own flesh
as she shed what she used to be
to make a vast space in her heart
to embrace what she was becoming.

A gazelle of light on a bridge
that could leap with taste and art
like the moon from one shore
to the next, as if her last breath
were a gust of stars that kissed
all her weeping mirrors on their foreheads
like the lunar dew that used to renew the morning.

I watched her breathing disappear
like the warmth of life in the Orion nebula
on a window colder than a smudge of blood
that won’t come out of the sheets
of a universe hung out to dry in hyperspace.

I grieve the smokey ghost of a dead candle
that tied itself to its own body, the stake
of a heretical dancer consumed with keeping
a single-petalled rose of fire alive
even as she drowned in a lachrymal pool
of her own flesh like a star that could walk on water.

Inviolate, the mystery of death. No one knows
where the waterbirds go with our unburdened souls
once they’re over the hills of where they were buried.
I’ve spent my life looking into mirrors
I ground like templates of death with corborundum,
gazing into eyes and stars, the faces of strangers
I was never convinced I could call my own,
and death, always death, somewhere
in the silvered patina of the background
like the cosmic hiss of the Big Bang, the white noise
of an auroral afterbirth washed up on the shores
of my island instincts, a sea star
learning to breathe in the galactic waters of life
breaking like the skin of a grape
into undated dreams flavoured like a wound
of ripened wine with the untimely joys and sorrows of night.

O brave housefly, buzzing at the windows of death
you’re never going to penetrate like the black dwarf
of an insight that burned out with exhaustion
long before you were cancelled
like an underfunded experiment to prove
the will to absurdity is pangenic to all life.
Our eyes go extinct in the midst of the vision.
Immaculate death, like a vow of silence
in a cult of old ladies, first word of creation
to cast a shadow of life like an aspersion on the abyss
that couldn’t care less whether they existed or not.

I listen oceanically to the stars in lonely clearings
out in the woods where just to stand alone
like a pillar of solitude in a forgotten temple
is to summon the more intimately compassionate feeling
we’re all in the same lifeboat together adrift
on the same nightsea of heart-wrenching awareness
calling out in the fog to voices we’re sure we overheard.

Delusion, dream, or some transubstantiating hallucinogen
distilled like a love potion from the tears of life,
I swim in the feeling there’s something perennial
about the human experience of just being here
that isn’t the passing rumour of a false superstition,
but an insight younger than the dawn of time, more ancient
than the fossils of dusk embedded like constellations
in sedimentary starmud at the beginning of life
well before the universe became conceivable.

Old women don’t just kick the bucket
like a waterclock of wombs bearing the waters of life
back like mythic mindstreams from their own wellsprings
weeping their way down into the valleys of death.
They go on flowing like rivers of light brimming
over the distant horizons of themselves like moonrise.
Or the spiral arms of the Milky Way dancing
with starfish and the sunflowers of the golden ratio
waltzing under the subtle chandeliers of their discrete tears
breaking into fireflies, their eyes damp with prodigal atmospheres.