THE SNOW LAYS A WHITE BEDSHEET, A FACELESS FUNERAL SHROUD
The snow lays a white bedsheet, a faceless funeral shroud
over the buildings and the cars parked for the night at the side of the street hoping
the irresistible force of the snowploughs will respect them
as immovable objects, and leave them buried in their foxholes at the Battle of the Bulge,
everything taking on the mordant atmosphere of a ghost town trying
to keep the furniture from fading, dust off the velvet armchairs
until some unknown owner returns from a long journey
that’s demanded his absence for the last hundred and fifty years.
Sick of the train whistle moaning it way past the War Vets Hospital
like a wounded dog outside the window of a heart attack
at four in the morning, chronically grieving what’s never coming back.
More mystery in the way the bush wolves howl or the wind
when its knocked off the caps of the Selkirk chimneys
silver towers of moonlight when it’s out, a syrinx of empty whiskey-bottles
a drunk’s playing solo in a back alley to amuse himself
until the liquor store opens like the ochre rose of dawn from the inside out.
Like me he’s trying to remember all the words to the song
that makes us companion night owls together perched
on the same leafless bough of the clock. Who? Who?
As if we were both interrogating our own emptiness sychronistically
about where everybody’s gone and having lived this long
why we’re still denied access to our forbidden childhoods
though they were meant to be lived by our eyes only
and the corollary of tears that invariably follows knowing for sure.
If you’ve got a thorn in your heart, a worm in the rose your bloodbank
like a bullet you haven’t been able to remove since World War II,
if you don’t pluck it out like Androcles and the Lion, in the course of time
the body will nacreously adjust to it like a holy relic, a nocturnal pearl
of a black madonna weeping dark tears into the pyx of a total eclipse
that opens and closes like an eyelid on a sacred coffin.
But tempting as it is to have something private to cry about like a train
don’t turn it into a religion until all the chimney sparks
and starmaps have been wholly disclosed like the flipside of revelation
lest you start trafficking in black holes that will suck all the light out of your fireflies
and leave you spiritually destitute in a vacuum nature
doesn’t give a damn about let alone abhor enough to bury you decently
in the dark abundance of your distinguished starmud in a tarpit of bright vacancy
if that isn’t too oxymoronic to grasp like water and sand
passing through your fingers like a waterclock in an hourglass, bottoms up.
Here’s to time. And all the surrealistic spearheads it thrusts like a hour hand
through the heartwood and tree rings of all the things we stopped cherishing
like the return of spring to a hilltop oak that’s been struck by lightning twice
as if one pin in the eye of a voodoo doll weren’t enough for the angels to dance on.
Can you hear the mandrake shriek when it’s uprooted? Or how
I cauterize my pain with vicious herbs like stinging nettles
that aren’t any less medicinal just because they burn
like the horns of dragons ground up into a ferocious cure for what ails me?
Dogen Zenji once said if the medicine doesn’t make you dizzy it’s not strong enough.
And I’ve been wheeling like a galactic Sufi around this black hole most of my life
in a gust of stars I wash out of my eyes in luminous tears
that taste of a hidden rapture imploding into jewels of insight
in the intensity of my suffering like starlings nesting
like lightyears locked away in the ores of creosote
in the Burgess Shale of a dead chimney that wakes you up every morning,
spring in the bedroom of an abandoned farmhouse in the backwoods of the zodiac,
to listen to what the night brought forth as if it had taken the words
right out of God’s mouth like a simultaneous translator speaking in birds.
By the time you’re mad enough to understand your life
it doesn’t matter all that much anymore. Exit or entrance
you stop throwing rocks at coffin doors to see if anyone’s awake yet
to come to the window and tell you their dreams
like a sleepwalker on this road of ghosts the way
a river talks to the stars when it’s alone in the woods far from home
trying to realign its solitude to the waterbirds in a moonrise
welling up in tears at the reproach of a beatific mood
that asks in telepathic silence if you’ve dug enough graves yet
to understand the waters of life ripening in the bells of your sorrows.