Friday, March 8, 2013



Always writing in the shadow of an avalanche,
ashes on a white page, miscarriage of an urn,
are they mine, a freak of time, Stonehenge around a firepit?
My ears pinned flat against my head like a brow beaten cat,
waiting on the next move of a meteor shower
that’s been pummeling me like a clapper in a bell tower
that’s gone a couple of rounds too long
without calling off the fight. Firing squads
taking tickets and standing in line to shoot the stars
out of my eyes, like a repeating decimal, and here I am
writing another poem like a bird at the bars of a prison.

Beats staring down the plaster walls, the deserted street,
the middens of the Hooker’s green garbage bags
leaning against the parking meters like the afterlives
of prophetic archaeologists scrying my remains,
or trying to retain my composure in a snakepit of anxieties
like the third eye of a hurricane of razorwire
heading my way like a skill saw in a morgue
trepanning my skull cap off like a hard-boiled cosmic egg
to relieve the oceanic pressure of my underground madness
like the surface of Europa flowering
like a fountain of the sulphurous waters of life.

I was born trying to return to some place like a salmon
through a gauntlet of grizzlies, rocks, and eagles
as if only exiles find their way back home
from this turbulent sea of awareness upstream
against the flow of the mind to sort the swimmers
from the drowned. Have I spawned? Is it time to die?
Is my genome satisfied? Are the water sylphs
of the sacred pools gathered from the tears
of all those who cried out in vain for the unattainable
happy with the ingot of moonlight I’ve returned to them
like the blunted edge of a silver sword I will never
be called upon to use again like a third feather
in defence of the tribe in a hermetic holy war with myself?

I’ve always remembered what the garden-master asked
when I was boy. What’s madness but nobility of soul
at odds with circumstance? Meaning hydro, the rent, the heat,
the need to eat minimally, clothe yourself in the raiment
of the flowers of the field, keep the bearings in the wheel
of birth and death well-oiled to keep from seizing up
like the surgical amputation of my brother’s diabetic leg,
or the black dwarf with a clenched fist at the centre
of my solar system playing Russian roulette with itself
to clarify my nirvanic response to the trivial and tragically mundane
by showing my brain what an astronomic extinction event
looked like to the dinosaurs after years of volcanic activity
poisoning the atmosphere like acid rain thrown in the eyes
of the wildflowers learning to read the stars for themselves.

The night is cold and dark, eyeless, starless, indifferent
to people pleading at their windows for whatever they need
to survive their own minds in a sensory deprivation tank
of another night on earth of going without in the name
of an ambivalently greater radiance that can’t be measured
in candle flames and starmaps, but the light so pervasively intense
even your diamonds evaporate like dry ice and carbon directly
into the spiritual life of a lost atmosphere on a shepherd moon
that opens its heart like a meat locker to the question marks
it’s hooked on like a Sioux warrior at a sundance in Leo
with crescent moons pierced through its chest like a fish
acquiring prophetic powers in the rapture of the pain.
Angels singing in the autos da fe of unconfessed heretics
in an ancient agon of draconian flame throwers
and monkish fire hydrants outside the Scotia Bank across the street.
Scotia, the dark one, watching the watchers from boreal caves.

I don’t ride golden chariots through the slums
blithely dismissing other people’s pain like a new age
bureaucratically quoting their post-graduate karma
like a correct choice of shoes they made that don’t pinch
or slash your calves like first magnitude spurs
on your winged heels that at least get off the ground
as if a spiritual life were just a matter of footwear
and never walking anywhere barefoot with your own starmud
oozing between your toes on a long firewalk of ghosts
rising up into the air like smoke from the distant fires
of sea stars and galaxies flowing across the firmament
like the spilt milk of a lactating rheostat nursing Jupiter
in a cave in Crete to keep him from being eaten alive by Titans
lording the paternity of time over the maternal instincts of space.

But sometimes everyone needs a voice to ride with them
through the inverted arches of their triumphal defeats
to remind them they’re not mortal after the gates
close behind them in the wake of a book of poems
someone gave them to read like the heartwood of a sacred oak
standing up to the lightning in courageous dread
of what’s about to befall it like a crack of revelation
running like serpent fire from the roots up
to the sword that hangs like the Orion nebula
above the grailquests and cosmic eggcups
of Cygnus sticking its long neck out to swan
for the double-bladed axe of the waxing and waning moon
threshing the pawn shop mistletoe of the globular streetlights
with a golden sickle, coming and going, while I’m ploughing
lunar boustrophedons like the runes of retreating glaciers
into the mute rocks of the Canadian Shield weeping
lakes full of stars in the scars I’ve kept like vows
to get some sleep being carried home upon it
like Scutum in the southern hemisphere or the stretcher
of another poem by a conscientious objector summoned
by the siren of a singing ambulance, bound to the mast
of a shipwrecked world scuttled high and dry in the mountains
after the flood, apres moi le deluge, like the ark of the Burgess Shale.




Accord me a gentle theme, just for a moment, let the world
touch me lightly as if I were a burn victim.
Too much hate and pain, the chronic atrocity
of everyone acting as lame as Jacob, Vulcan
and Richard III before they’ve even tried
wrestling with the angel in the way. I’ve deepened
my defeat. I’m growing immeasurably stronger.

I don’t insult the light by passing it through
phoney diamonds softened like processed honey
by mechanical bees with artificial sweeteners.
My eyes aren’t blunted and blurred by the foggy roses
of impressionist cataracts. Cataracts in the eye,
flowers in the sky. Flowers in the sky. Cataracts
in the eye. I don’t launder the grapes
or bloodstains on my auroras by pressing them
through the rollers of my mother’s washing machine
to keep them clean for houseguests who look
at the nymph of the moon as if it were always waxing
like first crescent, and forget the waning of the crone
and both those claws, like the thorns of a rose,
have been blooded in the human heart like the cold shock
of a plinth of glass when the stars shatter.

Just for a while, let me fly like a bird
into the eye of the hurricane without washing me out
like a cinder from seeing the world is a house on fire
lying on a funeral pyre of crutches carved
from the heartwood of a tree that blossoms beautifully
but never shakes the superflux down to drop
like a windfall at the feet of people who are hungry,
so there’s no way of knowing by their fruits who they are.

Sweet river, let me ride your scalloped waves
all the way to the sea like the pentatonic scales
of a black snake freaked with stars, uncoiling
like dark, soothing music from a syrinx releasing
the healing from the herb. Let’s exchange metaphors
like knowing smiles between the crazy and the wise.
My heart’s pitted by self-righteous meteors
that are always the first to throw stones at the earth
when they’re challenged to remember their own transgressions.
Let me taste the milk of human kindness
dripping like snowdrops of anti-venom
from the nightshift syringe of your other fang.
Isn’t that you shining like the caduceus of Draco
helically coiling like a stair well around the axis
of the windmill earth quixotically tilting at dragons?
Can you hear me like a muezzin calling himself to prayer
from the station of the last chakra above my prophetic skull
petitioning you to live up to the legend of your serpent fire?

I won’t forget the children are starving or neglect
to scatter their ashes like mourning doves on the wind
from a high precipice with a lordly view of the valley
like those two who died of scarlet fever a hundred years ago
I found buried under an oak tree overlooking the beaver marsh.
My heart’s breaking like frost-bitten twigs in an ice storm,
but I promise to thaw them out like kindling
and start a new fire in an oil drum for the cold and homeless
they can hold their fingers up to like a candelabra.

Show me the wild irises again and let me compare them
to the blue-white stars of the Pleiades. Let the tendrils
of the wandering grapevines take hold of me again
like the veins and arteries of an elated bloodstream.
Let me hear my own longing in the urns of the nightbird
and not try to reword its lyrics into something happy and untrue,
but add a few of my own like peace, wisdom and compassion
to share the sadness of being alone like the voice
of black walnut tree that didn’t make it through the winter,
crying out in the wilderness like an acephalic seer
without pretending, irreconcilably, that it doesn’t hurt.

I want to sit on this rock like the immutable foundation stone
of the vicarious world and not feel the rasp
of stars and sand waterboarding my throat
like an hourglass that’s making me hoarse with time,
calling out like a lifeboat with a leak in it to the drowned.