I FEEL THE THORNS OF THE ROSE MAKING INKWELLS OF MY EYES
I feel the thorns of the rose making inkwells of my eyes.
It’s me that hurts. But without meaning to,
I’m bleeding for everyone. A watershed of blood and tears.
A reservoir of pain. Not all my own, I drink
before anyone like a hummingbird, or a canary in the mine,
to make sure it isn’t toxic. No goat skull in a well
of rotten water. No blood on the horns of the moon.
What a disgrace it is to be a human sometimes.
What a sorrow when your heart wobbles like a drunk bell
and there are perturbations and precessions in your orbit
it’s hard to explain except as the flawed configuration of a dream
with your waking life, though they’re both just two waves
of the same sea of awareness, feathers and scales.
Oxymoronic maple keys vertiginous as Sufis
at the crossroads of everywhere and here. My heart
is a bone-box full of elegies for Arctic swans
shrinking like ice-bergs from global warming.
And I’m not as mindless in love as I should be,
though a muse is still pure oxygen distilled
from a thousand undiscovered plants in the Amazon
as beguiling as the ghosts of the fragrances
along the Perfume Trail. And sometimes, I swear,
I can smell the weeping of wild blackberries
eclipsed by the shadows of voracious crows
pecking out their eyes like dark jewels
in a crown of thorns. And there’s a feeling
with too low a frequency for words like the afterbirth
of an orphaned universe that resonates within me
like the poignancy of the embrace of one
of the saddest graces of compassion limning its tears
with a star’s worth of beauty glowing through the clouds.
And goodness arises within me like a loaf of bread
left out to cool on an August windowsill, and I’d
break it into as many pieces as my heart to share it
if only for one instant, with the hungry and the suffering
as I’ve heard several people did inconceivably even in Auschwitz,
just to make things better a little bit, if I could,
though I feel like fog trying to put out a forest fire,
knowing among the selfish and indifferent,
a gift is a kind of minority protest
that you have to keep an eye on before it gets out of hand.
Reality’s just a truce people make with the way things seem
and what they don’t understand, a consensus
of poll-watching dilettantes who average out the crucials
in advance of random happenstance. Perhaps.
Reality can be any kind of copulative verb it wants,
The chimerical fire is whatever you imagine it to be,
but what it does, whether you agree or disagree,
is what moves me to underground rivers of tears
that flare up like the pale fountains and grails of the morning glory
to want to put it out, snuff it like a black candle,
or smother it in a pillow of its own smoke.
To die, yes, the wildflowers can do that better than us,
and the animals enter death as if they were observing
the protocol of an instinctive nobility greater than ours
but to die, to suffer and die inexplicably, to see
the labour of billions of light years of stars, enduring
extinction after extinction to express their shining in us
as if we were the content of the message
they sent on ahead of themselves and we can read
so much so intimately like the ancestry of the universe into it
like a child’s eyes, or the luster of a lover’s hair
in a moonrise, or the second innocence of an old man
who smiled upon us because he knew he was younger
than we were, and the return journey
was better than the first because from cradle to grave,
he knew the beginning walks with us all the way
like a star through the leafless trees
that’s following us home at night down
one long, shapeshifting road of shadows and dreams
to one particular gateless gate that unlocks us from our chains.
To die in ignorance of why, though we guess convincingly.
To love deeply and see what we’ve cared for,
unspared and squandered as if time had no more use for it
and there was nothing rare or precious that wasn’t rendered
more fatally vulnerable than a bubble in a world of thorns
for the cherishing of it. In the brevity of our becoming
who could ever claim they were who
they were supposed to be in the eyes of the mystery
of what we’re doing here in the first place
trying to wake up in time to find out why we doubt
our own presence sufficiently to labour a lifetime
to love the unknown well enough like a stranger in passing
we’ve never met, to enlighten our disappearance?
What doorways of farewell must linger in us yet
for all the graves we’ve already filled
with everything we’ve ever loved, autumn after autumn,
like wild grapes or a waterclock of hearts,
each trying to fill another’s bucket of emptiness
with the rush of their own blood
like the emergency exit out of a burning theater
featuring a seasonal re-run of the lies
we tell ourselves in the dark to make it through another night?
Yet here we are, like it or not. Unborn. Unperishing.
Delivered and flawed. Mortality longing for eternity
like a darkness it’s already the ore of waiting to be refined
like stars emerging in the night, flowers
from the starmud of the earth and though
we have unbelievable conceptions of ourselves
that are capable of breathing in the light
of mystic atmospheres one planet isn’t enough to cling to,
most of us still candle back to the earth we arose from
like weather balloons with the tail of a comet between our legs.
As a playwright looking back in anger once said.
Poor bears. Poor squirrels. Compassion kisses the burn.
We get lost in ourselves looking for the grails of better days.
The secret’s out in the open which is the best place to hide,
if you had a mind to, in this spiritual lost and found.
Now you see it. Now you don’t. It sees you.
And you draw the blind. But the sunflowers
turn with the sun, and the waterbirds wait for the moonrise
and in the autumn of our lives, the flowers are extinguished
like the blue fires of the wild irises along the Tay River,
and there’s a scent of smoke in the air
that makes your soul weep for the evanescence of life
and how there’s even a palpable beauty in the passage
of the fallen leaves among our gravestones
that’s always a prelude to the great unknowns ahead
that can’t shake the habit of haunting us like a ghost
from the future, summoned to this seance of now
by a mind reader channelling the wavelengths of the stars
light years before either they or we will even know we’re dead.