Monday, March 11, 2013



for Pat, Jeremy, Sarah and Sean
to the memory of their mother, Linda Robertson

Maybe if we all started out relating to each others’ deaths
we’d do a lot better loving one another while we’re alive.
Even in the heart of the swallow, the great finality
of our blood dropping the heavy red curtains on the play
stepping out of them from a womb like the sea
contained in a medicine bag of water with nine holes in it always
leaking out of itself like a body learning to walk on land,
loosely mastering one medium after another, water for land,
land for air, air for space until we get to the gateway
of the clear light of the void where the masters unlearn
their wisdom to go skinny-dipping in their eyes again
forgetting everything about what it was they were supposed to know
as they revel in being more buoyant than innocence or bliss.
Before we step back behind the curtains to listen for an encore.

This is the floating world where the waterclocks
run like wavelengths, serpents, Pleiosaurs, Loch Ness monsters,
as if someone were stitching the seam of a lake up
like a sail they intend to raise like a moonrise
on the masts of the tree line anchored in earth like a fleet in port.
And the waterlilies rooted like the rigging
of our lifelines, umbilical and spinal cords
to our starmud, are what the hands of a clock do
in their off time, or when they withdraw their shadows at noon
and time stops as if its petals had returned
to the bud again like a snake with its tail in its mouth.

Dark abundance fulfilling the potential of its bright vacancy
over and over again like a stranger walking down
a long road alone, all her thoughts and feelings,
shadows of the moon, stars breaking unspeakably beautiful
through the crowns of the trees intimately whispering
to one another, Who is she? Who is she?
As her imagination welds the wounded shards
of the constellations, gathers up every splinter of a star
she’s washed out of her eyes in tears, or plucked
like a thorn from her foot that pierced her
like the path she was on at the time like a firewalk
and makes of all that light, not a broken starmap,
but a mirror she can see her face in like a housewell
scanning the sky for fireflies like the first signs of her arrival.

Who among the evergreens has ever been
so intimate with death they know enough to fear it?
Hasn’t life been carrying us forth as long as death
has been eloping with the bride? The empty bucket
of the new moon tangled in morning glory
is lowered like a coffin into the dark waters of life
and winched up by the wheel of birth and death
comes up like the lost coin we retrieved from the river
like the one they place between our teeth when we die
full and bright as the harvest moon everytime
we take a bath in our own graves without holding our breath
like pearl divers seeking the white and black eyes of the moon
in the depths of their souls as we rise and fall
like Orphic skulls, shipwrecks and eclipses
bobbing and sinking on our own thought-waves,
the mountains we climb as high as the valleys we plunge into
are deep and inexplicable. Everyone, even a Buddha,

is a sophomore of life on earth. Foolishly wise, wisely foolish,
but look how dangerous it is to send our children to school
to learn about death as if it were something
you couldn’t hide from them by closing your eyes
like the happy ending of a fairytale they’ll out grow
believing in like garden snakes shedding their skin
as if you lied to them without meaning to because
death isn’t anything you can live your way through
without accepting the dark wisdom of the enlightened eclipse
even at noon that folds the tents of the flowers up
and sends them back to their beginnings
like the unopened loveletters of the pine cones
that bloom in fire, and the night lilies that open
the eyes of the water to the mysteries and metaphors
they hold in common with the root fires of the stars.

Our seeing is a living turmoil of mud and water
not a glass shard we’re looking through darkly
to protect our vision from the sun in eclipse
as if you had to wait till you got to heaven to clean your lens
or wipe the dirt and crumbs of a bad dream out of your eyes.

Whenever we occasionally come to peace with ourselves
like a sea of awareness on good terms
with its own mental weather, kingfishers in the sunlight,
skimming the fire-gilded waves, or no one
in the wheelhouse of the zodiac in a great, Pacific storm,

everything is reflected clearly in the stars and the clouds
that pass overhead like the prayer beads of the Canada geese
returning like empty urns in the spring to gather up
the dead again when the leaves begin to fly in the fall
and take them somewhere eternal where they get
to shine a light on it all like a new medium
they’re learning to work with to express themselves
as sentience always will like a hidden secret
that wanted to be known by whispering whole galaxies
in the black holes of our ears listening like seashells
on the far shores of the islands of light we’re washed up on
like a message in a bottle we sent to ourselves in a past life
like the Cutty Sark, and arks of doves and crows under full sail
we sent out looking for land, knowing full well, one

would be delayed by what it found as its feathers changed
from white to black, and the other would be sent back
like a sign of peace that rinsed the bloodstain of the red sky
in the morning like a false dawn out of the white flags of surrender
that blow like curtains of snowbunting and white star
from the open windows of spring gaping in incredulity
at what time it is with so many hands of the wildflowers
pointing at all hours of the clock, day and night, as if there were
time enough for everything when the mindstream
weathers the flashflood of its own tears and comes to rest
like the Burgess Shale at the top of a mountain far to the west.

Sophocles once said never to have been born is best
as if death were the solution to the tragic horror of a painful dilemma.
When has life ever not been just as open behind us
as it is up ahead? But surely his one-eyed advice is the crutch
and flying buttress lambda leans on and not to die
like the Conservation of Data Principle in a black hole doesn’t
is the better of two worlds when less is more and more is less
and death doesn’t spread the lungs of the hourglass out
like the wingspan of a blood eagle or the waters of the Red Sea
closing up after us like wounded curtains healing after the play.

More like immortal bees returning to their hives at night
to churn honey out of the eyes that looked upon them in the light
and tasted the sweetness of life at work in the starfields
in the belt of Orion, in the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades,
in the Mons Veneris of the Beehive star cluster between
Regulus in Leo and Castor and Pollux in Gemini
gleaming like first magnitude insights into why
we die to live and live to die like fireflies and stars
rising like new constellations over the event horizons
of our eyes that never fail like waterlilies to take us by surprise.




I have seen the stiff, brittle leaf that clung
to the tree of life throughout the unforgiving winter
like the flagging page of a gnostic gospel at half mast
drop off in the spring to make room for the green underneath.
Strange timing, as the stars give up the nightshift
for the graveyard, Virgo complementing Pisces
on a colour wheel, but maybe its poem
were meant for the snow as it lingers in the doorway
of a long farewell, a faithful flame of the burning bush
in the annals of fire, one last testament to love
as if a silver tongue in the moonlight couldn’t say as much
about the mystery of life as the sacred syllable
of one old woman dying in an albino hospital could
as if time itself would be uprooted by her death.

The saying and the said. The coming and going
of stars and waterbirds, the searching tendrils
of words from the heart that reach out to touch
the grieving world like grapevines reading Braille,
like the promise of chandeliers of new planets
growing like wine under the wings of their leaves.

Sometimes best just to sit at the edge of a death bed
like a Buddhist monk and say nothing about
where the ghosts of those we love go uncoiling
like the smoke of a candle as if the nightwatchman
of a passing wind had just blown all the stars out
as the exhausted pain in the eyes of the morning
comes on like the numb grey of a hollow dawn
too early in the spring for the shepherd moon of the heart
to wholly thaw, for the exile and the orphan to weep beside
the rivers of Babylon like glacial windowpanes
calving into a sea of awareness like an ice-age giving way.

The mind peeks like a skeleton through a keyhole
into an abyss into the green room of an oracle
that’s taken off her wig of snakes offstage to remember
in the black mirror of her ambivalent prophecy
that doesn’t lie about such things, who she is
under the deathmask of the moon that falls
like the crone phase of a blossom from the dead branch.

Unborn it’s been said. Unperishing. No more
waxing and waning of a pulse, no more sunsets
and nightfalls under her eyelids, no more dreams
of waking up in the morning exhilarated by starlings
nesting in the calderas and chimneys of the old crematoria
that made ashes of her passions, and sowed seeds
in the starfields of the wildflowers in the wake of the fire
that consumed her evergreens like heretics at the stake of themselves.

Are we awarded wings by the wind for enduring
a lifetime of the transitory like a rock in the river of time?
The deathshead of the Hell’s Angels patched like colours
to our back, or the flightfeathers of mourning doves
returning to the green bough of a black walnut tree,
our coffins smothered like underground guitar cases in the decals
and leaves of the places we’ve been to sing ouR hearts out
in one station of life to the next along the road
that always leads us like the voices of nightcreeks
through the woods to clearings we’ve never stood
and looked up at the stars as if we’d never seen them before.

Like faces in the audience waiting for us to open our mouths,
like willows tuning the strings of our battered guitars
as if they wanted to know what it was like to weep from the heart
like a human growing soft, blue shades of stargrass
on our graves, or the flowing jewels of the sad, sad, eyes
that kill us back into life with the beauty of the melancholy
we’ve conjured out of the ore of our scars, as if our tears
were water-gilding the treble clefs and kells at the beginning
of every lyric we sing, leafed in gold sprouting
from the sacred letters of the alphas and omegas
running in the rain like an alphabet of blood freaked with light
not even death can wash out of the sheets like the music of life
burning its face like a moondog into the shrouds of our cloud cover.

As if it were nothing for us to leave our fingerprints on the air
like our names written in our breath disappearing on cold windows
like the last word of the moon’s lost atmosphere leaving home,
like the pollen of auroral roses dancing in delight
for the midnight sun like the undulant veils of the wind
that reveal us to ourselves like the sea to a widow walk,
parting the constellations, spider webs and fishing nets
in the unfathomable depths of our eyes we’re entangled in
like Delphinus rising over the fossilized remains of the cedar trees
standing like burning ladders up to heaven in the rootfires of earth.

Our gravestones can’t say but a whisper of it all.
They don’t speak for what lies under them.
Their rumours of life don’t travel very far compared
to the myth of origin of the dandelions that grow
all around them, scattering their seeds like stars with parachutes,
letting the light fall gently like down from a nest
or Leo in the west just after sunset or east of the dawn
when the cock crows at midnight and the owl wakes at noon.