MY GHOST IS DANCING ON THE ASHES OF MY BONES
My ghost is dancing on the ashes of my bones.
My blood was always a rose in this house of thorns
and it blooms and it blooms in a fountain of fire
and each of its petals, a farewell in the eye of a flame.
Ghost dancer, what do you pray for, who do you dance for,
what do you celebrate? Are your tears drying like paint
on the lifemask you left out in the rain? Are we
ageing into the scared silence of doomed children
listening in the other room to a stranger raging in pain?
Should I bleed with the warrior or heal the medicine man?
Whose life was this that kicks its heels up in a gust of stars?
I remember when I used to smile at my scars
like arrows that hadn’t been fledged yet in their own feathers
as they hastened to taste the blood of the mark they left on life.
Do we fly like hawks for awhile, coming down
like a decisive answer of the gods to what the dove
was wondering, and then as we age and mellow
like the gourd of the moon in late October
and the harvest’s in, and the stars have been beaten
like wild rice into the wounded canoes idling
like fish in the shallows, does the lunacy of our wisdom
teach us to evaporate like a quiet suggestion
of the grey wraith in the moonlit mist
that unravels from the lake like another way of life
we’re going to follow like the path of smoke
from our own fires and the calyx of shadows they cast?
Did we heed the protocols of the magic and the mystery
well enough to have been worthy of the wonder?
Did we part with gifts or did we die with our hands closed?
Does our disembodied heart resound like the whisper
of a black snake sliding through the grass down to the river
to drink like the ripple of a long wavelength
from its own watershed, or does it still boom out
like summer thunder and grasp at what’s unattainable about life
like bolt lightning with open talons? Does our voice
still grow silent in the aftermath of the most beautiful absurdities
after the nightbirds have finished singing in the black walnut trees
that taught us to forego the star tracks we were following
like blood through the woods, for the more powerful hunting magic
of the understanding that exceeds the signs we go by
like a dream we had when our ancient totems slept at the side
of this Road of Ghosts wandering like wild geese across the sky?
I remember lifting the veils of my tears
like curtains of rain over the distant blue hills
and the sound it made like the plectra of a harpsichord
playing adagios of music in accompaniment to itself
as it fingered each clean note on the keyboard of the leaves
with the agility of a spider seeking shelter from a downpour
as the fireflies appeared in its wake like the chandeliers of the Pleiades
shining in the valley fog like constellations that weren’t yet
quite sure of themselves but had a nebular insight
into what they wanted to be as I watched like a shapeshifter
enthroned like a rock intrigued on a neighbouring hill.
I can still feel the spell they cast upon me
like the bliss of enlightenment when I realized
how extraordinarily unnecessary it was to be anyone
I would recognize tomorrow wearing my own skin
coming the other way on the same path I followed
like a mindstream on the moon that shed me
like one of the last phases of a lost atmosphere
it breathed out on a deathbed unmindful of the weather.
Do you remember the name the wind addressed
the willows in that night or have all the words
we used to speak to one another about the secrets of life
been taken out of our mouths and replaced
with a whole new vocabulary of light we have yet to master?
Or are we deaf-mutes now and the dream grammars
we once chanted around our fire pits like wild irises
irrevocably indecipherable to the unborn and unperishing
who always had less to talk about than we did
who lived among the dying like a compassionate stranger
as one of them moored on the moon to the same fates they were?
Old ghost, no regrets? Is that why you’re dancing
on the ashes of my bones? Because we didn’t sign
a truce with the starmaps that put a lie to our shining
like a limit on the sacred mindscapes we wandered freely in
without taking possession of even the little we needed
without seeing it as the gift of a magnanimous spirit
that expressed the measure of its own creative power
by how much it could give away like the sun or the full moon
or a light nocturnal rain on the dusty wild flowers that needed it
to keep on blooming back at the stars that shone down upon them
for never having put gates on their gardens
or guarded their exits and entrances with warning signs
that the birds and the worms and the deer and the dragonflies
that came in the name of life to gather the fruits of the earth
had no right trespassing here as if they weren’t walking
on their own land beside a deed of free waters given
with the open-handed blessings of a habitable planet
amazed by the starclusters of New England asters
and stamina of pale blue chicory along the side of the road
this late into the fall like the parting gesture of farewell
to everything that passed before them like the moonrise
of a dream just waking up on the far shore of a deep sleep
sweeter than any that even the love of peace had ever known before?