Wednesday, April 10, 2013



Don’t know whose school it is, but three days a month
for the last few years it’s been trying to teach me
not to care about the things I’ve cherished most in life.
One of the sunset attitudes of old age? Maybe. Though
the jury’s out for lack of circumstantial evidence.
Even apocalypse disengages, but I see a glorious sunset
in the manes of the old lions driven out to walk alone like wisemen
who don’t want to go through all that ferocity again.

The sorrows ripen like bitter, green days into mellower dusks
vivid with swallows. The earth has been at things a long time.
Like a shoemaker that knows her craft. Like a midwife
and an undertaker on the same nightward, listening
to people die in their dreams like train whistles passing through.

The dead come and go here in this small town as
unceremoniously most of the time as they do anywhere else.
You’re friends or enemies with someone for forty years
and suddenly, one day, they just disappear, and you’re given
a few details and facts as to why, and everyone acts contrite
and steps back from the grave because they’re afraid,
prayers, testimonials and floral wreathes laid,
and you realize what a trivial gesture life is compared
to the immense forevers we occupy when we run out of time.

People hang breezy curtains over a black hole
and live on the other side of them peeking out their windows
as if they were looking through a glass darkly
at the solar coronas and haloes of a total eclipse,
trying to make light of how eyeless it is out.
Even the Neanderthals threw cornflowers
like the paint rags of blue skies in the graves of their children.
The dead stare straight up and the living mourn for themselves.

Life goes on as everyone swears it must as if
we were being whipped in some kind of Oregon land rush
to lay a claim to an idyllic cemetery of good bottom land
down by the river, or atop a hill, with a beautiful view
for the pioneer kids who died of scarlet fever
to watch the waterbirds returning to the flooded marsh below
as if there were hope for them yet. Pythagorean
transmigrations of souls in the bodies of birds
or the hearses of Canada geese that carry the Ojibway dead
south and west, once the bones in their medicine huts are dust,
aviaries of angels singing them to their rest.

Raleigh in the Tower the night before his death.
We live in jest, but we die in earnest. Though that strikes me
as more of a trope than a truth, at best, a good guess
it’s just as easy to go along with for the sake of the rhyme
as it is to contest the conclusion until you get there,
keeping in mind Emily Dickinson heard a fly buzz when she died.

Ever listen to an old man trying to be clever about his death?
How odiously underdeveloped it seems. I think animals
are more honest when the hawk falls and the rabbit screams.
Grey hair on the mountain and you’re stilling going
through a sea change of the Burgess Shale as if
you’re never going to grow out of yourself into something new.

Is personality retained like the Conservation of Data Principle
even in a black hole? Once here, though we always had to be,
are we indelible? The mindstreams of flooded pens
that can’t be washed out of our pockets even by
the great night sea of awareness that’s swimming toward us now?

Roman short swords of the gladiolas are sprouting
in the heritage cemetery like green scissors or the beaks
of insatiable baby birds beseeching their mother.
Fifty thousand thoughts a day, not counting
the infinite elaboration of incommensurable emotions.
I can’t look at a grave without thinking of the Library of Alexandria.
Skull bulbs. Do you believe there’s a connection?
Uneasy the sleep of the man who goes to bed at night
thinking he’s a success. Life walks us to our graves
and every step of the way we’ve been crossing thresholds
that are neither exits nor entrances in or out of here.

What a strange dream to believe it might be possible
to be fossilized by your own biosphere. Life doesn’t
let you linger in the doorway for very long before
it slams the coffin lid in your face for not stepping in
when you’re asked, for fear of tracking starmud into the house
as you did at the beginning, as you will at the end.
And this is the brave part. Either learn to drown
like a sea star in the efoliant oceans of the rose
or get ready to be lowered down into the ground
like a lifeboat that doesn’t float. Even as far as China
if you’re out seeking knowledge of spiritual states
or the Beagle rounding the coast of Tierra del Fuego.

Holy ghosts and Hox genes, mass, gravity, space, time,
light, matter, black and white, annihilant energies
quantumly entangled in each other’s creative lives
in the Vas Hermeticum of the alchemical earth
breeding regal quatternios of golden life
out of the ore of base metal, effluvial waterlilies
out of their own putrefaction. Conceptually neat
and numerically comforting, but emotionally unsatisfying
in its mystic details. The green dragon has mercurial eyes
that shine with a peculiar lustre all their own.
The most brilliant error a human can make
is to mistake themselves for an individual
they always wanted to meet. We die on familiar terms
with the strangers we’ve faithfully been to ourselves.

A mirage of fish pleading for the waters of life
from a housewell in a desert of stars when we’ve been
the real thing all along, though we keep seeking it
as if the inestimable gift were only of value
if and whenever we found it on our own. The Milky Way
smears a silver snail track across the starmap of the long way home.
Compassion compels the softer alloys of our souls
to humanize the oceanic abyss of consciousness that surrounds it
with habitable metaphors rooted in tangible sorrows and joys.

Even the earth must sometimes stop to wonder
if the dead ever miss it, and marvel at a flight of sea birds.




Night. A whisper of rain. Peace in my heart.
A penny on the third eye of the hurricane
I’ve been trying to ride out all day without
having it throw me off like a big cat on its back.
Farewell, turmoil. I retract my claws
like quotation marks and crescent moons
around the silence of your name.
The fallen pine boughs of your broken wings.
Inspiration doesn’t trample on things
like flowers and stars. No more. No more
of those feelings that were meant to be as famous
as a Trojan horse to a poet grazing on the plains of war.

Eyes running down the windowpane in tears
as if they were teaching it to cry. Listen to the rain
deepen the silence like the roots of silly flowers
when you fire the voice coach
and teach them to paint watercolours.
It’s sad. But I add that poignancy to the light
like a fragrance of the moon to an apple orchard
and let it dream like wine in the dark
until I taste it again in the windfalls of late September
and in the retreating rosaries of grace leaving like birds.

For the moment I am the inclusive intimacy
of a passion that doesn’t scorn the fruit of its outcome.
I kiss my skull the same way I kiss the blossom.
Come life, come death. Two feet on the same path.
I don’t split hairs like the wishbone of the road I’m on
and not expect to lose my way back home
wherever that is now the astrolabe is blind and starless
and I drift like a paper lifeboat in a truce with the sea.
I should raise naval flags like spring flowers
to signal the relative victory of a few short hours
but the candles have already sent the message in flames
and the shadows have answered: message received.

No need of tomorrow and much less of yesterday
let the moment tend to the affairs of its own will
I’m an apostate event unbound from the stake
of the irreligious history of the world trying
to burnish lead into gold in the wrath of a volcano god
someone met on the way to the promised land
and asked to join the caravan at the wells in Median
to compound the absurdity of visionary matchbooks
that rained manna and vipers from the opposite eyes
of the mirage of an hourglass skinny-dipping in the desert
to renew the virginity of time like a sundial on the moon.
Rare revelation to the changelings of lust
released on the river like prophetic decoys in a false dawn
to lure the waterbirds into friendly fields of fire
as if to say you can come this far, no higher.

There’s never been a star named after a human
except for Cor Caroli, the heart of Charles the Second,
dimly under Alcor and Mizar, the horse and the rider,
under the handle of the Big Dipper I raise to the lips
of a mermaid in the desert like real water
to a true believer in the midst of delusion
just to hear her sing again on the rocks of longing
like a waterclock on a windowpane in the rain.
And I don’t want to tie her to the bowsprit of a shipwreck
that went down at the end of her song,
the whole town on board this leaking ark
and she’s the only one that’s crying into a lifeboat
like a woman with her face in her hands at the news.

Forty nights and forty days of rain in the spring,
the earth’s a hydrocephalic with water on the brain.
And the roads are cobbled with sloppy frogs,
and the darkness is dense with a wardrobe of sorrows
that hangs in the air like an era of hesitation
above the crystal slipper dancing shoes and rubber boots
in the pungent closets of the watershed
that waltzes them like rain on the Tay River
under chandeliers of light-footed starmud
in the abandoned ballrooms of the willows dancing
like gusts of air to the heritage harps
that shine like constellations in their high-strung hair.

A train howls like a wounded animal in the distance,
an iron horse. The nightwatchmen have gone out
like fireflies, but not the streetlamps that have stayed on
like starmaps in the rain to walk the drunks home
arm in arm, crying in their cups like watered down wine.
Nothing divine, earthly or infernal, the eye of time
no more vernal in the east where the moon rises
than eternal in the west where the sun sets,
I’m not playing solitaire in the rain with old regrets,
I’m at peace with the stars that are caught like civilians
between storm fronts, as their seeds get washed away
like flower bombs in a flashflood of shell-shocked rivulets
someone stepped on by mistake. And I’d rather keep
the worst of my war-stories to myself, than swap them
with the vets being strafed by the rain of ricochets
in the Legion’s parking lot where things are fought all over again
as their wives usher them to the passenger side of their cars.

Just the rain and me. As if we were born a moment ago.
And neither of us had anything to fight about.
And I was the bud of a wound that hadn’t started bleeding yet,
like a shrieking poppy or a stoic rose, and it
wasn’t the cure that washed all the blood off
like a paint rag of a sail in a Pacific sunset hemorrhaging at sea.
Just the rain and me. Doing what we both do best.
And all our labour effortless as tears in the eyes of the night.