Monday, April 22, 2013



Only the loneliest of ghosts gone mad
don’t fret their abstractions with facts.
The wind is pure and seedless and the moon
without weeds. Like old windows,
they weep tears of glass for what they’ve seen
like glaciers in an ice age slowly thawing out.

My voice is the tragic black box of many
panicked conversations trying to act professionally
just before things went deeply south. Orphic descents
into the underworld of the dead and the songs
I sang from the heartwood of my lyre, still resonate
like the shadows that flitted through the sacred groves,
the occult feathers of a coven of crows
that taught me posthumous dream grammars
have no verbs because everything’s already been achieved.

Strange, strange, and inexplicably human, how
the imagination is as easily seized upon
at this time of night by the dead and gone
as by the living, mysteriously animate and near.
I don’t deny there are demonic spirits
that can freeze my eyes with fear, lords
of the abyss that know how to clear a stage real fast
as all my dream figures sublimate like dry ice
into more habitable atmospheres, but I stay centred
at the nave of this prayerwheel of birth and death
and let whatever wants to emanate through me
fan out from there like the spokes of a sea star.
Together we make a zodiac of anathemas and benedictions.
The dead can bestow blessings and lift your spirits
like a curse if the timing’s right and you don’t
waste your trust on quoting chapter and verse.
Ghosts are the last inspiration of the air
the living breathe out as if they were returning
the waters of life to the river they drank from.
The moon passes on, but its reflection makes
an indelible impression upon the mind like a woman
grieving in a cemetery late at night for a baby
she held in her arms like the death of the dawn
and even the black dog of the autumn wind
is at a loss to know how to keen as deeply as that.

Voices out of nowhere, commanding no, don’t go in there
and others, gentle as fireflies that summon me
to follow bracken covered trails through the woods
to a plaque in the ground with a toppled Mason jar
of dried chicory and cornflowers that can still move me to tears
a hundred and fifty years after they died at twelve
of some garish pioneer fever with the name of their favourite colour.

I don’t shut the windows. I don’t close the doors.
I don’t smudge the air with sage or cedar boughs
to drive them out of the attic like bats. I let the dead
come and go as they please. I let their sorrows touch me
and my spirit bleed with empathy for the windfall
of wounded bells that haunt the grass like an eerie carillon
of death knells for the music of the past they once bloomed for
like new moons in a calendar of waning skulls. My house
is their house. They cling to me like an hospitable threshold
for homeless atmospheres very few among the living
know how to breathe in and out anymore without resorting
to a seance or an exorcism conducted like a bus stop for runaways
and vagrants common wisdom says it isn’t wise to trust.

Why shouldn’t the unsheltered dead take their place
at the round table in me like the shadow of a sundial
in a garden abandoned by time where dry-mouthed fountains of salt
still long for a taste of the rain in the tears of their dark watersheds
deep underground like wells that have yet to be divined?
The memory of the waters of life is the muse of the wine
they bring to the table like an echo of blood that’s gone on
ripening in them like uncultivated grapevines in the wild.
One drop on your tongue and you’re drunk
in the doorways of life for the rest of time like a dream
you can’t die in like an imperilled heart without
being grateful there’s as much to celebrate at the end
as there is a new start, that living and dying are the same event.

And as often as the dead have come to me in joy
though that might surprise the uninitiated who still divide
the hellbound from the heaven-sent, the fire from the light it sheds,
so the living have approached me like a perennial lament
for everything that’s missing in their lives like a bright vacancy
out of touch with the dark abundance that thrives
in their uprooted shadows like midnight at noon.
What sea do the Styx, Lethe, and Phlegathon flow into
that isn’t the same for the four mindstreams of awareness
that poured out of Eden, or the gardens and underground rivers
among the fountains of Salsabil in Jana or the waters of Babylon
Zion sat down and wept by? Or the dead leaves
of the burning maples I watch floating by on the Tay
like experienced fires inspired by the starmaps of autumn?




Looking at the rain. Are you looking at the rain,
alone in an upstairs window of a small town
deserted except for the salt trucks sowing the road,
watching it freeze in the tarpits and stretch marks
of asphalt smeared by storefront colours
that try too hard like circuses and brothels?

And the people dreaming behind the makeshift veils
they can see out of into the dark, but no one ever in,
should the lights be on, and they’re not. Are you
embracing yourself like a stranger in your solitude
by acclamation, no one to challenge who you must be?
And the sky glowing as if there were a fire
in the distance, you cannot see beyond
the looming rooftops, subliminally infernal,
marginally dispersed auras of infra-red
that fell off the flat earth of a pre-mixed palette?

I imagine you keeping your pain to yourself
like the secret name of a god you disclose to no one
for fear of them having power over you.
I imagine you trying to embody the whole mystery
of life within yourself like the improbable avatar
of all that’s invisible within you like a ladder of thresholds
the light has yet to cross. Not a god or goddess
but a mystically specific human being who doubts
the divinity of her own uniqueness. Once for everything
means no two alike, but the air is saturate
with comparative metaphors in the absence of stars.

I imagine you remembering sporadic lovers
you were hurt by, children who abandoned you,
parents who tried but could never really understand.
Doors you slammed in anger as if you were
turning your back on yourself like a red sportscar
that kept breaking down by the side of the road.
And how you decided to go the rest of the way
like an indeterminate leaf on your own mindstream
once you decided you weren’t a map to anywhere
that wasn’t as evanescent as you were at cartography.

Three hours from dawn and you’re still a seance of one.
You summon lonely trains like mourners
hired for a funeral. Who’s dying? Whose
deathmask are you paying homage to
by obeying the protocols of artificial respect?
I can intuit the sundial and the sanctuary
of the walled garden your heart keeps trying
to bloom in like a poppy in winter but you neglect it
like a small fire that’s pleading with you to tend it
instead of letting it bleed out like a hare in the snow.

I want to console you. I want to undo the daisy chain
of razor wire you’ve wrapped yourself up in
like a gift to someone you think deserves it
as a mockery of everything you once cherished
but if I were to slowly emerge out of the void
into the room like an enchanted island you could be
the Circe of, you’d change like a chameleon on the spot.
You wouldn’t be yourself in the confines of your loneliness.
You’d keep chanting the prophylactic mantra
of a Greek chorus in a satyr play as if
you’d just seen a hungry ghost rise up,
a deux ex machina through the creaking floorboards:
I am not. I am not. I am not. When, of course, you are.

So let me ease your fear by appearing
like a star you can’t identify by its shining alone
through a clearing in the clouds at your window.
Let me empower you like a firefly
of the first magnitude, a mandalic insight
that inspires you, because you’re weary and bored
of your colouring books, into making up
an original constellation of your own
that doesn’t show up on anybody else’s starmaps
but vastly improves your disaffection
with the the outlook of the ashes of the zodiac
you keep in the urn of a see-through telescope
like so many burning bridges you’ve crossed
like an albatross with an arrow in its heart
arcing across the sky, martyred by a curse
on the long, cold, barren beach of your windowsill.

Be Circe awhile and throw your pearls like a full moon
before swine that used to be men you couldn’t turn to
for nautical advice when they were shipwrecked
on the same shore you walk in isolation now.
Believe in the power of your own madness
to work wondrous transformations at either end
of your modes of seeing that are the lore
of blind poets, and the legends of your shining
more creatively intriguing than the war stories of Helen.
If all is lost, you don’t need to compete
with winning anymore. Paris throws the apple away
and says to the three goddesses, you choose
among yourselves. This is not a creation myth.