EVEN SISYPHUS STANDS BACK AMAZED
Even Sisyphus stands back amazed
and tries to explain how absurd it is
to protest your lot in life by making poetry
out of your pain, to refuse to roll the planet up the hill
and reconcile yourself to the fact
it’s going to roll down again upon you
like an avalanche or a meteor shower
or a fate-shaped asteroid out of the blue.
Water-lilies withering in the lagoons of late August.
O how easy and sleazy, snakeoil for axle-grease
and regal anointments in the cathedral of Reims
it would be to stick a flower in my jester’s cap,
paint a large, plump tear under my eye
and bray all day like a bicycle horn on a donkey
loaded down with books like a silo of cordwood
on its way to a learned auto de fe where you
smoulder to death like a wandering scholar
with a preternatural fear of fire consuming your magnum opus
in a conflagration of apocalyptic daylilies.
Death’s a star-nosed mole in a tunnel of light
looking for another way out of bringing the mighty low
as even a dragon must sometimes fold up its wings
like a black umbrella in the rain it brings, just to see,
out of narcissitic curiosity whether it’s forgotten
how to crawl on its belly when it was just another snake
like everyone else trying to leave a sign of intelligence
by making wavelengths of themselves
in these desert sands of an hourglass always pouring
another shot for the road, weeping for the mirage
of another mermaid naked as water that got away
like a wishing well that wasn’t interested
in fulfilling anyone’s desires but her own. Good for her.
She wasn’t singing to be understood like an answer
to anyone’s prayers. You don’t need a voice coach
to drown in your own tears. Aren’t there workhorses
already broken in like mirrors on the wall for that?
Fame’s too late to be of any use, and ask any wolf
you don’t need a name to seduce the moon lyrically
as long as you’re howling like a barrow tomb from the crest
of a hill of prophetic skulls shafted by the spring equinox
that didn’t shine upon your bone box. You’ve got to
roll the eclipse away from the entrance to your own tomb,
without claiming you did it for anyone else, as if
the gateway to enlightenment were an emergency exit from death
and you were trapped in the burning theatre of life on fire.
I can immediately tell by reading your folklore
like a native tracker fluently multilingual in Babylonian Braille,
there’s no agony in your sorrow, in your desire,
no hot genie in the lamp that keeps burning your fingertips
with disappointment you didn’t get what you want,
which is poetry, and prose, to only get what you need.
Or are you fond of calling it a rose when it’s a nosebleed?
Do you know how many lies have been squandered
on good reasons to live the mind you were born into
like an old prototype of a kite that had to be improved upon
by striking a balance between the highest and the lowest
like the feathers and scales of a dragon with a flightpath
of its own like the contrail of a comet extinguishing
the nuclear winter in its heart in the Gulf of Mexico
at the expense of its own kind in a renaissance of rats?
When the solid becomes real it’s much easier
to swim through your own translucency than get
bogged down like a fly in a gob of Baltic amber
like a sunset that doesn’t know when to get off stage.
When you stop trying to define and divine yourself
as if you were witching for water in hell it’s more
eloquently silver-tongued than light and rain to express yourself,
and what else have you got left to echo that isn’t fouled
by a shriek of cynical laughter, if it isn’t the leaves and apple bloom
of a Druidic tree alphabet that’s known by the fruits it bears
like jugs of water drawn from a sacred spring
where the river sylphs let down their hair like willows?
Look. There’s truth. There’s beauty. Why else
would we have words in common with them
to suggest their insubstantiality like this demotic dream grammar
of everything else in the world with a patina or a patois
of the meanings we ascribe to life like the slang of a tourist book
we’re mostly likely to overhear, shopping for souvenirs
in a black market of smuggled grave goods that have yet
to be deciphered like the key to the iris identification
of an insight into a whole other way of life
passing like the shadow of a mushroom cloud of civilization
over the shapeshifting, morphic mindscape of an Etruscan funeral?
There’s wisdom. There’s compassion. There are legends
of magnificent failures standing in the winner’s circles
like the laurels of Greece, the taste of rain on the lips of Daphne,
and there are horrors that befoul the mutant alloys of our genes
as if, as Sophocles said, it would have been best to never have been.
Flood myths in the sea of awareness without a lifeboat
or even so much as the lost hope of a dove or a crow
sighting land before nightfall finds you eyeless and alone
in a cistern of circling sundials that can smell blood in the water
like a rose from a lover on a rainy day lingering in your doorway
like a perfume she distilled from the drunken vomit of the night before.
The Canada geese have barely arrived on their side
of the goose blinds on the Saguenay, and already
they’re thinking of returning the way they came
like a loveletter that went to the wrong address
like the Koran Gabriel gave to Muhammad instead of Ali.
How could revelation ever get it as wrong as that?
Sooner a strong rope than the million weak threads
we hang each other with like a no fly zone for shuttlecocks
unravelling the aniconic magic of our flying carpets
on the loom of the moon undoing by day what she weaves
like a spider on the strings of an electric guitar by night,
water music of the morning hanging like the whole notes
of her tears from the dreamcatchers and powerlines
littered with trophies and houseflies like the cover story
of the monastic lies she took to uphold the vows
she mouthed like sacred alibis singing karaoake on the Temple Mount.
Nix, nix, say the nightbirds, long past their curfews
luring the demented serpents with stone ears
to the agony of their tormented joys fingerpainting
the lifemasks of the stars with the ultramarine ashes
of sapphires that run screaming down out of the hills
like a studio gallery of the blue-blooded warrior women of the Picts.
You hear that? asks Sisyphus. Sisyphus says it’s absurd
as if there were some hidden purpose behind
the most meaningful word in command of his vocabulary.
Hill, planet, stone, star, woman, apple trees,
aren’t these the graves and shrines the light of the mind
bends in such a way they were meant for our eyes only?
Not to deny the bees the Nazca lines of their approach to flowers,
or demand absolute clarity from our mottled starmud
like Parsifal, the sacred clown, drinking from the grail
at a ghost dance trying to green the ailing kingdoms
of the reservations they’ve been corralled into
like wild mustangs in the badlands of eohippus in a zoo.
Just express yourself, as you are, as you do, unwitnessed
when you’re convinced, not even the surveillance cameras
are watching or listening to the crazy wisdom of a medium
that summons the living back from the dead at a seance
that isn’t channeling anyone to open their mouths
and speak for everyone like a flashflood in a dry creekbed
or the taste of the rain that falls from your cloudy eyes
onto the tongues of the pressed flowers dessicated by a book.
Don’t tweet what you shriek. Don’t try to roar for effect
when you’re bleating for tigers like a judas-goat in a choir.
Do even the chainsaws know the sound of a tree
that falls in a clear cut old growth forest when there’s
no one there to hear it? Do the crows weep
indelible ink like tarpits and Icarian doves
still play with the muses of fire using their beaks
for guitar picks like Jimi Hendrix cremating a national anthem,
the flags of his semiquavers at half mast for unknown arsonists
with the voices of burnt out angels huffing lighter fluid in a parking lot?