Saturday, June 29, 2013



Long day painting by myself down by the lake
where I used to paint with you many years ago,
and now your absence haunts my solitude
as I grey my greens with cool alizarin red
and though the trees and the water are the same
it’s a much eerier world just to know once
you who were here with me, are utterly gone,
and what has carried on without you, though
I’m affably intimate with its creative characteristics
is wholly estranged from the name I’ll write on this painting.

As if an era in art had passed. Dreams and assumptions,
things you take for granted because in living them
you sometimes must, like love and oxygen,
and the presumption of life going on between us,
for the most part unplanned,
but a commingling of waters nevertheless,
a sharing in the other’s quiet amazement
that the other exists as they are in your mindscape at all.

A heron rises from the cattails in the shallows.
A fish jumps at a dragonfly on the tip of a sword
of the wild irises in a muddle of mystic indigo
and a sulphur butterfly struggles in the thick pthalo blue
of the sky I slashed in with my painting knife
as if I were grouting the canvas like a mason
to lay a fieldstone wall that wouldn’t keep the birds out
that have learned to ignore me like a scarecrow
in warpaint ghost dancing at an easel
spreading its legs like a doe
come out of the woods
to drink quietly from its own reflection.

Everything seems thriving and deserted.
The waterlilies still clutter the wild rice
like prolific constellations of the frogs
whose singing doesn’t sound all that bad after awhile.
I’m a curiosity to the fox
that’s been taking a profound interest in my work
all afternoon as if I were some kind of savage impressionist
and it were a cultural savant with a few pointed suggestions.
Two raccoons luxuriating like moss on a femur of oak
behind me, watching me underpaint the lakeshore rocks
like two kids through the wire fence of a construction site.

Events of the day. Transactional armies in the grass,
bees and ruby-throated humming birds
enabling the daylilies like pyromaniacs
and soon, the green dragon of the sumac
will burn in the auto de fe of the fall as well.

But you are not here to mention it to
and compared to the quality of the isolation
I once lived here with you in paradise
the beauty of my painting lacks the highlights
and finished details I used to attend to
knowing how they’d shine by the light of your eyes
as an effect of the atmospherics you brought to the scene.

And though everything appears the same,
it’s uncanny not to be heading homewards
with the shadows and the crows
as you and I did so many nights
well pleased with what
we laboured for all day in the sun
to a farmhouse full of paintings
whose windows cling to the remaining light
as we did like waterbirds for awhile
around a lake full of constellations
as the Eagle, the Swan and the Lyre,
went down behind the abstract expressions
of the sad geometry of the barn roof
weary of rusting like wavelengths of rippled tin,
not knowing whether it’s holding out
against the wind, the rain, the field fires
or still holding something empty
as an urn full of stars
that were scattered like chimney sparks
on one of the coldest nights of my life, in.




All these busy, busy entrepreneurial poets
trying to substitute their usefulness for talent.
If you can’t sing well enough to bear your own voice
to get lovers and applause on your own merits,
manage a band, control those who can,
network like gypsy moths in a Dutch elm,
take two creative writing courses
from a narcissistic mystagogue projecting
the fraud of the Wizard of Oz on the unsuspecting
listening to a firefly of talent talking like a starmap
about shining, about black holes and supernovas
dark energy and gravitational eyes, and the myriad galaxies
he teaches on the lower rung of a swing
in an institutionalized aviary of higher learning
as if the closest he’s ever been to the light
was a dead starfish among the usual relics of a low tide
or sodden firecrackers of insight on a Halloween night.
He teaches you to take out whatever there was never much of
to put in. To strike the definite article
like crab grass out of your well-mown lawn
so you ending up writing in the patois of a robot.

Listen to this swarming starcluster of gnats
in the sunset of the word that’s wondering
where all the songbirds went. Maybe it’s me
and I’ve grown reactionary without knowing it
into a vicious old age but I swear my stomach
can’t turn another page of a saddle-stitched chapbook
that reads the tea leaves in the broken skull-cup of the moon
like a bowl of soggy cornflakes that taste like breakfast haikus.
You can’t live like a maggot and write
like a wounded dragon of the soul. You can’t
paint a tsunami in watercolours and claim you know
what it’s like to be caught up in the emotional undertow
of a tidal pool that threatened to sweep you out to sea
until your guru or your shrink reminded you like a tugboat
you have to sink before you can call yourself a shipwreck.

I think of Van Gogh. I think of the intensity of a man
of immense humanity, and it occurs to me if he were sitting
on your saffron sectional in your coffee-book living room,
going on obsessively about the nutritional value of cadmium yellow
you’d commit the same sin of omission and condemn him
to his solitude like an asylum for the underfed
listening to the voices in their head telling them
they’re better off mad or dead than living on
the aesthetically modified junkfood
you drop in their begging bowls like chump change.
And, o yes, wouldn’t you just be the exception to the rule
who knew how to tell the difference between a sad joke
and the rage of a sacred fool eating his palette like buttered toast.
I think of all the poets that have been crucified
as a proxy for you like kings and queens of the waxing year,
as you try to step into their shoes like the waning twin
who isn’t Orphically dismembered between July and December
to ensure the creative fertility of your cloned cornflakes.
Merd! Rimbaud screamed as he stuck a knife
through the hand of a pompous muse-molesting poetaphile
and abandoned his rational dissociation of the sensibilities,
denying he ever wrote poetry, to run guns in Ethiopia.
A temper tantrum over the point size of your name
on a poetry poster and the publishing hierarchy
that sorts the planets out from the shepherd moons
by the order in which you’ve been asked to read
isn’t the same as the creative demonism of a real enfant terrible.

You can’t rent a ghost in a creative writing class
and then wear its deathmask around as if your persona
were tragically haunted by the past. Or pretend
you’re a bad ass from a bourgeois suburb where
the closest you ever got to a slum
was your Mommy’s makeshift studio basement
and an album cover you shot on the wrong side of the tracks.
Fifteen minutes of fame in a photo op with a candleflame
isn’t enough to shed a lot of light on a regressively darkling world,
or even turn the head of a single sunflower.
You need more than a flashlight to get a rose to bloom.
You might be the loudest toad on the biggest lily pad
in a small pond, sounding off like popcorn
in the lobby of your own double-feature,
but you lick your sticky fingers clean with a long tongue
when you sup with the devil like an award-winning liar
and there’s no long oar of a spoon in your lifeboat.
And even when you claim to be a damselfly in distress
I don’t see any starmud caked on your winged heels
after you say you crushed the head of the snake
that bit Persephone in the spring while she gathered wildflowers.
You might sleep with the Lord Of Jewels, but who said
you could sing? Though I like the bling
of all your dangling participles ringing like wind-chimes
in synch with the dissonant cosmic hiss of universal bliss.

Kunaikos. Dog. In classical Greek. Diogenes the Cynic
asked Alexander to get out of his light, not turn it off
because the music was over and all there was left to glean
were the random seed words of an abandoned alphabet
that will never come to flower like sacred syllables
in the mouths of scavenging birds pecking among the pebbles
at the feet of a crucified scarecrow where the literati
are rolling snake eyes for the emperor’s new clothes.
What did Horace say when he’d had enough?
Terence, this is stupid stuff. As the cynics bark
like barnyard dogs at every shadow and blade of grass
that moves in the dark woods beyond the knotted chains
of their dying dactyls while the wolves bay elegiacally at the moon.

Which page of this book did you suffer the most to write?
Clever the way you put the climax of the narrative on the cover.
Best place to hide is out in the open. And, my God,
just look at the quality of the quotes you’ve
called into court like a twitter account to verify
your inability to write an alibi for why
your works aren’t literate enough to speak for themselves.
Odious the stink of number 2 book paper and hot ink.
Worse the lack of the use of your nose when you’re writing.
Or the way you abuse your eyes by looking at the world
through a glass darkly as if you were aging the wines of life
like a total eclipse of the new moon in an antique inkwell
no one draws inspiration from anymore since the bottom
fell out of the bucket when you replaced the Pierian spring
with an unenlightened fire hydrant in a volunteer fire brigade.

And who more reasonable than you about
all the aesthetic atrocities going on in the world.
When murder is done I know of no one
more eloquent than you about not raising your voice
for fear of polarizing the situation unnecessarily.
But peace isn’t a euphemism for cowardice
and if your words aren’t guilty of precipitating a confrontation
then your critically acclaimed silence is complicit.
When did the sheep start practising hunting magic?
When did the m.b.a.s start chanting like Druids
and the gleemen of the king make a jest of their calling?
Are you still experimenting with taking all those
tiny fractals and digital pixels of retinal experience
and one day elaborating them by cutting and pasting
into a unified field theory of the visionary continuum
that focuses on the infrastructure of the scaffolding
at the expense of Michelangelo who had to scramble up on it
like monkey bars in a playpark to paint the origin of the species
as he saw it in his imagination before the plaster dried?

Here, if you give me an award, I’ll make one up of my own
and give it back to you in return. That way everyone
can feel special about their mediocrity. Watch out, Mozart
here comes the lunar fire of the lime they throw on your corpse
like desiccated moonlight before the dirt. Burn, baby, burn.
The fire hydrants are learning to play the harpsichord like amputees.
And Keats is trying to pick out a more buoyant font
than the lead of his despair to write his name in water.
The roots are dead, the leaves are gone, the blossom flown,
the fruit has dropped and the branches dry and brittle
as an old woman’s bones. Pageants of funeral barges
floating down the Thames like the wilting lilies
of long-necked swans that used to make
the most beautiful compound bows out of the arrows
of their fletched reflections. The timber clear cut
and the underbrush flogged to death by the bush hogs
and snarling chain saws in the mountains of the muses.
What do you think, is Shakespeare still out there somewhere
leafing the stumps with the magic rods of his imagination?
Is all the world still a stage, the airy nothing
he gave a local habitation and a name, or merely the dream
of the crone mother of the muses on her death bed, Mnemosyne,
reaching for a cellphone, trying to remember who she was
before they erased her on facebook and disconnected the internet?