I DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M HERE FOR
I don’t know what I’m here for.
I just write. I just paint. Like breathing
in and out. Inspired expiration. I watch the rain,
blankly, sometimes for hours, washing off the dust
from the leaves of the trees in the traffic.
I stare at the comatose clouds through the grime
on the windows and wonder what the stars
are doing backstage. My skymind
unfolds like a star map and I disappear into it
like a nightbird with a message it doesn’t care
is heard or not, because when I’m singing,
I’m not singing into a mirror. Verbal expression
isn’t thinking, and I’m not spider enough
to hang suspension bridges between
my words and my thoughts to harmonize the web
everybody gets caught up in like packing tape
as my bodymind tunes me up like a guitar
to the electrical buzzing of flaws in my argument.
I don’t know what I’m here for, but I often think
it’s pathetically petty to go looking for a meaning to life
like the light going round and round trying
to catch a glimpse of the shadow it casts like a tail,
when we’re the life of the meaning from beginning to last.
One meaning for everything? One size fits all?
The same collective death mask for every individual?
I fall asleep dreaming and wake up
like a mirage in the morning trying to sort out
the grain from the chaff, what’s real from what’s
merely the facts of the dark matter. But by the time
I’ve rubbed the crumbs of starmud out my eyes
and the lake mists still clinging like hungry ghosts
to my visions of last night have been exorcised
like lunar atmospheres, I can see clearly enough
I’m just the space all these thought waves travel in,
and as they say in Zen, the eternal sky
doesn’t inhibit the flight of the white clouds.
What is space here for? Or light? Or water?
Or the colour, red? And what meaning for love
was ever necessary in the throes of it?
Should this long, dark, radiant firewalk
in our sleep along the Milky Way ask my feet
what the meaning of going anywhere is, why we’re here
extrapolating ourselves back into the past
as if who we were yesterday is who we are today?
Evolution’s given me a taste for the evanescence
of a self that keeps on shapeshifting like space and time
in the live-streaming dreams of a belated Etruscan
watching the river turn like smoke in the air.
Poetry is the art of expressing what you can’t define
though it sounds as if you knew what you were
talking about at the time as everyone listened
sublimely in silence to a nightcreek babbling
through the woods in the dark like the waters of life
in the laughter of a child lost in the seriouness
of playing opposite herself for awhile like a new moon.
Ever wash your hands and feel somehow
you’ve stepped far enough back from yourself
you’re not the one who’s rinsing them off
and something eery and intriguing overcomes you
when you realize not even your fingers are your own?
I don’t possess my thoughts. I don’t own my emotions.
I’m a great creative collaboration with the unknown.
I’m an unpaginated encyclopedia of minor miracles
that come and go like sparrows to a tree.
And when it rains, the eyes of the universe are upon me.
But I don’t know what I’m here for. Does it
matter anymore? When I die is it all that radical
if I don’t know why? All my life I’ve fallen in love
with less reason than that. And do I really need
a philosophy to separate? A modus intendi
to back up my alibis for why I’m not always loveable
when I can see it in my lover’s eyes when she cries
on a winter night like an abandoned housewell
that the lightbulb’s gone out that used to keep her warm
and she doesn’t know what she’s here for anymore.
Nor do I. As we both agree to an honourable death
as if death would otherwise rebuke us for disloyalty
and the three quarter inch copper pipes
slash their wrists longitudinally the way
you’re supposed to when you’re serious enough
about renewing your virginity sitting naked
in a bathtub full of fireflies trying to freeze-dry your wounds.
If you don’t know what you’re here for. Go for it.
Or don’t. Maybe you can start a new religion
of your sins of omission and the left-handed virtues
of all the things you didn’t do, right or wrong,
and won’t. Or win a prestigious literary award
in a cherry-picked succession of unremarkable poets
who hang out like flypaper at night with porchlights
hoping among all the insects they attract
they might find one black dwarf of a first magnitude star
that sticks like a burnt-out match head to their chromosomes,
a mutant cinder of genius that doesn’t get in their eyes
so they don’t have to start crying all over again
like a watercolour in the rain to wash it out.
Can’t find any training wheels on why you’re here,
and all the scarecrows you made out of your spare crutches
to keep the birds from raiding your secret gardens,
are chafing under their armpits like medical skeletons
working on a cure for themselves that doesn’t
come too late to do them any good? Maybe it’s time
to walk out on yourself for once and stand up on your own
among the homeless who have no one but themselves
to rely upon. Or maybe you prefer a life that’s become
a hospital where the healthy aren’t welcome,
and only the worst atrocities of mediocrity
are admitted by the emergency nightshifts
to the asylums muttering in their dreams as if
they’d been medicated by the full moon threshing
short straws of genetically modified wheat?
For the last two years I thought I was here
to walk along the banks of this seance of rivers,
late at night by myself, under the willows and the stars,
revamping the images of old lovers like the wavelengths
of spectral flowers reflected back like old radio programmes
from hydrogen clouds in deep space that kept
their ghosts intact out of earshot of the facts of my life.
Somehow the candles have gone out
in the bright vacancy of noon like the shadows
of sundials and I weary of my purpose in life now
like a compassionate man who has been overly generous
with his lies at the bedside of someone dying inside.
I’m waterclocking my way like moonset into a new abyss
just to pass the time rinsing the blood off my hands
of the hemorrhaging roses I put my heart into
trying to save from the endless sacrifices
they made of themselves on my behalf, but couldn’t.
I hear the voices of dead singers from my past.
Or You tube conjures their images like Merlin
and I know they’re skin and bones by now
and their fingernails have grown out like guitar picks,
and their skulls are more oracular than fallen meteors,
and I am overcome by the poetic sweetness
of the sad shadows that once drove us to drink
as we firewalked the whole length of our lyrical cremations
just to fill our urns with something as inextinguishable
as lace and pretty flowers, dragons in the lockets of angels.
I rehumanize the simulacra of their fossilized remains,
images of pixellated skin, echoes of the refrains
I remember like the mantras of my youth when the dawn
was as shrill as a killdeer in the spring, and nightfall
was a hospital for wounded nightingales
and washed-up phoenixes weeping on their own parades
sat at kitchen tables long into the night ruminating
like candles on the glory days of tragic heroes
making a farce of their legends by living them
like morality plays mythically inflated at the end
by a lot of repetitious zeroes getting carried away in chains.
How strange to be singing a friend’s song to myself
long after the whole world’s outlived them,
and their names are being ushered funereally
like rare antiquities into grave robbing halls of fame.
And who knows? Maybe that’s how legends are made,
what we’re here for, born for, die for, like a vow
of silence we made over the graves of tomorrow
we revel in breaking like a curfew of sorrow today.
Que sais je? Montaigne’s motto. What do I know?
And even if you could. Me and my mantra. Who can say?