Thursday, August 29, 2013



Spots on a paint rag trying to figure out
if they’re part of a larger picture.
Daubs and smudges and smears of black and red.
Topographies of dry thick ridges of blue acrylic,
peach-coloured mesas bruised
by the encroaching violets of dusk in a painted desert.
Are these the wanna-be windows of life
who failed to achieve a whole and harmonious view
of what they’re doing here swiping off knives
thick with the gore of cadmium red,
cleaning off brushes that get to go out
on the field to caress and poke
stars and trees into being? Waterboys, not players.
I say the word, life, and I feel tonight like
the heaviness of a bell that’s supplanted my heart.
The right root, but the wrong blossom.
Even though I’d melt that bell
back down into raucous cannon
to defend the concept to my very last breath.
But tonight I’m tunnelling under the foundations
of the cornerstones of life to bring
the walls down on top of my head,
like an avalanche of prophetic skulls
to just get a peek inside the grand paradigm,
the white light of the gessoed underpainting.
The secret garden with low-hanging fruit
on easy street with the sacred whores of Babylon.

An existential sadness, deep as a death-wound,
as if I’d just been stabbed in the heart
by the hands of a clock that mistook me for an intruder,
undermines me from below, a pyramid built on quicksand.
As if all those who had drowned in life
like fish up over their gills in water
were swimming in the watershed of every tear
that almost makes it up over the top of the dam
I try to throw up like a manly front to what
I know I won’t be able to hold back for long.

And there go the villages in the flooded valley
I tried to live among like a neighbourly mountain
come to Muhammad on the way up and down.
It’s cold and lonely and the air is thin
at the peaks of experience, with only
a star and a cloud for company.
The hard diamond in the rough I used to be
has grown mushy over the years. Tears.
Imagine that. Warm, salt seas with undulant tides
of emotion coursing in and out,
the way we breathe, the way we live and die,
unite and separate, pour our shining
down an inexhaustible black hole
like Parthian gold into Crassus’ mouth
in the hope of efflorescing like the bird fountain
of a better world on the other side of hyperspace.

Armed with some decent human attitudes,
and a few that are wholly out of bounds,
no reason my mind can catalyse out of chaos
that I should feel the sorrows of the discarded colours
on a paint rag like the afterbirth of the universe
that’s gone on to greater things than road kill.
I feel the deep grief of widowed eclipses
and the creeping shame of sunspots
that were born into a maculate caste
of estranged birthmarks on the forehead of a lighthouse.
Space is warped like water by some unknown
disturbance in the pond. And I can’t discern from here
whether it’s a crack in the dam
or a birth sac ripe enough for its waters to break
and wash me out to sea like
the flotsam and jetsam of a shipwrecked lifeboat.

I hear the lilac whispering into blossom.
I see the starlings building their nests
in the corners of my third eye and the spiders
weaving mandalas between the witching wands
of the aspen saplings trying to transcend their roots.
Still, time seems studiously impersonal
and more matter-of-fact about suffering
than perhaps it really is. The mind is an artist.
Able to paint the worlds. As they say in Zen.
And I can see so clearly even through this cloud of unknowing
the kind of world I’d love to live in,
giving it my full assent in peace and contentment,
as long as I never lost the hunger that desires these things
and no one else had to live like a ratty old towel
abused as a paint rag by the shroud of Tourin.

Yet I can’t help feeling I’ve spent
my whole life trying to piece a lost constellation
back together again from leftover stars
that don’t have a clue what they’re shining amounts to.
In the stained, marked for life, castaway things of the world,
in the eyeless dreams of aborted inspirations,
in the twenty million dollars an hour we waste on war,
in the eyes of the twenty-five million children a year
who are starving to death globally in civilizations
based upon agriculture, I’m looking
for the trashed masterpiece of a paint rag
soaked in the blood of hemorrhaging roses
that might have parted our eyelids like the Red Sea
or a gallery on opening night to a vision
of what they might have done had they lived
to do things differently and their genius and beauty
not been squandered like blood for oil
or the waters of life learned to mingle more olaceously
with oil slicks in the womb of the dark mother
like an alternate medium of creative expression
that wasn’t shunned like the evil skin of a shedding rat snake.

There’s an expanding emptiness in my heart,
a vacuum nature abhors like a miscarriage
of what I hoped to wake up to the day after tomorrow
like the smile of an enigmatic Mona Lisa
that didn’t die in childbirth married to a banker.
What faces reside in a paint rag
I might have fallen in love with at first sight,
what mind, moon, sea, sky and landscapes
might have sat on my easel like windows in space
that might have shown me a way out of here
like the eye of a hurricane at the end of a telescope
that made things at a great distance appear
larger and more astronomically intimate than they seem
when no one’s trying to paint the other end of the lens
by wiping their glass slippers off on the grass
as if the princess just stepped into a mess of Hooker’s green.

Disoriented hues of colour blind rainbows, who knows
how many faces have been wiped off on a towel
with the big, sad, musing eyes of luminous gazelles?
How many cardinals nesting in red cedar trees
were wiped off the canvas like lipstick on the moon
when the sun went Puritan, midnight at noon,
and scourged the scarlet letter of the kissing stone
until nothing was left of humanity
but the purged shadows of an abstract divinity
that burned a hundred thousand women
foxed out like witch hunts in the seventeenth century
at the stake of a principle that stood up to the flames
like the backbone of a heretic
with a streak of Payne’s Grey in her nature
slashing at the orange sunset
with a painting knife in her hands
at those who resented the concupiscence
and dark innocence of her sacred body and soul
and saw her go up in flames
like a bouquet of sable paintbrushes
stacked at her feet like the pyre of the phoenix to come.

Sooner transform the emptiness into something
as absurd as it is meaningful, than ponder the waste
of a good mirage trying to look
for real water down a wishing well.
Sooner try to patch the tear in the sky
that rips me open under full sail running before the wind
and lets all the stars come pouring out
I was saving for a rainy day, with a paint rag,
a discarded face towel sadder
than viridian pine trees in the distance
with an aerial perspective of pthalo blue
gentled and blanched by the intervening atmosphere.
That said and done until the sky drys
I’d rather wear the patches of a compassionate clown
like paint rags on the Sufi blue of my cerulean robes.
I’d rather walk in a pauper’s clothes to show
my solidarity with the cast offs of creation,
not just finished canvases with artsy attitudes
in stiff upper collars and colours
that match the wallpaper like seasonal mood swings.

Sometimes it breaks my heart from the inside out,
it guts me like a tube of alizarin crimson
to see all these fledglings strewn at the foot of my easel,
my tree, my loom, my lean to, like the paint rags
of crumpled, ruined, leftover lives
that couldn’t quite make it as flying carpets.
But I’m not going to forget the ashen sorrows
and habitable earth-tones of starmud
under the winged heels of inspiration.
As for me and my zodiacal house of ill-repute,
my renegade observatory on the wrong side of the tracks,
I’m going to ride this wavelength of light out to the very end
where the wildflowers open
like the complementary loveletters
of a colour wheel, a rainbow come full circle,
unbroken just for them.
The donkey looks into the well.
The well looks back at the donkey.
Art. Life. Zen.
When the line turns round
the donkey at the end is in the lead.
Yesterday’s bleeding paint rag.
Tomorrow’s aesthetic creed.




A good day to enjoy being lost, adrift.
A monarch butterfly skirts the heritage stone
of the bank across the street for good luck.
Hectic palette, it’s good to see the badge
of your shadow smudging the gridwork
of predictable brick. You made it through
the pesticides, the milkweed’s been good to you.
Small relief, tender loveletter may no one
ever scrawl return to sender across your envelope.
May no one ever tamper with your pollen.

Sweet rapture of not giving a damn for a day
and meaning it. I’m an offroad aster, a wayward
English ox-eyed daisy that’s thrown off the yoke
of all the burning bridges I’ve crossed, trying
to grind the chaff in the hand of the sign
I was born under into broken loaves of starwheat
cooling on the windowsills of my ersatz ideals.

It didn’t take me long to learn by living me
to be afraid of everyone else. That every moment of life
was death-defying in extremis, a high wire act
on a spinal cord stretched like a single filament of a spider-web
between one abyss and the next. I’ve been a poetic wino
dizzy with mystic vertigo, slumped up against the door
of a stranger’s threshold that kept sweeping me off the stairs
like a mirage of junkmail, leaves and stars
that could foretell by the agony in my eyes
I was born to live a life in freefall as I have,
no hell below me, no heaven above, and earth,
the shakey footstool of an unstable mountain
on the back of a turtle that seldom sticks
its neck out for anyone who can play
self-fulfilling Orphic threnodies on a tortoise shell harp.
Choreographers who know how to teach totem poles
to dance to the picture-music of the sacred fires
that still burn, branded by spring, in the tree rings
of the heartwood they refuse to pile like pyres
around the feet of native martyrs singing death songs
at their own sky burials. Life’s a bird bone flute,
a syrinx, a lute, a harp, a cithara, a guitar, Lyra
in the summer sky, not the trumpet of a dying swan.

Good day to let go of my mind like a kite
or a weather balloon, give up beating on
this old drumhead of a trampoline like an erratic pulse
and jump six times higher on the moon
like the photon of a third eye of a spy satellite
in a chromatically aberrated orbit that sheds
more light on the secrets of life than it keeps to itself
like private data deep in an unsightly black hole.
I don’t want to candle out like the parachute
of a daylily the higher I rise into a spiritualized atmosphere
wigged out by its haloes and comets. I don’t intend
to wait like a dragon in a wax museum for someone
to show up with a wick to give a little spine
to the votive candles in a shrine of gummy prayers.

I’m going to take charge of events like a fisherman
caught in a Pacific storm, and take my hands
off the wheel of birth and death in this great nightsea
of awareness and roll with the dice on the swells of chaos.
Seven times down, eight times up. Such is life.
Even if I’ve got to chart my course through life
like a starmap of snake-eyes, I’ll make a constellation
of matchbooks that will set the zodiac afire
like an arsonist inspired by the cult of his own
heretical martyrdom. I’d rather burn sincerely
for something I don’t believe in than give my assent
to the false confession of a poem I didn’t write
from the inkwell of a heart I threw at the devils in white
like blood on the snow of a savage sacrifice
of a life that arises from life, not the death wish
of a cold, cold rose with thorns of ice on its frozen eyelids.

A good day to cherish the innate heresy
of creative freedom I was born into like the natural medium
of imaginative extremes I keep violating
like a snake with wings on a burning ladder
of hierarchical taboos laid out like crosswalks
with traffic lights to supervise the way we came back
like shepherds down from the mountain at night
with a flock of judas-goats in painted tiger-stripes
and sheep we fleece for their carnivorous clothing
along the same path we’ll labour back up in the morning,
like pale stars that bleach their torches in the eyes
of albino crows with silver irises for moondogs
and a skull’s way of looking at things that makes you shiver
when there’s no one else in the room but you
and what you’re becoming as the older you grow
the more you realize, how little you have to do with it.

A good day to sit enthroned in my own brain coral
like a gleeman in the absence of a dynastic bloodline,
free to laugh at myself as the urge overcomes me,
or cry like a ghost of rain on a spreading root fire.
Good day to take my deathmask off another man’s face
and throw it away as if neither of us ever
looked good in it, and the mirrors lied behind our backs
as if our hearts were blind to what our minds were up to.
Intellect blossoms. Compassion is a moonboat
with a cargo of windfall apples riding like a low-hanging branch
on the waters of life, as the stars pilot it into port.
No born again cuckolds pushing the eggs out of my cosmic nest.

A dragon with the wingspan of space, time can’t keep up
with the pace of the stars I keep panning out of my ashes
like nanodiamond insights into meteoric splashdowns on the moon.
Good day to stay crazy and let wisdom follow suit.
Good day to go down to the river and watch the beaks
of the white-throated waterlilies open like the mouths
of baby birds that burn with hunger to be consumed
in the fires of their own appetites, young candles
preening their flames like the feathers of falling stars
that forego their fixed place in the great scheme of things
every time a child makes a wish upon them,
and the serpents at their heels puts the plumage
of the highest on the lowest and in a union of opposites, flies.