Wednesday, September 11, 2013



The words are as big as they’ve always been
but the mouths of the people that use them
have grown small, their voices the size of wrens
when they once could shriek like eagles in defence
of the precipitous eyries of their aquiline principles
as if they hadn’t spent their lives with their wings folded
in an aviary with a bird’s eye view of what
the earthworms are looking at. Songs in the dawn,
aubades, but from a cage with an executioner’s hood over it.

People can’t get the word love down their throats anymore
without masticating it to death like flavourless gum,
and the dragons have forgotten how to unlock their jaws
to swallow the moon whole to bring on the rain.
Pain narrows the eyes of oviparous children
like thorns that have upstaged the wounded rose that lies
on the sidewalk in a pool of blood that bloomed like bullet-holes.
Stigmata of concrete. The virgin’s eyes are a morphine drip.

Remember the old Zen mondo about a man
chased over a cliff by a hungry tiger, clutching a bush
slowly pulling out of the side of the cliff wall
like the piton of a mountain climber, while another
open-mawed carnivore waits down below for him to fall
and what does he do, in his moment of peril, but reach out
for a ripe strawberry growing beside him as if
to retrieve something good that might distract him
from the issue at hand. Umm, good, like a cigarette
in front of a firing squad, rabid meringue on the mouths
of the distempered hydrophobes who believe
they’re drowning like waterboarded lifeboats
that drink spit from other men’s mouths like Cool Whip.

Madness in diaspora focused like a gunsight
trying to shoot out the stars like a sniper firefly
with an arsonist’s tendency to return to the scene of the crime.
Ice burns like crystal fire in the heart of a sophisticated savage
electronically wired to its own ideological rage.

I have an expansive heart accelerated by dark energy.
Friends and lovers, children, and family, gods, art, the stars,
things have grown further apart over the lightyears.
Meaning showed up like a gateway drug in my life
and I’ve been interrogating my sorrows ever since,
why we must die, what we were born for, how to live
so you don’t puke at what you’re reviewing on your death bed
just before you drown in the omnipresent abyss
that lets you down like a lifeboat into your own grave.

Words had a facility for me. I was the best liar on the block.
Myths poured out my mouth. I liked to arouse the wonder
in people, watch their hearts gape at the mystery of being alive.
Maybe I was only trying to convince myself, but the power
of the magic I felt was irresistible, and there seemed something sacred
in the sharing, the mutual enhancement of awareness
I could be the catalyst of, and who knows, maybe that was good,
maybe that was love, and though the child in me felt like roadkill,
maybe I could still steal fire like Prometheus with my liver torn out,
maybe there was still some use in the world for a corpse
that could speak like a prophetic skull for what’s about to befall
all of us, by directing their minute attention like the big picture
to the mysterious beauty and ardent truth of here and now.

And if love wasn’t a gift with my name on it, I could
achieve it somehow by making a gift of a gift, by living
open-handed in the midst of so many fists. Not as a martyr,
a messiah, a guru, a walking encyclopedia, a shaman,
an emblematic poor boy who pulled himself up like the universe
by his own bootstraps, I hated all of that as pretence,
fraud, screening myths for an ego coiled like a rattlesnake
under a rose-bush. My head in the stars, my feet in the gutter,
nothing was occult to me by the time I was seven, and yes,
you might feel like a witchdoctor for a moment
like one of the gram masters of the dynastic streets,
but more often than not, your eyes were pierced by dirty needles
like a voodoo doll, or thrown on the pyres of your love affair
with yourself, like a strawdog after a religious ritual.

I was prematurely wise and grey as the concrete I’d been raised on
like bedtime nightmares about some things. I’d seen
what people can do when they’d been taught by disappointment
to hate themselves like a cult of futility dedicated
to evangelizing the viciousness of Sisyphus standing
under an avalanche of stones that rolled back down upon him
like a calendar of moonrises that didn’t have the mountain gears
to make the grade. Spiders of stone enthroned in the dream catchers
of shattered windshields and rear-view mirrors.

Words not a cure-all, no, but still mightier than the sword
to judge by the ones that have been thrust through my heart.
Poetry, the most compassionate of the arts except
to its practitioners. A noble calling with a muse
as old as prostitution. Words the sacred whores
outside the Iseum, not thirty years of Vestal virgins
keeping the home fires of Rome burning. I don’t care
what you had for breakfast. I read your book.
It’s a begging bowl of soggy cornflakes. Where
are the waterlilies? What depths did you write this out of,
or did they evaporate on you like shallow tears
and lunar atmospheres before you had a chance
to shed them? You’re a snake-charmer in leotards, ok,
but where are the snakes? Where are the heretics
immolated in the oracular fires of underground volcanoes
filling their lungs like bongs with visionary fumes?
Burn, baby, burn. Even the library of Alexandria
sang in its own flames enraptured like a star
in its own shining instead of merely talking about the light.

Show me a firefly of insight. Show me a black hole
that dug its own grave expecting everybody to lie down in it
with it like Jonestown, or your buddy there with his
three thousand saddle-stitched individually signed books
he’s flogging like the annals of history, volume L,
at a strategically placed table in a shopping mall,
ask him if he knows how to get drunk on death
as readily as he does on his carbonated stuff like
the sixth pressing of life in the vineyards of the Burgess Shale.

Come on, sunshine, put some night into it. Linger
in the doorway of a death in life experience for
the rest of your life, never, ever knowing for certain
whether it’s a grand entrance or a pathetic exit
or someone’s just poking their head through the curtains
to see if there’s anybody out there listening in the dark.
And if there is, remember this like Simonides of Ceos
or Metrodorus of Scepsis, you just have to show up
like a lifeboat, you don’t need to come on like an ark
in anticipation of the flood that will come after you like the Arctic.




Everything dactylic, a moist pause, life lingering
in the doorway a little longer than it usually does.
Melancholic vagary of blue smoke from smouldering fires.
Leeches of wet leaves applied like a poultice of duff
to bleed the fever from the flames. Season
of unrivalled farewells that diminish the insignificance
of our names as if they were just broken windows
in an abandoned farmhouse we were looking through
for clues of who used to live here, and discovered,
by the signatures on the paintings of shattered glass on the floor
no one had ever tried to sweep up, it was us, ice-sheets ago.

I’m waiting for a line of poetry to appear out of the air
like a waterbird that changed its mind and came back
to the third eye of the lake it’s been swimming in all year.
As you get older you realize you’ve been leaking
out of your life like a waterclock of weeping urns
for as long as you’ve been breathing on the earth.
Time is the way life cries over its death in the abyss
of another day under its eyelid beginning to rise
to the surface like the new moon of a northern pike
about to bite down hard on the allure of its snakey light.

Provisionally empty as I imagine the objects in a room
I just left feel when I’m not there to derive
an identity from them, I wait like a seance
without a ghost or a medium for the void,
without asking, to summon the silence without seeking,
a stray hair on the shoulder of someone you once loved
when your arms were still strong enough to hold her,
and in that one hair alone, read her like scripture.

Maple fires from deep in the heartwood
on the waters of life, tears that burn with the agony
of departures we gave our reluctant assent to
that wounded us for the rest of our lives
because love never heals the toys it grew up with
like a childhood cemetery of voodoo dolls
that served their purpose and were left as they were
in some out of the way corner of our eyes
to go on working their spells long after
there’s more twilight than dawn in the call for it.

God, I miss you sometimes on days like this
in the autumn. What a bell of hurt the circus cannon
of the heart can turn into without a foghorn of warning,
when I remember how I used to wake up every morning
and eat a spoonful of ashes at my own cremation,
as if someone had just thrown the first draft of a manuscript
into the flames of my funeral pyre, like the soul of a man
tormented by the dark mystery of a woman he loved
that lasciviously enlightened his eyes like stars
at the Luciferian beauty of Venus casting his shadow
on a moonless night just before dawn on the snow.

Gone like the geese and the leaves and the wildflowers,
derelict orchards left to their own resources,
overgrown with bitter ivy and skeins of morning glory,
gone like a windfall of gravestones and apples,
I remember mourning you like foxfire in the wake
of a great conflagration that had passed over me,
the shadow of the wing of the great goddess of desire
rubbing her firesticks together like the lightning rods
of the fireflies that filled the valley after the storm
you buried me in with that first handful of starmud
as you were leaving in a squall of blackholes for good.
Space turned into a gravitational glass eye
and I finally understood what the watchers were looking at
like a nightwatchman who’d lost the master keys
to the locks on the houses of a repossessed zodiac.
I lived like a squatter on the crown lands of paradise
for awhile, condemning the folly of my oceanic,
emotional convictions, when the fact of the matter was
my lifeboat went down like a lead plumb bob
with every tear I shed like a witch ball in a kiln.
Windows can weep. And so can mirrors. Mirages
have feelings that don’t escape the attention of frauds.

But there was a sadness and a silence and a solitude
that returned to me tenderly bruised like a prodigal
celebrating his homecoming to nothing he recognized anymore
as the place he set out from to experience someone like you
who could draw an indelible line like a sword between me and you
like a crosswalk through my name, and mean it
like the threshold of a taboo that wasn’t going to wait
for the lights to change like the eyes of mythic peacocks.

A sadness. A silence. Solitude. In your absence.
A spontaneous shrine I make of the moment.
I see you laughing when you were infernally happy
and I was so enamoured of the creature you were
I could hardly believe it was me who was in love with you,
that you breathed like good luck on the dice
I played with the shepherd moons of my prophetic skull
and win, lose, or draw, you at my side, I took the table
as if I’d been printing my own money to buy into
a love affair I could ill afford resisting for the sake
of playing it safe against the odds of it ever happening again.

As it hasn’t. I know now what a perennial event
in my life it will always continue to be as I recall
wisely, despite myself, the elemental ferocity of the dragon
behind your shyness, and the compassionate duplicity
of your savage innocence only when it was necessary
to kill quickly with a sharp knife to minimize the pain,
and how, for reasons even the spring can’t explain to itself,
autumn is always more auspiciously creative in the way
it goes on sowing seeds in the wake of its own decay
like stars in the ashes of the perishing continuum
of who we were to one another when our eyes shone
o lightyears a moment ago with sorrows that ripen
the bliss of tomorrows that will blossom like full moons
on the dead branches of autumns just like this one to come.

Or here on these green boughs I’m ageing into
I’ve never stopped singing to you from like a waterclock
that flowers in death as life roots its deepest mysteries
in the windfalls of love that come to fruition through
separation and pain, the new moon in the arms of the old,
letting go, again and again, so the circle remains unbroken,
and what can’t be spoken in the sacred seed syllables
that lie dormant as dreams behind their deathmasks,
are stirred by the same longing that woke the nightbird to a song
without beginning or end, no escape from the open,
no gate on the prison, no expiry date on the coffins
extolled by the fruits of the sweetest secrets undying within.