Thursday, October 3, 2013



Nameless tonight, not me, immensities
beyond my reach. The windows
thawing in the heat. Blue moon
above a junkyard of farm machinery.
The pioneers’ bones have been exhumed
from the land they settled. Empty
the graves of those who slept in these hills,
lunar lichens plastered like playbills
over the closing night of their names.
Echoes we all disappear into like waterbirds
soon enough, skipping out over the lake
like gravestones in the hands of those
who effaced us from our own history.

I can’t place myself anywhere,
alive or dead, no homestead of my own,
where I can watch the raspberry bushes
flourish year after year and listen to the rain
drumming the tin toolshed roof into a trance.
I’m unselfishly disciplined when it comes
to rendering the unsayable communicable
through events of form that shape-shift
to the counter-intuitive logic of metaphor
that transcends physics in post cosmological realms,
but that doesn’t mean I’ve got the will of a socket wrench
to go on tightening loose bolts the rest of my life.
Rocking fields they won’t let me die in.

I like knowing the pioneers used wildflowers
for soap, Bouncing Bet, Pride of London,
Lady at the Gate, and if I were ever
to survive a nuclear war, I’d put this knowledge
to good use like a lantern in a housewell
to keep the hand pump from freezing,
potato peels in the fire to desiccate the creosote.
I’d eat staghorn sumac and briney frogs for breakfast.
My mind would be an assortment
of different size nails and screws
I’ve saved for years to meet any occasion
I might have to keep things together anti-dramatically.

In the meantime I explore these old farms
the way a raccoon exploits an abandoned barn,
listening for the torrential wavelengths of snakes
fleeing the rain to hunt mice in the dishevelled bales
of sour hay way past dreaming of mangers.
After the original occupants die
and the last born son has left the farm for good,
we’re all strangers in a used solitude.
The indignant silence makes everyone a trespasser.
Names on gravestones. Names carved in barn beams.
A scripture of old curtains hanging from the windows
like the priestcraft of spiders that haven’t been disturbed in years.
Prewar magazines espousing the miracles of magnetism
in relieving the agonies of rheumatism
and hairline fractures of cracked vertebrae
that took the load upon themselves out of pride
one too many times without thinking
of their own cornerstones and rotting floor sills.
A roof collapsing. A door on one hinge like a drunk
trying to hold on to something upright and final.
Schools and churches, pews, desks, and woodsheds,
everything as functional as the hives and houseflies
that cluster in the walls like those born to follow
the tried and trued, straight and narrow road
through the winding woods reweaving it
like a loose thread that unravelled the labyrinth
of the spiritual lost and found that dug up their bones
for hygienic reasons that had nothing to do
with how deep they were buried in the land
before their corpses were washed away from the soil
that clung to them like faithful hunting dogs
that slept on their graves for weeks after they died,
not knowing, how the city would come to them,
even in their homegrown deaths, like roadkill and erosion.

I’ve seen crucified barn boards warped by the sun and rain,
pull their old fashioned square-headed nails out
with their own teeth like dogs extracting porcupine quills
from the voodoo dolls they’ve made of themselves
like a self-fulfilling hex of hunting magic gone wrong.
And I admire all that the way I admire the palatial virtues
of the strong who live like glacial hills among
the heaped tels of Sisyphean rocks beside
the valleys they dug for themselves and their children
expiring in moats of scarlet fever, to lie down in
like time capsules without a table of contents
that could have anticipated that all they laboured for
would cast them away like strawdogs after a moribund ritual
that would not let them rest their heads on the rock of the world
and dream they were returning to the wild
like their gardens that have gone on blooming without them.

Salt of the earth with bedrock hearts, I come
like the deus ex machina, as you would have seen me
in terms you could have understood, late in the day
like a ghost to a morality play on tour in the country,
looking for a clearing among the trees to view the stars
long after the applause has died away. And the longer
I stand here surveying six thousand photogenic stars
burning without fire permits in the summer dark,
mourning your exorcism, the more I feel crowded
by your absence as if the Summer Triangle
were missing an eagle and the Seven Sisters
in the orchards of the Pleiades, carried away by the wind,
like Sabine maidens, had pruned the horns of Taurus
by deboning the land of the humans
they’ve torn out of it like the stumps of the locust trees
that used to sing here at night, bright with blossoming stars
and the occasional night bird like me
on its way to somewhere else,
and in the morning, was backed-up
by the ecstatic choirs of the born again honey-bees.




Moonrise among the crumpled swans of the bed sheets
ploughed aside like snow at the sides
of the impossible road it didn’t matter
whether we walked alone or together.
No one was going anywhere for the winter.

Your eyes grew numb with the long gaze
of windows that haven’t had much
to look at for awhile, and though you
only had to smile to convince me
the wild irises were still burning
in the water gardens down by the river
I knew you were snowblind inside
and gave you my shades like eclipses on crutches
to take the bloom off the angels’ albino rose
and remind you there were stars emerging
from the dark at the end of these
long, somnolent afternoons lazy as fog.

Sometimes people relate to each other like stones
pushed around by one too many ice ages,
meat and berries, and they start consulting
the skulls of their ancestors under the hearthstones
of the fires that kept them alive, and o
every once and awhile, didn’t they, suddenly blaze
when some spirit of the wind danced around them?

Do you still paint your face when you’re indulging
in savage sex? I’m looking at stars that no longer
exist lightyears away from where I hope
you’re shining now. I’ve got this indelible wound
in my heart with a typo in it like a thorn
that’s probably out of print by now but I’ve learned
to live with it like the arrowhead of an extinction event.

The winter was too long. The isolation too deep.
The ashes gathered around our feet like the pyres
and smokestacks of genocidal sky burials
and even the chandeliers began to fumigate the air
like the pendulous censers of our ritual heartbeats.

Dark’s one thing. But bleak’s another that’s harder
to account for like a rusty bullet after a long war
with the elements strategically arrayed against you
when the sofas go into hibernation like fat bears
and the cardinals come to the bird feeders
hanging from the locust trees like rare flames
to a candle on the greyest of days that sputter out
before you have a chance to make it to the window.

Thresholds of bark and snow we brushed off
the tree rings of the fossil fuels of two springs ago
we kept throwing on the fire as if a genie
would be born of the flames without smoke
and suggest what we might have been able
to wish for from one another when we took
our hearts out of the freezer and unwrapped them
to see how badly they’d been burnt by the cold.

Don’t expect to see you again waist-high
walking toward me out of the golden grass.
One of those moments so off-handedly forever
time’s never crass enough to repeat it, nor
need it be, given it’s occurred to me a thousand times
since that summer above the marsh
with its galaxies of waterlilies at the beginning
of the universe with only you and I in it,
as if it signified something deeper than even love
can discern between a man and a woman
trying so hard not to hurt one another knowing
there was no way to avoid it for the rest of their lives.