Thursday, October 24, 2013



I can still see you shining, and when was it ever not so,
like last night’s stars, sacred syllables
lingering in your voice like broken mirrors of ice
and you so badly wanting to fly above it all,
to burn like a draconian firefly that healed its heart
with a blow torch that welded you back together again
with scars of gold, to prove how intensely pure you were.

And you were o yes you were so serious,
amazingly beautiful, no one laughed,
when they saw the extremes of scorching honesty
with yourself and others you were willing to go to
to be worthy of the excruciations of your art,
and deeper than that, something you knew
was there in the dark by the weight of its eyes upon you
like a stranger with a spirit of bells that meant you no harm.

Of you, I wrote, my muse is lovelier than any running doe
because it was true and there was no other way of putting it
that didn’t blunt the shining, that didn’t cheat the rose,
that you inevitably didn’t when you were the new moon
and I was wholly in love with you like a total eclipse.
Yes, I remember how there was always more dark bliss
in the gifts of pain I received from you than I,
and you know how hard I tried to give back,
ever returned to you like a sacred grove of nightbirds.

You showed me the diamonds in the abyss of my inadequacies.
You were the peer of the mystery of yourself,
a black savage, one third deadly nightshade,
two thirds nocturnal orchid and there was nothing
strategic about your magic compared to mine.
That made you a greater sorceress than I was ever a wizard.
For me the birds sang, but you could hear the sky weeping
for things I’m still trying to understand about compassion.

When I think of the passage of beauty, you’re always
one of the last wildflowers of the fall, sometimes
the starclusters of the New England asters, others,
the last pilot light to go out on the blueweed
or one of those rare times, as I sense this is now,
I’m attending a seance of waterlilies that are trying
to call you back to life like an echo in a housewell
at four in the first October morning we spent on the farm
and were startled awake by the ghost of a white horse
drumming on the well cap in the moonlight
glowing in the frost on the ground, as if we were
both enlightened like two eyes at the same window,
burning in awe of the vision we shared together,
knowing the ensuing silence was more than enough
to attest to the truth of it like a secret that wasn’t meant for words.

Just as this isn’t, after so many lightyears
of remembering you like one of the great joys of life
that cast the longest shadows of the most poignant sorrow
to haunt me for the rest of my life like a wound
even the scar tissue of the moon can’t keep me
from flowing out of like the source of the Nile before Egypt.

God, how I wish every time I reached out for you
the stars didn’t burn my hands like snowflakes and doves.
There must be some other way to kiss the spirit
of evanescent things without putting your lips
to a sacred fire in an ice-age as if you were kissing
the head of an oracular snake like the eyelid
of a lover you were trying to wake from a dream
that lasts forever like a garden you’ve been shut out of
because you’re still alive, and foolish enough to love
what can’t be helped or forgotten because it’s gone.

After the storm surge, in the gleaming facets of sunshine,
death dries its outspread wings like a turkey vulture
at the top of the totem of a pine that’s been broken by lightning
and you lose your faith in the thunderbirds of aquiline evergreens.
At least, I did for awhile, looking up at the stars alone
at twenty below, impossibly trying not to accuse the gods
of anything they didn’t mean, as I grew
colder than liquid nitrogen on the inside, and my tears
shattered like crystal stalactites in an ice storm,
or sublimated into wraiths of dry ice I exorcised
too dead inside to be haunted by your memory just yet,
than any void I’ve ever tried to fly through like space
as it was turning into glass. This, too, will pass is not always true.

Eventually the wind stopped snarling like a barnyard dog
as I began letting go of you, and the pain thawed,
and the hawks were unlocked from their aviaries of ice
in one long shriek of liberation that tore my heart like a talon
because my grief was the last of you I had to hang on to
and I couldn’t use the permafrost as an excuse
not to properly bury my dead where they’d asked me to,
as I did you, facing east toward the lustreless black pearl
of the new moonrise of my heart on the threshold
of a black hole as if I had nothing left to lose but loss itself.

And who could have imagined that time would cling to me
as it has, a habit that distinguished it from eternity
like fresh water from the salt? Or I could be so exalted
to that palace of stars your spirit took up residence in
like a squall of fireflies the wind played with like chimney sparks
from the dead furnace of this house of life we once lived in together?
The morning glory’s overgrown the gate. The palings
of the fence I built are down like nights and days
crossed off in a calendar. The window we looked through
is smashed. The housewell lost in the rising tides
of the wild grasses learning to write on the wind.

And that last painting of yours you gave me,
all those truncated trees, lepers and amputees
grotesquely gathered on an island in a bay
you lavished in soft placental violets and greens,
Persian silks, and auroral saris for mutilated mannequins,
I left on the wall of your studio like some kind of seal
on the place breaking up like Pangea into
continents of plaster. I pried it loose from the ice
of a snowbank slumped in the corner opposite
that small open window you stared out at the world through
like a portrait in a picture-frame I’m still trying to get right,
and I hung it back up counter-intuitively as I imagined
you would have done, something incomprehensively beautiful
and strangely evocative of a gesture suggestively perfected
like a long misunderstood labour of love, masterfully abandoned.




The long, dark night, more anthracite
than bituminous. And one star, alone,
fierce above the town, burning, as a jetliner
blinks its way down to landing in Ottawa.
Pythagoras’ transmigration of souls
in the body of birds, Iranian angels
with lives like messages for loved ones
and strangers. But I’m deep in the valley
where the Algonquin and Ojibway
got here first, and the Canada geese, though
they’ve flown away, bear the deceased
after their bones are dust to the south
and the west of the dawn they watched
lest they forget where things rise again
and set, through the eastern doors of
their burial huts as if death were a kind of love.

Samhain, soon, Festival of the Dead, witches’
New Year, All Hallowed Eve, where the dead
are allowed yard time free of their isolation cells,
or wherever the waterbirds took them,
ventriloquists behind the mesh of their
electric veils, the hand of the living
pressed against the hand of the dead,
let the witches jump naked through
the sun at midnight, half way between
fall and winter. Let the prophetic skulls
whisper something old on the nape of poetry.

Aldebaran and Capella to the north, one week
until the Pleiades breaks the horizon,
the moon and Jupiter rising in the east
after midnight through the denuded trees
in the park. Perfectly still out, not
a human in sight if I don’t put the emphasis
on myself. Just me and the streetlamps
and the last of the flowers wondering
what’s happening to them as their dyes
are charred by the frost like a bonnet of warpaint.

The more I study things as I get older,
common things, obvious details, the more
I am estranged by my own knowledge.
The leaves are making silkscreens
on the sidewalk. And what I thought
I knew, I’ve shed like the last skin
of the moon’s original totem before
I go into hibernation like a wavelength
with cold blood. A red shift and then oblivion.
More calm than morose, there’s not much
left to lose. The flames of the daylilies
have all been snuffed and they’re up
to their candleholders in the leaves
of yesterday’s fires like a brown out
of a dragon in a crematorium, a pyre
trying to make its bones disappear
in perfect combustion, not a scale
left unincinerated, dust to dust, ashes
to ashes in the subliminal holocaust of the heart.

Things pass, things perish, things die away
like a woman back lit by a window
more than once. I carry on to nowhere
I know I am, not in the mood to stare back.

I’ve made this town the nave of my spoked wheel
of birth and death for the last thirty-five years
writing and painting the mindscapes
of the tourist traps that think they’re here to fish.
I’ve hot waxed and laid my life out
like a glossy brochure without a computer app.
More the picture music of the way things are
than a photograph or an advertisement
to sell you terra firma in the winter
than starmud that will flood you out
in the spring when real estate begins to thaw.

I haven’t exaggerated the longing
of the nightingales or hermit thrushes
that sing unseen in the woods at night
with more hope than I have that something
will answer them back out of the pitch-black abyss,
for reasons of its own. The La Brea tarpit,
or a nest egg quilted in goose down like
moonlight, or hobby farm wives cutting
patches out of a working starmap gone
at the knees, with too many black holes in it
to mend anymore, the sail of the pirate
fired upon like a mailbox at the side of the road,
commemorated as the death shroud
of a colourful bedspread empowered
like a mandala to lead you astray
by following your dreams wherever
they may lead, a heritage cemetery or buried at sea.
Or maybe, if you’re nocturnal and rustic enough,
just roadkill somebody put a blanket over
so you didn’t have to see their face
or the shock in their eyes this isn’t such
a petty place. It compares with a tole-painted urn
from anywhere and the fire masters
scry by the rings and the cracks in your heartwood.
Things heat up in the winter, in the summer
they chill out by the doe-eyed lake caught
in the highbeams of the moon looking for
a blue number they can relay to the ambulance
on its way to pick the corpse of another workhorse up.

“Gonna die less than a hundred feet
from where I was born. How many can say that?”
Buried deep enough in his own starmud
the bush dogs don’t dig him up again
like grave robbers to see what a pharaoh
wasted his life on thinking it would distract
from the pain to build in stone what
he rocked from the starfields and tongue depressors
of the graveyard to see what he died of
without ploughing his body up like a tractor
gone crazy on the moon he seeds with cattle corn.

Or the mad farmer they found sowing the woods
holding onto the tail of a huge black bull that led the way.
What do you think? Is there as much moisture
in the soil at the new as there is at the full moon
because gravity pulls the tides one way and then the other
under the influence of the dreams of a sleeping child?
Is it a boustrophedon or a labyrinth? Is it a good time
to plant new ideas like stars in the dark matter
that clings to our rubber boots like the heart
of something that has remained stubbornly true to us
without making a big fuss about it? Or not?