YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

February 2012

VOL XX, Issue 2, Number 226

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Mois Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Evan Light; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401


Selected Works by Patrick White

INTRODUCTION JUST WANT TO WRITE Painting: A Celebration Of Women CONTENTS LADY NIGHTSHADEíS SUICIDE WASNíT VAIN ENOUGH Painting: Auntumn Palette AZAZEL SAYS Painting: Canada Geese At Night IíVE HAD ELECTROMAGNETIC SEXUAL ATTRACTIONS Painting: First Light, Perth, Ontario WILD DRUNK NIGHTS ON BANK STREET Painting: Wolf Fire THE SILENCE HAS GROWN SO MAGNANIMOUS IN THE NIGHT Painting: Home For The Night OLD GATE OFF ITS HINGE Painting: Inner Nightscape EVERYTHING I WANTED TO BE Painting: Louise's Painting I LEFT THE SCENE BECAUSE Painting: Medicine Woman Calling The Eagles THE RADIANT NADIRS OF THE UNDERESTIMATED Painting: Mount Robson WATCHING THE SKY TURN BLUE Painting: Portrait Of Benjamin Chee Chee EVERYBODY LOOKING FOR SUBSTITUTE STATES OF MIND Painting: Picture-Music With bubble LYKOEIA Painting: Wolves THE MARTYROLOGY OF A MORPHINE MESSIAH ainting: Starmud TRYING TO PUT SOME DISTANCE Painting: Street People IíVE STOPPED MISTAKING MY LIFE Painting: The Birch At Long Bay GENEROUS TO A TRAGIC FLAW Painting: The Cloud MEDITATIONS IN A SNAKE PIT OF DISSONANT WAVELENGTHS Painting: The Pearl YOUíRE A SWEET LITTLE ZOOKEEPER Painting: The Trees in Stewart Park Before The Ice Storm, Perth, Ontario HIGH IN THE Y SHAPED BOUGHS Painting: The Way Home, Westport, Ontario A CANADIAN POET SINCE YOU ASKED Painting: Hecate POST SCRIPTUM Bibliography



Just want to write. Just want to paint. Just want to eat and drink and sleep and defecate and dream and meet the occasional
woman who can turn my crank. Just want to drift like blue smoke from a distant fire on an autumn hillside off into the
distance like the human smell of time. Donít want to worry about publishing or selling, just want to walk by myself through
the high starfields wondering what to call the flowers. Let things make me up as they go. I donít care what kind of spin they
put on it. Just want to blow gusts of stars in the eyes of the dandelions. Want to beat things like bushes and stumps with an
old crooked stick and not have to care what jumps out. I want to be startled by quail and not suffer a heart attack. I want
to be alarmed by the four-stroke Harley engine of a wild partridge revving up to explode in my face, and not have anything to
be frightened of. You hear me out there? You hear me, you prophetic skulls of my poetic ancestors? I just want to kick dirt
down a long country road late at night and feel the wonder and eeriness of being alive to ask myself what the fuck Iím doing
here trying to put down roots in a tent city. And you, if any, who overlook the wanderings and circuitous blossomings of the
poets who have trued your heretical madness into riverine sponsors of life they had to give up their own direction of prayer
to live. Instead of buying property along the highway. Just let go of my spine awhile and let me feel whatís itís like when a
kiteís as free as a waterbird to land where it wants on any one of ten thousand lakes that can still remember the original
taste of the moon. Let me stand like an abandoned farmhouse somewhere and try to see eyebrow to eyebrow through the eyes and
the windows of those who once lived here long enough to leave a wild orchard and a couple of kids in the ground to carry on
without them. I want to weep like a November windowpane for the cruel sorrows that embittered them. I want to stack field
stones into Great Barrier Reefs encyclopedic with life and not on top of freshly dug graves with the few words of a twitter
account to say what the children died of. I want to take all the scarlet letters, the scarlet fevers, the scarlet tunics, the
scarlet pimpernels and boil them all down into a dye I can slash across the sky like a sabre of cadmium red in a wet summer
sunset. O you who preside over my origins like the executors of my afterlife, leave me alone with my metaphors to follow
wherever it may lead the spoor of mythical beasts that have never experienced what itís like to be helicoptered out of
extinction by a dragonfly playing stork to a black rhino. I need space. I need enlargement. I need time itself to just hang
around like a bed sheet pegged to a clothesline between two polarities of life, one, deciduous, and the other, evergreen, so
when I take it down again like a membrane of M-theory, I donít have to shake the smell of the wind and the sun out of it.
Enough of good reasons like sensible shoes with arch supports trying to indoctrinate my irrational creative motives for
wearing black cowboy boots without spurs. I want to reconfigure my fireflies into more original constellations adapted to the
imaginations of wolves and Canada geese rather than shepherds awake all night guarding their sheep from the coyotes that have 
been driving them off the farms around here for the last century and a half. And even if nothing is improved advanced or
progressed, no contribution made to anything, no purpose served, no function discerned, I want to go sit by the skeleton of
the white-tailed buck that bled out with a hunterís bullet in its flank, by itself, just itself dying, being death, the whole
of death, no part left out, as if nothing in that animalís entire life had ever happened to it from the outside. And this so
alone, while the frogs and the damselflies and the boat-tailed grackles went about their business as if nothing ever happened
of any consequence, even the death of large mammal. I want to return to the secret Iíve kept all to myself all these years,
and listen to those bones whisper to me again that learning how to live fully is no different than learning how to die into
life abundantly. I want to see the wild columbine and plush green moss growing through its ribs and the wild grape vines
coiling up its horns. I want to go talk to the shaman in a trance of dancing totems and feel his old presence empower me and
the deer to understand one another as if we were both collaborating in each otherís silence and solitude. And even thatís
saying a little too much.
	Just want to write. Just want to paint. Just want to go stargazing late at night up on Heartbreak Hill
and think of all those women I fought the Last Duel in the Heatscore Hotel over without a second to die in the arms of. And
wonder whose honour it was I lived as if it were worthy of dying for. And why no oneís ever come back to put flowers on my
grave. And if the theme bores me like a road thatís sticking to its narrative, donít want to justify anything to anyone least
of all myself, if I wander off the beaten path like a man who doesnít have to answer to anyone, happy to be lost if heís lost
to himself. Just want to look at the moon in peace and see the tree the Japanese see, or the medicine woman of the Algonquin
healing their wounded canoes with wild rice. Donít want to be nice, or brave, or emphatically sincere. Want to sit on a rock,
my chin on my knees, surrounded by waterlilies at moonrise and think of a woman with similar skin emerging from the ghost
light and kissing me on the forehead tenderly, say like Sedna, the caribou mother of the Inuit, you can trust the universe
completely even when someone who loved you like the best yesterday she ever had on earth, leaves a suicide note on the
mirror, as if sorrow had no tomorrow and joy had the rest of her death ahead of it. I want to reassure myself in the crisp
coniferous atmosphere of the dolorous pines standing on a pyre of rusty eyelashes and confiscated compass needles, there are
some questions that earn a living complicity, and others that go begging door to door for answers. I want to feel the
exquisite eloquence of her absence turning like a knife into a skeleton key in my heart that might unlock it. I want to know
if the shallowness of her victory over death were worth the depth of its defeat. Or maybe it was a truce, a stalemate,
suspended animation, a lapwing to draw death away from something she cherished more than the hurt she nursed as a
distraction from a greater pain. Like I said, chin on my knees, like the dolmen of a thinking man who knows his sadness would
not be alleviated by the answers anymore than a wound is cured by carbon-dating the arrowhead that made it. Mournful the
loons. Baleful ululations reverberating across the lake like Arabic women grieving the dead with their tongues. Her absence
lives in me like the mystery of an empty room in a palatial universe I never enter out of respect for who isnít there. And
all I want her to do, if she can do anything to make a difference to the way she left me to explain, is not come back the way
she came. O you who have used me like a medium for years in a conversation of voices that didnít involve me to whisper into
your own ear as if you were talking to the dead, leave a message, and let me return to my native tongue without being
summoned by anyone who doesnít know how to read or speak for themselves, on this, or the far side of any other river whether
it flows out of Eden, or procrastinates in the roadside ditches of hell boiling with thermophilic life. Let the glaciers pass
over me as they did this landscape twenty thousand years ago and leave me as they did these lake beds in their wake ready to
receive the rain like billions of tears from everywhere and everyone until all that grief is quickened into life by our eyes.
Just want to write. Just want to paint. Donít want to hold a mirror up to nature wrong-side up. Donít want to care if I do.
Donít want to take a guided bus tour through the famous flashbacks of a bad acid trip that even the sixties wouldnít do.
Just want to sit somewhere on the trunk of a fallen birch sodden as salmon, chin on my knees, beside a deerís skeleton,
waiting for the next rainbow trout to jump like my heartbeat. And watch the ripples raise their eyebrows in amazement.

A Celebration Of Women


Lady Nightshadeís suicide wasnít vain enough.
She insisted on dying for the world.
She finally stepped through the black door. 
She took all that splendour of mind and flesh 
and instead of going supernova to make a statement
let it shrink down into
the single snowflake of a white dwarf 
in a spring thaw. 
She died as unobtrusively as a wild flower perishes.
Lady Nightshade died like a whisper in a hurricane of razorblades
a candle flame 
a toy in the corner
that knows when itís time to let the child go. 
She knew her greatest claim to fame
was perpetual silence.
There are some eyes so clear and radiant
the lightís too shy to enter.
There are some mirrors 
that have to turn their backs on you
to show you what youíre looking at. 
Lady Nightshade died like a black mass at the eclipse of a water lily 
and then blew out the flames
on a skeletal replica 
of the extinct candelabra 
she made of her fossil remains.
It was hard to keep up with the half-life of some of her lies 
but she could tell time radioactively 
like numbers on a watch that glow in the dark 
while the rest of us had to rely on a water clock.
She could see things coming 
from the asteroidís point of view
and when you heard her speak 
of what she thought it was you should seek 
among all those invisible things 
we make visible through our lives 
even if you only had a rag of blood 
snagged on a thorn of whatís left of a heart in your body
she made a deep and lasting impact.
You looked at her 
and you knew the time of night
and the weather. 
In her nuclear winter
you were either a species of delusion 
that went extinct 
or you changed the way she did 
and she was a legend among chameleons. 
She was a rainbowís worst nightmare. 
With her 
you werenít deep enough into anything 
until youíd dug your own grave. 
She could hold your spirit up to your face 
like a mirror one moment
and in the next 
tear it off like a bandage on a deep wound 
as if she were unmasking a new scar on the dark side of the moon. 
She could make you smile like a face-painted clown 
who just had his smile widened
from cheek to cheek 
by a scalpel.
She was the daughter of intensity 
but god help the snake 
who tried to ride the dragon 
by hanging on with its fangs
as if those were any kind of match 
for her crescents and claws.
She could weld a forked tongue 
back into a spear head 
and bury it like the Clovis point of a viper
deep in the deserts of Arizona 
where it would take twelve thousand years 
for someone to find it
like a flint knapped skull with lockjaw. 
With her it was ok to be the universe 
as long as she were its physical laws
and they were at all times and everywhere 
applicable and true. 
And god what a body.
You took one look at her 
and you knew already 
youíd been sexually bruised.
She was living proof 
that on the Day of Creation 
when God made woman 
he had a muse
and the rest of us were plagiarized 
from an overdue Texas textbook 
that denied evolution 
was creatively collaborative and true.
The immutable faithful still profaning existence
where everything is the genome of the many 
and all are the chosen few.
But Lady Nightshade was more amused by 
than convinced of her own beauty.
She was too intelligent 
not to use it as an index 
of male cupidity 
twisting their inflated multiverse
like birthday balloons in hyperspace
into her favourite kind of lapdog
as Leonard Cohen sang in the background
no man ever got a woman back 
by begging on his knees. 
She was the kind of hunger 
that could teach a rude man to say please
and a wiser one
whoís been seasoned by the sea 
under full sail 
like an orchard in a storm 
She could roll menís skulls like dice 
that always came up snake-eyes 
because she could see how clearly 
they were estranged from their own reflections
like telescopes that can see everything but themselves
bring the far near 
shorten the mile 
be the last day of the thirteenth month
in a leaping light year
that stays one step ahead of itself 
like a thief of the moon 
coming in through the back door 
of someone elseís homelessness. 
She loved to give performance poetry readings 
where sheíd scream at the featured guests
molesting the microphone with their monogamous poems 
like the accused at the accuser
like an oracular snake pit from the audience
or a banshee at the window 
Do you know how many muses 
you blind assholes 
have turned into social workers?
And in the barefoot silence that ensued 
no one dropped the other shoe 
and you just knew 
those on stage 
felt like the cutting edge of a new ice age 
that would be the crib-death of inspiration 
and thousands of baby mammoths 
that would be clutched by dozy glaciers 
like stuffed teddy-bears for security and warmth
for the next twenty-five thousand years
of black ice a mile high
trying to transcend itself 
like a recurring nightmare.
Lady Nightshade wasnít the kind of revolutionary
that showed her face to the world 
like a mask turned inside out.
She never let her certainty get in the way of her doubt. 
I remember watching her one night 
after weíd made love 
look out from the fourteenth floor 
of the Hotel des Gouverneurs
at St. Denys Boulevard 
lit up like a Nazca landing strip  
in the middle of the starscape 
that bloomed like Montreal.
She was naked. 
She was vulnerable. 
But I could see a bridge in the far distance 
on her right shoulder
like a threshold that was all
exit and entrance 
at the extreme ends of things 
always at right angles to the direction of the flow.
It arched over the river 
like the Egyptian sky goddess Nut 
her body night-blue with white stars
that lined the bridge like streetlamps 
as fragile and delicate in the aerial atmospherics 
as the eyelashes of nocturnal humming birds.
And I saw right then and there 
how vastly she longed for her ghost
to ready her for death 
like a lover from another lifetime 
when suffering wasnít 
the only natural renewable resource
you could rely on to make a living. 
A wounded hawk never asks for pity 
and she didnít ask for mine. 
She was the key
that left everything open 
and for awhile
we were inseparably alone
because I was the lock
that couldnít keep anything in.
She jumped from her bridge
into the lifeboat of a coffin
and left a farewell on the mirror 
written by a bleeding snail of scarlet lipstick. 
I donít know what star she was following 
but back here on earth 
thereís a black hole that eats its own shadow 
and chandeliers of firelies 
that keep putting themselves out in their tears.
Lady Nightshade never cheated her solitude
by buffing it with love. 
Lady Nightshade played solitaire 
with a Tarot pack of mirrors. 
She saw what turned up. 
Lady Nightshade followed the Queen of Cups to the block.
She said a few words 
that ransomed her life with a candle. 
She blew it out.
She swanned like a summer constellation 
on the smoke of a distant fire.
She drowned her silver sword in the star stream
like a barrette she took out of her hair
to let it blow away like the fragrance 
of something beautiful hidden somewhere
like a secret that was meant to be kept. 
Lady Nightshade bloomed like a bruise. 
A blue rose. 
A new moon.
And cherished.
And when she perished 
only strangers could have guessed why I wept.  

Autumn Palette

AZAZEL SAYS Azazel says if you donít live it somebody else is going to end up with your future. Insert local habitations and names thereof here. Perth, Ontario. Population six thousand. From here to Kingston the pioneers did nothing in the way of land naming but plagiarize Scotland. But it isnít less airy here and now than it ever was anywhere else. The streetlamps go on like repeating decimals. Venus hot and bothered in the green tangerine dusk. And even through the doe-glare of the highway headlights and the light pollution of those who never look up, Jupiter in the east above the Smokiní Eagles Smoke Shop on Lanark County 10 heading toward Franktown, the lilac capital of Canada. You want to know what the doe feels in front of an oncoming car sometime look up at the stars and try to make sense of it all. But that was in Richardson, five miles outside of Perth. So where are we now? In deep space? Or back on earth? Everybody edgy until the first snow. Off balance astraddle a snow line one foot on a summer beach and the other on an ice-floe. Hail today and cold. Ave November. How now brown cow? However thick you lay it on youíll still look the same in the spring when the snowís gone. The loosestrife and the mustard ruined. The deer herd culled. The moose shot, cut up and bled and wrapped in a brown paper cover like the meatier parts of a dirty novel. Brown fields still in a state of denial with a dirgeful mist hovering over them like the last few wraiths of chlorine gas on a few acres along the Somme that have been allowed to return to nature again with some enormous deformities of man woman animal child and land. The wild herds of pampas grass have neglected their manes again and they look like paintbrushes with cowlicks. There are some fields as neat and predictable as a pop song two minutes long with a hook. And then there are the improvised jazz jams in the drainage ditches along the highway where the cattails get it on with whatever weed shows up in violation of its parole to take a load off Benny. Blown out tires, hub caps, roadkill, and the wild irises in tight indigo nightgowns who sang their hearts out on heroin the way Billie Holiday sang the blues on deadly nightshade. Azazel says abundance is the root of all desolation. How fast things age is a measure of the depths of their disappointment. You want your cake. You want your cake. You stuff your mouth. You blow the candles out and then the cake eats you. Life lives to eat itself and be hungry. Probably true. But Novemberís killed its appetite. Silos like silver bullets way in the distance. Little monopoly farmhouses with mythically inflated driveways. A phalanx of black iron gates with crests and spears and two cheesey lions just like those youíd find outside a bank that was trying to look imperial. Theyíre not farms anymore. Theyíre estates with a Roman legion for gates. And meanwhile back in town, the pioneer suburb of Ottawa, in an upstairs apartment on a back porch overlooking a deserted parking lot a nineteen-fifties style burgundy couch with a bas relief of paisley brocade abandoned by some weekend hippies is growing too damp and organic to sit on and smells like a sweating horse with black mold the longer itís left out in the rain. And there are field mice, not many, a few like the Roma of Europe whoíve found a niche in life among the loose change, nuggets of bud log jam of unsalvageable cigarettes in its crevices and crannies, a selection of old lighters each with an individual story to tell and the coiled cartoon springs and stuffing of an era that liked to round things off like the bumpers of their cars and couches and women as if they knew even way back then they were going to sit for awhile and look long and hard and hopelessly west for the sun to come up just once at dusk in the land of the midnight sun and prove them right about their point of view. But the mice donít really care about who got the window-seat on the bus or how much baggage they carried on with them like the elephant to the south of them. Theyíre snug right where they are and they travel light happily balanced between security and a fire-escape like the arsonist in all of us in autumn as the Canada geese high overhead honk their horns like the paddy waggons of the Keystone Cops in passing as they leave the set with probable cause to bust another marijuana patch like a pot boiler. Azazel says forget about the mice forget about the geese. The die is cast. And thereís no turning back now. Stand on the Gore Street Bridge over the Rideau Canal and watch how the fish follow the Tay river in suspended animation and how the last of the swallows to inhabit its fieldstones cross it again and again without hesitation like the flash of sabres that never clash gleefully building a nation like a lot of little holes in the wall the birds can come back to with a moat of their own to frustrate the feral cats that live under the bridges of Gore street like famished Fenians on the prowl. Azazel says the nations have been unpeopled by their governments and data isnít history though it took a thousand deaths from malaria and alcohol-related-on-the-job accidents to make it what it is today. Some crushed by falling trees. Some drowning drunk trying to swim across the river to acquisition another bottle of whiskey. Scarlet fever and childbirth on the farm. Itís hard to number the miscarriages and still births these old grey sway-backed arks and barns that look like the last of the mammoths in the distance have seen around here. The nightmare febrile locks of stranded hair that snaked over the foreheads of the young wet wives who died into their second year of trying to continue a blood line all the way from Ottawa to Kingston like the plagiarized names of all these small towns that sprang up like stone-mills and water wheels all along her birth canal. British half-pay officers in beaver skins building dams alongside the beavers as if this were Kandahar, Afghanistan and tribal Scottish highland chieftains who ran Renfrew like the Taliban. People have a way of abstracting whatís crucial about the stem cells of life from the sweat and lechery that went into producing them. Walking boats like reluctant debutantes that have been taken under the arm up and down the stair wells of a palace of water in high heels. Spidery horse-drawn carriages on springs that learned to sing to the beat of corduroy roads and keep a decent pleat in their prose. Imported butlers holding out silver plate to accept the salutary donations of the calling cards who dropped in to see if So and So were as thin as the last letter she sent them. People who took a bath in their own grave every day and left a ring around the tub like the ripple in the heartwood of a tree on the growing edge of history. Who considers the spit on the back of the stamp that went off to war for king and country just to have a return address to come back to like a river you canít step into twice even if you were to build one of the worldís longest canals with post office boxes in it for the swallows? Azazel says itís casually ironic that one of the first things these people did to work all this up into a life and a home and a heritage of their own was kill the Algonquin village next door for having one of its own. History is a screening myth to cover up what someone did with the bones. If theyíre sacred, theyíre sacred by default. No one on the bridge disagrees even when they see weaving its way like a lifeline among the catfish a long trail of blood all the way back to the village. Brutal to have one people vanguish another and then turn on its own out of sympathy for what itís just so irreparably damaged. Thatís why I need Azazel around. I may be the lightning rod. But heís the ground.

Canada Geese At Night

IíVE HAD ELECTROMAGNETIC SEXUAL ATTRACTIONS Iíve had electromagnetic sexual attractions to women I didnít even like and as I got to know them despite myself felt I was mud-wrestling in a squalor of mutual disrespect. And I was the one who loosing. Anacondas squeezing me in a heart lock. Iíve seen root fires burn underground through ten miles of cedars for a week down the whole length of a valley and no one know for sure if theyíd finally been put out. And Iíve often thought growing up angry bored and deprived and caught in the emotional crossfire of my fatherís and motherís annihilation in an era of clashing Titans and cannibalistic ogre fathers on the look-out for Olympian sons they could swallow like a swaddled stone in a single gulp the reason I dared the thrill and danger of breaking taboos my Icarian plunges into seas of awareness was that it was a revolutionaryís way of acting out against the authority of my own mind. Light a candle in church for me and Iíd blow it out as if Iíd just gotten into bed with the forbidden key to my freedom. More of the immensities and intensities of human life are encountered in the dark than are met on the street in daylight. Dark dark dark they all go into the dark. Yes. T. S. But for a lot of different reasons. Mine was the desecration of old idols myself among them. Outlaws pariahs misfits and heretics. Itís ironic now to look back and think if you werenít an outcast of some kind you were cast out like the shard of a broken mirror that didnít fit the puzzle of a slowly evolving vision of life where the whole was less than the sum of its parts. You werenít a grand master in the dark arts and ardent discipline of disobedience. You didnít know how to obey in reverse. Your childhood hadnít progressed through the initial seven stations of futility and despair so you didnít know how to keep faith with the faithless. I sometimes think thatís why so many of my relationships ever since have been misalliances of dark matter and light. The parities of mass and function might look the same but youíve got to check the charge and spin before you can be sure that this is love and not annihilation. Synchronous happenings in a charged particle field. Or love playing chicken in a hadron particle collider at nearly the speed of light But hey thatís not to say that there arenít some women worth evaporating in a Wilson Cloud Chamber for like a God-particle in a mystic cloud of unknowing. Vapour trails and skid marks that leave their mark on the world like comets of cosmic graffiti spray-bombed under a bridge by gangland trolls to warn everyone whose turf theyíre on. An urban form of land naming. The writing on the wall. And whatís annihilation anyway when you turn the jewel in a different light but the unsung beginning of another universe that couldnít be any worse than this one? Hail to the dark muses behind the veils of my most ferocious inspirations. Evolution consults the mutants to know what to do next. For some the dice are loaded like chromosomes and genes. For others theyíre hexed like dead albatrosses caught in the rigging of shipwrecks that have been down so long it looks like up to them if you can remember what happened to Richard Farina. Killer-whales in the Oak Bay Marina making a big splash for the tourists. Killer-whales waiting for baby seals to slide off the rocks like careless mermaids or hookers in rehab. Maybe itís just a matter of taste and learning how to say grace whether you wear a neck yoke or stay underground like a missing link when everyoneís enslaved by a food chain for reasons that are as far beyond them as Jamaica is from the Ivory Coast. The difference between a domestic pet and an exiled species of wildlife. And maybe thatís why I often think poetryís just a loveletter youíre writing on death row to someone youíve never met. O firefly! O synteretic spark! O fairy dust mingled in the soot of brooding chimneys like the birds that keep getting caught in their throats like songs they were meant to sing words they were meant to say but didnít I can taste the sun shining at midnight and the eclipses that have freaked your honey in the hives of killer bees with the fragrance of a dangerous elixir itís a greater madness than wisdom to resist. Lao-tzu says a sane man prefers heaven but itís heaven that courts insanity. Sane long enough and the fountain of youth grows old waiting for Ponce de Leon. The darker the muse the deeper the insight and the further you have to go for stars to keep the night happy and high. Forbidden people like forbidden things. No danger in the writer and the readerís got nothing to fear. But itís the one percenter deathís-head patched to the executionerís hood of the cobra the hourglass on the black widowís thorax and the irisless eyes of the great white shark that donít make a sound that catches the ear and sends a shudder through the blood like the poison and the potion of a dangerous love affair. Itís not the cause of the injury but the depth of the wound thatís the measure of whether youíre just another superficial predator in a petting zoo or your feelings went deep enough into you itís less painful to leave the arrowhead in and learn to live with it like a second heart than it is to take it out. If the rose lacks thorns. If the mountain goat has lost its figs and horns. If the lines of a poem donít sting like a loverís scratches on your back or the striations of passionate glaciers across the Canadian Shield who can make love to you for years submitting to all your desires for fur and fire and food without ever once yielding anything of themselves but tears and lakes and rivers of farewell when things begin to warm up. If the wolf isnít mauled by the moon itís not high enough on the mountain to be inspired by its wound to intrigue the indifferent muse on the far side of its agony with the odes it writes to the lunacy of its longing.

First Light, Perth, Ontario

WILD DRUNK NIGHTS ON BANK STREET Wild drunk nights on Bank Street in half a company of comeback poets and the other half too young to know what there was to lose. Winter blues and booze and the headlights of the evening cars diffracted through big wet snowflakes as we stumbled from bar to bar between Mexicaliís and Noddyís among the clockwork throngs of people we were trying as hard not to be and they were doing everything they could not to be us though they envied our wives and girlfriends because they were prosperous and thought of themselves as a lot more deserving than us who were obviously not. Hangers-on without enough life of their own to put their own show on the road waiting to see what new circus act would bring the house down tonight and the quasi-liberal businessmen sneering under their breath like a secret agenda at an open forum who thought of a vagina as an empty wallet and sat there all night long flashing their cash around round after round like fly fishermen waiting for something to take the bait though it was they who were hooked by the gills reeled in and left flopping at last call at the bottom of the love boat. Romeo trying to rip Bonnie off Clyde. Blood banks coming on to Draculaís bride. You had to be spontaneously self-destructive to sleep with women like that. You couldnít keep one rabbit in your pants and the other in your hat for back-up. Nothing less than everything all the time. Pot, coke, wine, beer for breakfast, whiskey, and risky women with neo-romantic anti-selves who followed us to jail with taxis and bail after every barfight whenever life abused the art it imitated. Oases in the third eye of spiritual storms, everyone trying to make something big out of their exponential futility we partied long and hard into the night to exorcise the exilic solitude we shared in common with those who had also been cast out by their own hand. After Rimbaudís dissociation of the sensibilities what could you do for encore except take ruination a step too far? Neo-surrealistic deconstructionism with a mystically sexual twist. How to live with a lunar view of life in the half lights, shadows, and uncertainties the moon cast through the trees across the road in a solar culture that leeched the colour out of your blood? Hang by your legs from the bannister on the balcony of the thirteenth floor to prove how much more drastic life was than death as down is to up when youíre sitting in front of a typewriter wondering if the empty bottle was dark enough to hold your message of light like fireflies in your mouth without swallowing their myth of origin whole. Total eclipses abridging all the phases of the full moon in one flyby of a night lyric like a bird on the wing crying out in its lonely passage how sad it is to be so far from home time doesnít speak your language anymore. And your words fall on deaf ears like junkmail on the moon. Intensities on the nightshift poured the gold out of the ore of our pain as the muses appeared like broken windows with tragic world views to give us something to squander our imaginations on like stars in the dark coming up with constellations of our own to better express what we were not a part of. Zodiacs for maniacs off the beaten path of the straight and narrow firewalk most of us were too enraptured by the night to stop breaking the taboos of light like fortune-cookies koans and severing ostrakons of insight to stay in the same orbit for long. And when the cupboards were bare in the huge cheap apartments of the Glebe where the uncertain prophets lived with their dakinis and sybils in the belly of the whale before the gypsies were gentrified by the real estate agents who liked to slum at our parties because scum has more heart-felt fun in the flesh even in a Petrie dish looking for a cure for itself than someone who owns the earth without ever having felt the squish of starmud oozing up like his own biomass between his cloven hoofs because his clothes are afraid of getting down and dirty; when there was nothing to eat and the heat was turned off we didnít burn our stamaps and look for a ride home. We didnít gouge the eyes out of a winged horse with spurs of Spanish silver when the stars got hard and brittle and burnt out like lightbulbs that couldnít handle the lightning. We didnít eat each other in a feeding frenzy. We were pragmatic divines with our heads in the stars and our feet on the ground we went next door and borrowed a cup of sugar and lived the rest of the week on symbols and signs. Not better. Not worse. Ignorant of the blessing. Unaware of the curse of those days and nights and those mystically anaemic sunsets that fell between the red brick houses and always reminded me of Eliotís dying dactylic fall that pauses and turns around like footsteps in the hall before some dangerous doorbell sets off a false alarm and puts the wick of the lighthouse thatís sick of taking its own warning out for good. Necessity should not be abstracted by hungry ghosts who have no stomach for the fruits of life. How idiotic to be afraid of making a fool of yourself when half the magic of living the dream is being led to real holy water by a mirage of your own making. Amputated stumps by the side of truncated roads mistaking their new branches for the flying buttresses and crutches of a cul de sac cathedral that wouldnít risk its dead end orthodoxy even for God. All root. No blossom. No fruit. If youíre not willing to overcome your convictions to transcend yourself in a shapeshifting multiverse to add your moment of excruciation like the singularity at the bottom of the black hole in the middle of your seeing to the human divinity of the transformative whole I ask you how could galaxies and starfish and sunflowers have ever come into being if there wasnít something curved about your golden squares? And arenít those windows somebody threw something through whether from the inside or out somehow always more believable than those who havenít been broken by the moon to keep from killing the birds who fall for the shills of sky that never evolved a wingspan wider than the beautiful proportions of the cosmic egg they never made it out of? Who could imagine then as I do now the immensities of innocence behind the blind discipline of the inspired disobedience we sacrificed to a life in art we raised like our own assassin each after our own fashion to keep from dying like a lie in the shadows of lucid taboos that slept with one eye open like dragons at the gateless gates of those with spine and serpent fire enough to have all the wrong stuff for all the right reasons. Groping our way from poem to poem painting to painting album to album blind star-nosed moles among the root-fires of the cedars we wrote so no one could understand us. We sang so no one could hear us. We painted so no one could see us. And we lived in such a way that no one else could be us without destroying themselves like an art that takes an apprentice years to perfect and a master a whole lifetime longer to wreck. Even young I saw through the ruse of originality. Originality the greatest plagiarist of all. Takes the low place. Takes the sea bed. And letís everything run down into it like a million mindstreams all at once. Originality in an interdependently originated universe is a measure of how open youíve been to the influence of everything and whether youíve ever creatively collaborated with jello telephones and the psychopyrodynamics of schizophrenic dragons on crack ferociously obsessed with a paranoid fear of fire. And there are beautiful things too. Not just the grotesque and weird the labyrinths of wormholes in space people crawl in and out of hoping in one of these worlds within worlds to die a maggot and be raised up a butterfly. Physics is the cruelest science. Nature the hardest art of all. But sometimes all youíve got to do is look up and the bullets go right through you like stars arranged into firing squads all shooting blanks as if no one one of the signs of the zodiac with their finger on the trigger of the moon wanted to be cursed by the fact they killed an albatross with an arrow fletched with its own flight feathers. Donít boil the kid in its motherís milk. Or Cygnus in the Via Galactica. Youíll turn a martyr into a heretic and youíll start writing the first cantos in terza rima of your Anti-Divina Comedia and youíll long for women you canít have to delude you onto the rocks like the daughter of a mermaid raised in a sacred grove of crucified shipwrecks. Beautiful things. Evanescent moments of bliss. As if you had a secret assignation with the mystery of the universe turned into tangible flesh and you and your six senses and her were going off to get drunk somewhere you could let everybody down without regret.

Wolf Fire

THE SILENCE HAS GROWN SO MAGNANIMOUS IN THE NIGHT The silence has grown so magnanimous in the night it encompasses all of space and time in a palace of dark matter with light beaming through the cracks of the planets that have been stacked into walls like the skulls the Mongols heaped up like the foundation stones of Samarkand, Olmecs in Teotihuacan, or on a gentler note, Golgotha. Upon one skull you can build a church. And an Orphic skull might look like a dead moon to ordinary eyes but when your inner vision waxes to full you realize when it drops its jaw as if it were gaping at something transfixing to prophesy what comes next as you asked it to life is swarming all over it like black ants over the globular clusters of the white peonies abandoned by a farmhouse garden. Two twenty a.m. and Iím sitting on the tie of a high train trestle trying not to get slivers in my ass and black creosote all over my last clean pair of jeans. Iím dangling my feet in the abyss below me like a kid gone fishing in a Norman Rockwell painting and positioning my arms like the legs of a French easle so I can tilt my head back like a telescope on an alta-azimuth mount and look at the explosive array of stars before me without falling off my vertiginous perch because my gerry-mandered tripod couldnít keep its bearings straight. Itís a mistake to count on a crutch for a rung on this endless extension ladder on the back of a fire-engine because it couldnít reach the windowsills of the stars missing a dimension or two to reach the woman in the moon with her hands up against the glass screaming for someone to come to her rescue as the windows melt faster than they can weep. Stars are to me what cocaine is to a mirror in a reflecting telescope with clock-drive. I get a rush every time I rail them through my eyes, shoot them under my tongue or o.d. on them sitting on a train track thinking how weird and surrealistic my addiction to them has made me over the years that I only stopped to piss by the side of the road and risking bears made my way through the leafless trees to end up out here in the clear where I could see better how much higher yet there was to aspire to and how much further to fall. Bellatrix, Rigel, Saiph, Betelgeuse, Alnilam, Alnitak and Mintaka. Orion at the end of deer-hunting season extending its license to kill by a week north of highway 7 as it crosses zenith. Iím not playing Russian roulette with a train trestle but I doubt I could dodge the bullet were one to come my way even though it wouldnít make any sense given that we still need each other for support each in our own special way. As it is Iím sitting in the middle of the Road of Ghosts as the natives called the Milky Way mesmerized by the doe-glare of the oncoming stars that pass right through me as if a head-on collision were a redundancy their deer-whistles couldnít avoid. Three thousand five hundred western miles that way home. Twenty-five miles outside of Perth near Bolingbroke I wonder what my motherís doing now three hours behind me in a time-zone with more of a future than mine and if she ever when she thinks of me conceives of a bird on a wire perilously suspended in space like the last whole note to drop out of a song thatís getting ready to leave for the winter. I raise myself up on my hands and my legs straight out into space on a balance beam at the Olympics I swing like a loveseat on a country porch to see if the daredevil boy in me is still fit to wear my balls like the man itís sometimes laughable to think that I am. I used to do the same for her when I climbed to the topmost branches of the abandoned orchards of the Saanich Peninsula to throw the choicest apples down she used to catch in her kerchief one by one. Looking down as I waited for her to catch the next one Iíd watch her gently arrange them like skulls at the foot of a siege ladder with her son on the highest rung of all not listening to her warnings, disappearing over the holy walls of Jerusalem like a crusader that had taken it a step too far and realized there was as far to fall on the other side of the infidels as there was on the side that God was on. Now I keep my heroism to myself like something Iím slightly ashamed of like a movie star with a stand-in stunt man. I take chances. Great subjective risks with dire physical consequences to keep spiritual things material by refusing to abstract my senses. This isnít a train trestle in Bolingbroke. Itís the bridge of Chinvat that Zoroaster said everyone among the holy and the damned would have to cross raised up from the dead on the Day of Judgement to see hell before it was decided whether you were a son of the lie or the son of a truth that got double-crossed. But given my indifference to both as if they were just spontaneous happenings in a charged particle field reversing spin as high as wide as far as deep as I can see in all directions at once out here alone by myself, the exception that got left behind, all Iím aware of are the stars and the tops of the cedar trees tiered like rustic pagodas trying to fly when the wind gets under their wings like shaggy boughs that never make it off the ground. Nothing but stars. Nothing but open sky and moonset. Nothing but space and time and Jupiter and the Hesperides in their apple orchards wondering what Alcyone in the Pleiades thinks sheís got over them thatís worth so much more of my attention I can almost forget where I am and let go if I werenít as unattainable to her as she is to me. Look at me Mum no hands at the top of a tree forty feet below me like a pine cone with all its eyelids open that doesnít care where it lands among all these meteors shaken out of the radiant of the Leonids like the Cannonball Express given how many light years itís been since you were last there to catch it like a falling star and put it in your pocket and never let it fade away though we both know itís a little too late a train too far and a night too deep for that.

Home For The Night

OLD GATE OFF ITS HINGE Old gate off its hinge. Matted like a lapwing in the long blond grass. What is there to distract me from? I pass, but not as a predator. I seek the high field at the end of this narrow dark road at dusk. Iím out for stars. Iím out for solitude. Like these deep cuts in the road my scars have taken me out for a walk in the gathering darkness, nothing to keep in nothing to let out. The sumac denuded. The last of the asters ruined. Thereís a farmhouse back here abandoned years ago like an old book in the basement under the covers of its collapsing roof. And the ghosts of two children hidden deep in the woods from the authorities, autistic prodigies who could fix anything mechanical, clocks, watches, small engines anything the neighbours brought them but their own hearts and minds and thatís how they lived for years, with nothing but their own estrangement for company, fixing things the neighbours broke. A cage. But with the door open. A road. But nowhere to go. A house. But no one to shelter. A mind. But no one to know it. The chassis of a rusting car. A bear. I get caught in the glare of my own mental headlights wary of making more noise than I should. And then my eyes adjust my fear to the darkness again and Iím not sure I should be here at all unworthy of the silence, unknown to the trees at the side of the road, no clockwork universe to bring these backwoods geniuses that even they could fix. A fox on the path. A startled bird. The barking of a farmyard dog way off in the low-key distance. Stars in the ripening twilight. A clearing with maple saplings to say here nature picked up where it left off and broken shards of moonlight still clinging to the windowframes as if it had to break through its own ice to draw water from a stream. Perseus holding Medusaís head above a barn drunker than it looks swaying from side to side gaping through its doorless loft in shock at what is happening to it. Aldebaran in Taurus, the Pleiades, Castor, Pollux, Auriga and the kids, an airliner leaving Ottawa without a sound, and something that sweeps over me like the shadow of a thought with an owl for an eyelid. So little harmony so much tension among the stars and their conflicting myths of origin in the chaos and confusion of creation and yet around here in the stillness and profusion of their radiance blessed and hexed alike they all seem fixed. Here where the unknown breathes and eternity doesnít seem like anybodyís business but its own.

Inner Nightscape

EVERYTHING I WANTED TO BE Everything I wanted to be. Not me. Just like you. I remember getting up early every Saturday morning in Victoria and going out with my mother and two sisters and younger brother and sometimes my grandmother to scour the acres and acres of East Indian woodlots drying the newly split book-shaped slabs of wood as if someone had just put out the fire in the Library of Alexandria and left this toppled tower of bottom-feeding erudition on the outskirts of town for beer-bottles left over from the night before and wild blackberry patches we had to get to before the sun and the birds did. People went there on a Friday night to drink and fuck in these heavy swells of reeking spruce and fir with Prussian blue mussel shells still clustered in bunches to the bark like the seaís answer to grapes. We dumped the stale beer out along with the used condoms and cigarette-butts and if it werenít for the fact we were swimming in wood we might have been mistaken for pearl divers given how we came up for air gasping with excitement that we had found another one. It was all just a big impromptu Easter egg hunt put on by the local church of Satan for those kids the Easter bunny had missed. Two bits a dozen or two cents a piece stacked like spent artillery casings in a two-wheeled wire-mesh grocery cart that made the bottles clink like a Glockenspiel in a hailstorm everytime my mother moved it to a more strategic location. We didnít come like gypsies or crows or seagulls to the woodlots. This was a full blown military occupation and our survival in between welfare cheques depended on it like William Carlos Williamsí little red wheelbarrow in the rain beside the white chickens. We drank the black blood out of the arachnid eye sacs of the berries crushing them against our palettes with our tongues just like John Keats crushed that autumnal grape in his ode to joy just before they went too mushy to pick and took on a mouldy taste that felt like spider fur in your mouth. Powerful green breakers of berries that could suck you down into their undertow and hold you in their depths like spiny sea urchins, sawfish, razor-wire or giant octopi with thorny tentacles instead of suckers you could stick like stain-glass sunflowers to a window if you know how to lick them just right to make their suction cups in conjunction with your spit stick longer than lipstick French kissing a pricey glass of champagne. Even then I was dreaming of the finer things in life. Thoroughbred goblets one day but for then those noisy beer-bottles like the sweating horses of pussy-whipped Neptune. And would you believe it we were all together happy back then laughing at what we had to do for a living. We were salvagers of a shipwreck that had been cut up for firewood and these long-necked empties in our hands as if we grabbed a flock of cormorants by the throat useless to everyone except ourselves after having delivered their message like a lifeboat at the end of a James Bond movie to those marooned here on a Friday night werenít beer-bottles but Greek amphorae. Na. I donít believe it either. You make things up to adapt to the lack of them all when youíre a kid when youíre poor when you dream just so you wonít lose the habit of it when you fall between the cracks like a penny down a gutter because you know too much by the time youíre six about what happens when you throw the full moon like a coin down a wishing well and how little difference there is between the things that donít happen and the things that arenít true and the things that just go splash like Bashoís frog. But happy, yes, in moments like that collecting beer bottles in the East Indian woodlots on the outskirts of town as if we were shared the same joyous delirium of improbably getting away with something like our lives because were desperately ingenious in the way weíd make walkways through the blackberries by throwing down planks end to end and topping our tin laundry buckets and leaking silver collanders that always reminded me of bleeding starmaps off with the furthest, the best, the sweetest we saved till the last. When youíve only got the slimmest of half a chance to make it the futureís always more innocent than the present and the past might be out on parole any day now for things you shouldnít ask a kid to understand even though you know he does. Everyone I wanted to be. Not me. Just like you. When I wasnít preoccupied with beer bottles and blackberries abandoned orchards of peaches plums apples and the geraniums and marigolds Iíd steal from the neighbours gardens for my mother who would invariably ask as she was transplanting them without expecting me to answer where they came from. Buckets of peanut butter heavy as bells chafing our shins as we tried to walk with them like awkward steeples at the backdoor of the peanut butter factory, running an extortion racket on telephone booths by knowing how to tip the horseshoe of the receiver upside down for loose change that had run out of luck. All the local churches playing musical chairs with our souls in a game of hamper hamper whoís got the hamper this month and who suffered their little children to come unto us, potatoes too bruised for the potato factory, a face cord of salmon from the fisherman coming in with their catches to refuel down by Johnson Street Bridge where Iíd collect pigeon eggs under the girders for friends. When it wasnít this I was teaching myself algebra from an old khaki green Salvation Army math book on my grade six summer vacation my mother had picked up for a dime because after a fighter pilot, a cartoonist, a paleontologist, a street-wise prodigy found dead in my bed in the morning from an accidental suicide, I wanted to be an astronomer. Except for most of all my love affairs I have suffered few wounds as deep as when I used to cry in my sleep for inconsolable hours every night between the ages of seven and ten because Iíd been born too early to step foot on another planet where you didnít have to walk the plank to get at the beer-bottles and best blackberries before the sun and the birds did. Everything I wanted to be. Not me. Just like you. But hey, look at me now, man. Iím a poet and Iím more spaced out than I could have ever been in anyoneís air force and even if I havenít discovered a habitable planet to put down roots in yet Iíve been walking on stars for light years by putting down planks like poems end to end to gorge on the choicest blackberries on a Saturday morning in the East Indian woodlots as if I were happy again even among all these luminaries with better myths of origin than mine being what I am. Just like you. Not me. Everything I wanted to be. In spades. In cornucopias and windfalls. Buckets full of blackberries. A rickety grocery cart clinking with two dozen beer-bottles the spoils of a Roman triumph as we rode our golden chariot through a slum me, my brother and sisters, sometimes my grandmother, and Mum.

Louise's Painting

I LEFT THE SCENE BECAUSE I left the scene because after long discipline and the labour of many mirrors I wanted to get the careerism out of my poetry and return to the unbrokered relationship I had with the muse who had me when I was sixteen sitting precipitously on Heartbreak Hill not caring whether the stars knew I was there or not because it was more than enough that they were. I wanted to end my apprenticeship to literary owls editors publishers agents poet-tasters court-jesters and the quarterly reviews of the gleemen who made a mockery of the blood sacrifices they watered down like Druids that had never taken a life in the name of anything that ever mattered to the talented or untalented alike. I wanted to get away from the merry-go-rounds who made a hobby-horse of Pegasus and kept asking me how many books I had published now though it was doubtful theyíd even read one all the way through and the only answer I could give them was I was the fucking Library of Alexandria. Now watch me burn it to the ground. I donít think itís true you always kill the thing you love but I knew too many who had buried themselves in books to prove they did while those they loved went right on living without them. I left the scene because when I wrote too many doctorates tried to crawl up into the womb to monitor the birth of the baby by prying its petals open before it was due to be born. Because the waters of life like the wellsprings of Parnassus in Macedonia before Helicon in Boeotian Greece switched to hippocrene canít be approached like a fish farm. Because Iím from B.C. and I know you have to be willing to leap up stream with the wisdom and grace and courage of a wild salmon through a gauntlet of real grizzlies if you want to be summoned by the ancient mystery to the sacred pools of your own creativity where everything begins and ends like the waterclocks of inspiration generation after generation. I left the scene because too many periodicals were coming on like voice coaches to the nightingales who submitted their vocals to the editorial policies of peacocks who sang a lot worse than they did. I left the scene because you canít live like a maggot and write like a butterfly and even if you can't find much thatís noble about your calling anymore itís still not an investment portfolio with stocks in Poetry Chicago. I liked the awards I won. I liked the books I published without exception. I liked the provincial and federal writing grants. I liked the reading fees such as the one Iím getting here tonight. I liked the dinner I had with Max. I liked the planes and the cars the private homes the reasonable hotels that people put me in or on and I liked the way people well-meaning enough would lie to me enthusiastically about how my name would last forever as long as there was a Canadian literature that could stand up to the weather. I liked the attention and needed it and I never met an audience I didnít like if theyíd let me. I liked the radio interviews with big studio dressing rooms with cosmetically lit mirrors for my voice but Iím still more than a little ambivalent about the visual effects they laced my voice with like acid to make the documentaries more interesting than my life. I liked the artists who did the poster-poems for most of the poetry readings in Ottawa for free for years and the back up guitarists like the Roddy Elias Jazz Trio and this triune expression of musical experience thatís coming up shortly behind me here. I liked the intelligently generous restauranteurs who were gracious enough to give me a chance to read above the sounds of falling spoons and crashing plates. I liked the man who passed the hat at the end of every reading like a collection plate that made me feel if I stood at this pulpit long enough Iíd get to be the leader of a church. I liked the losing and the finding and the search for inspiration among the covens and the choirs of fallen angels who showed me all the things you can do with fire that have nothing to do with global warming which isnít a function of natural desire. I liked sitting alone on a runway in Terrace on a cross country book tour surrounded by mountains and ice wondering how anything could gain enough altitude without being stoned out of its mind to avoid a collision with the peak moments of your life like a decision that isnít yours to make and youíre not quite sure whether youíre going to die or not nor for whose sake or in the name of what when you remember and this is your last best hope youíre an integral part of Canadian Literature and youíre going to live forever as long as you can clear the Rockies and the weather and get your landing gear up in time like a duck flying over a duck blind. I liked the vegetarian hosts who let me smoke at some readings because they said they liked my work so well they didnít have the heart to make a demon like me go through nicotine withdrawal in the name of art and gave me the breathing space I need as a poet to read my poetry though I took great care not to blow the smoke in their face. I liked the way I was adopted by exiles in the capitol of the country I was born into like a changeling by the Arabs and Chileans. I liked the special connections I had to Calabria and Arezzo. I liked editing a poetry magazine. I liked publishing other peopleís poetry books. I liked having a talk-show and being an artificial life support system to prevent guests from inhaling too much dead air so they could talk live on the radio. I liked pulling into the Canadian Tire Gas Bar on highway 7 just before midnight and being recognized three years after I quit broadcasting by the sound of my voice alone by an overly enthusiastic gas-jockey who thought I was some kind of big shot and I wanted to say hey, buddy, do yourself a big favour and get a life of your own because I like being heard but that doesnít always mean Iím worth listening to or that the noise I make is many more wavelengths longer than yours. Or the acoustics of your dick are merely the hollow echo of mine that roars by comparison. Anyone can wake the valley up with a bull horn. But it takes a rooster with real class to crow softly, knowing the rose likes to sleep in. I liked it all. The Blue Gardenia, The Wildflower, the aging nightowls of LíHibou, the legends of Mandrex and alcohol that made the mice feel farcical. I liked having as many detractors as I did friends. I liked being asked to be poet laureate and have a Jewish sister insist upon it after sticking up for the Palestinians and being reviewed as the White Ayatollah of Ottawa in the Ottawa Citizen when in fact I thought of myself as a kind of throw back to Mephistopheles with a host of demi-gods and black-hearted magicians for friends. I liked the wild witchy beauty of the women who loved me like a finishing school for fucked-up creative females and took the madness I embodied to heart and made it their own to give themselves a good start in art with my blessing. And they liked the way that was o.k. with me. Anything for poetry. Even the empty doorway they left me to remember them by. And I do. Gratefully. For having enriched my solitude immeasurably. But for all that I liked roosting with the crows and peacocks the swans and the larks the sparrows and nightingales and seagulls in the sacred groves of poetry I couldnít get this cosmic hiss out of my head this white noise this multiversal whisper from the afterbirth of creation that kept suggesting there was no point in making a Big Bang if it didnít turn into a universe. So I looked for space. I looked for time. I returned to my potential I looked for cheap rent on a small town apartment where I could spill paint on the floor and write myself to death without anyone coming to the door to tell me how much I had to offer other people though I wasnít aware of the fact that theyíd even asked. I wanted to take a bath in my own grave alone with the moon by an unnamed lake to renew my innocence among the scarecrows and voodoo dolls I refeathered like a phoenix in the fall with burning leaves of sumac on the last pyre I had to spend on getting closer to the stars than Iíve ever been. I left the scene because longing and silence and solitude are the three water birds I collaborate with the most when I want to say whatís in my heart. I left the scene because only the night and the hills and the wind and the fields and the wildflowers whose names are poems in and of themselves and the six thousand unattainable stars that I aspire to like women Iíll never have, though theyíre happy enough to turn themselves out like muses who like to marry men on death row, reminded me of how refreshingly insignificant I am to anything thatís going on with them like a big-hearted, good-natured ghost they feel free enough to call upon any time they want and thatís what they like about me the most.

Medicine Woman Calling The Eagles

THE RADIANT NADIRS OF THE UNDERESTIMATED The radiant nadirs of the underestimated, all these small town upstairs windows at night where people bloom like flowers, trout lily, hepatica, wood violet under the duff of life, old books and teetering obelisks of magazines, nobodyís ever going to see in this hemisphere unless their clockwise life has gone down the wrong way and the worldís been turned up side down on its head so youíre compelled to walk on stars to keep from falling off. Thereís a novelist across the street. Window to window our apartments stare blankly at each other through the dirty winter grime and the occasional moon and ambivalent rose of the dawn after a long sleepless night when even the dead are appalled by the solitude. Seven novels and heís never published a word. Seven novels. A mouth and a heart like the Gulf of St. Lawrence but no Cabot, Cartier, Champlain. And thereís a poet I know a mere four blocks away, beautiful, a wild crazy witch of a woman among muses that couldnít hold a black candle up to the serpent fire she can inspire in any two lines of a poem that could take a common garter snake and give it the wings of a dragon, a genius whoís laid herself aside to raise a baby and write in between the cracks of concrete her crackhead ex keeps trying to pave her with like a parking lot on a coke binge. Sheís the spearhead of a blade of grass trying to wound its way through stone into the light but itís not likely sheís ever going to make it given the avalanche of circumstance that waits for her like a mountain on the other side to come up for air in the middle of a seal hunt. Unknown geniuses, the gifted secrets of heretical martyrs and orthodox suicides like the Sylvia Plaths, the Emily Dickinsons, the Kafkas, the Rimbauds, the Van Goghs the hidden motherlodes of gold that freak the fieldstones of the small c conservative, rural, born again redneck towns that overturn talent like tractors all through the Ottawa Valley on too steep a slope to make the grade and crush the life out of it without anyone really knowing what it was that died or what it died for or what it wanted to die in the name of. The sole East Indian proprietor of Macís Milk like a single ant in a glaring peony of light that stays on all night, the bartender at the Imperial, the bouncer at the Shark and Bull, the cook in the kitchen at Fiddleheadís, the adolescent in the doorway with her elbows on her knees and her hands on her head like the flying buttresses of a small planet blazing with comets and lightning bolts of insights into life that even at her age would put a wounded voodoo doll to shame. I write this for the beaders who thrust thin needles through the eyes of paradise making rosaries of the ninety-nine names of God and one hidden one on the back of a upside down cross, for the Celtic smithies of silver jewellery that wrap the worldís fingers and wrists in kells of wild grapevines and the Kufic script of copulating snakes with star sapphires for eyes, for the sculptors in their one room ghettoes making hash-pipes out of soapstone, Michelangelos trading David for a quarter ounce of pot, the lame dancers that leap higher than Nureyev like white tailed deer over a cedar rail fence, and those who can carve guitars out of the heartwood of their lives and tree-like souls you can caress like the body of the Venus de Milo and get a hard on. I write this for all those small dark planets that sustain the life of art in the methane seas and magmatic mindscapes of the most unlikely extremities of time and place and circumstance in the shadows of the obvious stars whose light is barely dimmed by their passage. This oneís for all those Luna moths driven crazy by the light of their talent like a candle theyíll never be immolated in like an Arab spring in Tunisia held back by the bug screens that keep them beating their wings against the windows into their minds and hearts and souls until they drop from exhaustion, despair, futility, the sheer absurdity of trying, like a phoenix among dead houseflies on a windowsill. Hereís to your lunacy, hereís to your kind of madness and the hill and the stone that might have shown us how to better deal with our own absurdity by learning to listen to fire-hydrants and abandoned house-wells that echo with underground thunder as if there were still cthonic gods beneath our feet that wanted our attention. Here I establish this poem like the mother of all awards in your name you never expected to win like the published poets do among small cartels of themselves when they lose. I raise this poem up like a constellation, a sign at zenith, a thirteenth house of the zodiac to commemorate you. I cut the ribbons of death and life. I cut the Atropic filoes of fate. I cut the knotted umbilical cords. I cut the kites from their kite-strings. I cut the chromosomes of the Neanderthals and Cro Magnons. I cut the pie evenly like phases of the moon from the fullness of the old harvest to the darkness of the new. I cut the spinal cords that moor your yachts to the vertebrae of the assholes on the wharves that hold you back like a gull against a headwind. I cut your sentences short on the basis of justice delayed is justice denied and I parole you to halls of fame and victory like Muhammad Aliís conscientious objections. I cut the veins of this poem like a woman taking a bath in her own grave to renew the virginity of the black rose like a new moon just to show you how serious I am. I cut through the bullshit the aesthetic necrophiliacs with the taste and culture of an undertakerís corpse like a black hole theyíll never crawl out of and I open their coffins up to the public like a salon for the uniqueness of the rejects at a Paris exhibition of your works, or a new and selected volume of poems dedicated to all those people and muses in your life who hauled you into a lifeboat like the moon on the waters of life just as it was going down in the nick of time when no one else would. I open this poem up like a mine in a Klondike gold rush that just struck it rich like a snake pit in the darkness, to acknowledge how deeply you had to dig down into the inner resources of your own lonely holy lives with your fingernails, your teeth, your claws, your fangs to sing in the darkness like yellow canaries in the Burgess Shale with diamonds in your eyes and a beak for a pick-axe and a pen for a jackhammer just to keep the air sweet and breathable for those of us who are down there with you in word and body and spirit. This is for all the unknown geniuses and junoes who went down like Orpheus into the underworld to see things through the eyes and the jewels of the dead with nothing but a harp stuck like a wishbone in their throats and divining where the stars were buried in the frozen watersheds of their lunar seabeds brought them up to the surface like pearl divers to make their own inestimable contribution to the sun that shines at midnight and the moon that rises at noon in the radiant nadirs of the underestimated. I award this poem to your intrepid anonymity like a Canada Council A-grant with a travel allowance like a Nobel Prize to the moonrise of your dark genius or a Guggenheim Fellowship to all true warriors of the forlorn hope who fight their homely holy wars like distant rumours of legends yet to come rising out of the shadows of a farce of stars to make all the lies, even the biggest of them, even the ones you couldnít bring yourself to believe though you told them to the night and the streetlamps outside your window like you, come true, come shining through like prime-time supernovas at the radiant nadirs of the underestimated. I give you this poem like the eye of a hurricane from the bottom of my life in art to say you have not laboured in vain beyond the border stones of the anthologized gardens of more ornamental strains like a November rain at the roots of the wildflowers in the high starfields that bloom like astrolabes and sundials and tuning forks fashioned like witching wands from the dead branch with the moon in full blossom when the wolves and the frogs and the night birds sing for nothing, for everything for a gust of fireflies, dust, stars on the wind at the radiant nadirs of the underestimated

Mount Robson

WATCHING THE SKY TURN BLUE for Steve Forster Watching the sky turn blue in the last hours of the night. Up like the stars dreaming myself awake. Insomniac watchman making the rounds of my own private zodiac on the graveyard shift looking for signs of an afterlife thatís in spiritual alignment with the pyramids. Tabla rasa. A clean slate. A new day. The world a new creation every morning. Empty streets empty stores empty sidewalks. The vertebrae of bridges sheathing the Tay River like a spinal cord thatís stopped sending messages to the brain like wavelets and rain to put the serpent fire out thatís rooted at the base of my spine. And the windows that couldnít get over the loss of the moon arenít talking to those anticipating the sun rise like the trickle of water music arising from the willows of Stewart Park slowly leaking out of the silence like a crescendo of birds that come out one by one like the stars until youíre washed away in the undertow of it all like the words of this poem riding the mindstream like a paper boat all the bumpy way down to my heart. The leaf and starmap of a lost art. The dew on the cool blue green grass has taken the spit shine off my boots and turned their anthracite into a flat Mars black nineteen-fifties Ford. I can see the glass tears of a streetlight thatís been crying all night like a candle in front of the broken mirror thatís been seen with another lover slowly turning like a mood ring into the sapphire blue of a new birthstone with the occasional star in it. A runaway Milky Way of lapis lazuli pops into my head like Indian jewellery in the showcase marinas of Dragon Moon. Dolphins and flying fish are leaping off the prow in the fathomless depths of the subconscious mind floating ghosts from my shipwreck like the nautical find of the century up to the surface to mark where I went down. Maybe the Perth Courier will carry the news in black slug lines of mourning indelible as the darkness I feel whenever I walk past the office door and remember when my buddy was Clark Kent editor by day and Big Steve Forester and the Mudcats by night singing Kansas City rhythm and blues to night owls and feral cats prowling and howling into the wee hours of the morning. And his death may have passed like yesterdayís obituary into local history but there will always be some events in the lives of poets and reporters that will always be breaking news to the heart. Heíd come to my place at seven in the morning and weíd sit at the kitchen table like seven year old boys dealing with death and cancer trying to find an accurate answer among all these rumours of an afterlife about what it was going to be like to wake up one day any day now without eyelashes ears fingers toes a nose and skin and your eye for picture-music the braille stops of a bird bone flute for the blind buried beside you as if you were an Archaic Indian who died young five thousand years ago by the Straits of Belle Isle knowing timingís just as important as content. We corroborated each otherís testimony on the wild side of things and whenever Iím down by the Perth Soap Factory lavishing its thick floral scent on the night air I look up at his old apartment window that the new tenants look through now and though he and I would both agree that it blows the public cool of a private clown to be so sentimentally foolish even when no one else is around I say God bless you Steve wherever you are now. And I think I can almost hear you rocking out with the celestial spheres like a blues harp among the angels and I like the new underground sound thatís taking heaven by storm though it brings me to tears that water the root fires of this whiff of wildflowers working on the nightshift to think of you gone. Gone gone gone altogether gone beyond like the riff of a base run on a guitar-shaped universe under the travelogue of play-dates and places you gigged stuck to the lid of your coffin like the leaves and constellations of an autumn that always comes too soon. God bless you man. I sing it out like a one man band with soul and heart under your window like a wolf pack howling at the moon for the loss of one of their own. God bless that big awkward heart of yours and the lonely boy you told me about playing by himself in the abandoned World War Two airfields of France. Iíve tried to get closer to him over the years as I always did when he was near by impressing him with the smoothness of my take-offs and the fireworks of my emergency landings. You were the first unimperial Englishman that ever convinced me he could wear cowboy boots convincingly. And that you knew what it was like to be down and out with George Orwell in west Vancouver sleeping among violent drunks that kept waking up just to spit into your wishing well. I know you spent your whole life wondering whether you were or not and wandered off the horse trails of the bronze riding academy often enough just to prove you were to me and to yourself but you were real. Outlaw blues man with a lot of good habits you were addicted to like your upbringing. Iíve ridden with a lot of bad dudes and seen a few hung along the way like identity thieves caught red-handed branding their names on other peopleís logos but none of them knew how to head off a stampede in a lightning storm like you could with a mike and an edgy audience in front of you as if youíd just pulled a gun in a bank like Robin Hood. I donít know if it does any good to lay food and tobacco and beer bread and a baggie of Lanark County homegrown with colas the size of treetops frosted with the galactic radiance of stars with crystal healing powers and wine-tipped Old Port cigarillos at the eastern doors of the burial huts of the dead approaching the autumnal equinox as the Ojibwa at this time of the year believe it does. Or if our souls go east or south in the bodies of migrating Canada geese when the moon takes them off like lockets and rosaries around her neck as the Ojibwa Pythagoras the Persians and the Christians who caught on to the thought all said they did. Or if the Great Spirit has a wingspan that includes us all or not. Hard to imagine nature comes pre-prepared with a womb but not a tomb thatís big enough for all of us. And maybe thereís no more distinction to be made between the exit and the entrance than there is to be made between a sacred grove and a parking lot and in the clear light of the void weíre all bound to see for ourselves you donít notice the difference between the living and the dead the way I do looking up at your window as if the oldies and goldies of the rhythm and blues had turned into the base metal of an alchemical universe in reverse. And maybe everyone ends up here sooner or later beside a soap factory below somebodyís window trying to throw a philosopherís stone through it like a grain of sand through the blank stare of an hourglass whose timing is as bad as eternityís always half a note off the tempo like a white boy playing jazz with one foot on shore and the other in a lifeboat. And maybe youíve got to syncopate the backbeat to stay on your feet dancing long after the musicís over and the lights have been turned off like stars and streetlamps in the dawn. I donít know Bud. Iíve just lived on doing what Iíve always done. And I hear they put that painting I did of you dressed up like one of the Blues Brothers bending the music like a mike stand up against your coffin and I was happy to hear that. And there have been two elegies Iíve written for you since that have tried to say farewell in a way that could convince my heart but they both failed like a funeral and it looks like given Iím standing here tonight watching the sky turn blue in your window that itís going to take more than your death to make me say good-bye at the end of the gig when theyíre breaking down the music like roadies disassembling a Rubikís cube or typesetters yesterdayís news. So Iíll just keep saying thank-you over and over again for being a friend of mine until you hear me wailing like a wounded blues harp in pain and not just another banshee scratching at your window like a cat that wants to come in and make a demo with fading stars in the studio. Iíll watch the sky turn blue over the Old Brown Shoe factory thatís given over to body builders and tomorrowís ballerinas now and intrigued like the bees by the smell of soap Iíll jack into the sun like a power-amp and youíll grab the mike like the bud of daffodil or a streetlamp around the neck and we wonít play Should Old Acquaintance be forgot on the deck of the Titanic as itís going down like the moon and the stars but as I heard you once sing Kansas City on stage in Stewart Park. The amplified echo of your voice long after dark all over town.

Portrait Of Benjamin Chee Chee

EVERYBODY LOOKING FOR SUBSTITUTE STATES OF MIND Everybody looking for substitute states of mind. Trying to change the veils and myths theyíre looking through, the blood-stained glass of their last full eclipse, the rainbow windows that canít look the light clearly in the eye without dissembling like a chameleon. False prophets and snake-oil salesmen selling digestible fountains of youth to love-struck lightning rods that donít conduct as well as they used to when they once could thread the eye of the storm like a bird on the wing. Now the shamans sit on cosmic eggs in nests of pubic hair waiting for a crack of dawn thatís long gone. And there are teenagers so far out of it theyíre living their youth at the wrong end of the telescope like star clusters of displaced persons who donít trust anything that isnít as aloof and alien as the pharmaceutical fire-proofing they crawl into like a chrysalis of stillborn butterflies. True love is a junkie hanging by his neck in the deep woods because he lost his trophy girlfriend who keeps cutting her flesh as if she were inventing the first calendar by nicking and gnawing on herself like a bone. People fuck like pre-nuptials that took a contract out on themselves for vendettas that havenít even crossed the threshold yet. Future crimes with present punishments. Abattoirs before mangers. The point of the pencil stabs the eraser in the heart. Voodoo as a wedding vow. The aftermath of Armageddon before the four horsemen of the apocalypse have had a chance to saddle up or the Mayan calendar strike twelve midnight. Root rot on the moon. Everyone without a leg to stand on trying to get a leg up on doom. Everyone drowned before the Titanic went down. Sending death threats to the future as a way of trying to survive their own paranoia. Real, imagined, or drug-induced. Terms of endearment dropped like mice into a snakepit. Mirages extolling the illusory nature of this desert of stars. Appearances inveighing against a clarity that canít be trusted to be on your side like your eyes are when theyíre open to whatever comes. Possession by a drug, a demon, an ideal, a political platform, rabies, religion, money, sex, the cult of the body, exotic states of mind with a surrealistic sense of black humour. Genies granting death wishes like urns of losing lottery tickets to Luna moths in despair. Deranged. Everyone trying to put a happy face on a death mask. An artificial paradise in real hell. And it scares me sometimes. And other times it makes me want to weep. So many fish dying of thirst beside a freshwater lake. So many fish drowning in the dry creekbeds of mirages swimming in hallucinogenic waters. Toxic liars polluting the wellsprings of life like corporate impersonators with the souls of oilslicks. What shit havenít we tracked into the house? We defecate in our own wombs. What jackal, what wolf, what caste of animal ever fouled its own crib the way we do? We eat everyday like a plague of locusts in the company of childrenís corpses. And we call it a standard of living weíre prepared to kill or die for though it cost us the planet and every sentient life form on it. As long as the path is clearly laid out and strewn with rose petals and eyelids just for us, everything else is roadkill. A goatpath of thorns. Ghoulish the uncanny similitudes. All this just for us? Just us? Who die like flies do? This body bag of water with nine holes in it that is always leaking radioactively out of itself as if it were watering something it wouldnít get a chance to see bloom like a magic mushroom. I remember a madman when I lived alone on a big isolated farm, trying to shoot the stars out all night, night after night, with an M-16 that ricocheted out over the lakes and hills like the echoes of ululating loons changing clips. Cops told me not to stand in the window with a twinkle in my eye. Might get mistaken for alpha Cassiopeiae. But I was so crazed myself at the time, I rose up like Regulus in Leo in a rage of the first magnitude and said like an enlightened sky to someone who is not. Take your best shot. Iím mythically inflated. The bullets go right through me. Though I donít see whatís so urgently cosmic about this weíve got to take it out on each other like eye witnesses. To what? How worthy of death everyone else in the world is because of a fucked-up relationship with our own hormones? Mommy beat you with a vacuum cleaner pipe because you tracked your life all over her flying carpet one day when you got home late in a hurry from school. Boo hoo. That doesnít make you an Ethiopian. A cold sore isnít Chernobyl. What sorry night scope declares a holy war against the stars in its cross hairs? The way I see it in my skull bound island fortress with emotional moats, the world is a couple of angstroms short of a wavelength to make anything bloom these days. The asylum is prying the petals of a crocus open with a crowbar. But the timingís off. And not all the flowers open at once like banks and store-fronts with regular hours. And there are people who also serve by standing and waiting like fire-hydrants to be called upon to put Dresden out in a fire-storm. Someone garotted all the swans like prostitutes along the Rideau River as if they were cutting an artery off to staunch the flow of blood. What kind of a wound is that? Is your god a pimp pigfarmer that he should demand the blood sacrifice of the renewable innocence of a sacred whore? Are you the self-appointed proxy of a god who canít speak for himself any other way than to send the likes of you to express your true feelings? To appall the world with another nightmare of what itís capable of. See what I mean? Strange, strange dream. Elixirs and lictors of love potions addicted to solipsistic oil slicks. And the Sphinx not a snitch thatís apt to question anyone. The butchers go to sleep and wake up smelling as sweet as little Bo Peep in wolfís clothing. Atrocity has become an unnewsworthy cliche to a nation of sensation seekers numbed by consumerism marketing alternative lifestyles to the skeletons in the closets they sold you last week. Everyoneís trying to sweat deodorant out of their pores. And when we open our mouths to speak when is anything heard like the word from the man that isnít a mouthwash of lies? Kids take this in like smallpox among the natives and the next thing you know someone murders a highschool and some genocidal patriot is practising germ warfare by coming out with a new celebrity line of infected blankets. You canít help ingesting the psychological pollution of whatever medium youíre swimming in. And thereís a critical mass to every tumour beyond which you canít put the garbage can lid back on the nuclear waste like Pandoraís box or the Fukishima reactor. Or propose amendments to the constitution of a caste system that would help it digress peacefully into the middle ages possessed by the few miserable acres of a feudal land grant mortgaged and bundled by a baronial bank. You get the picture? You see the corpses in the Ganges flowing along with the pop cans to the sea like your mindstream sickened by what it discards the deeper and wider it gets? When do we all stand up and walk out of this snuff movie in disgust? When do we let our sons and daughters see us set fire to the movie house on you tube and go viral? High-tech viciousness. Killer bees and nano chip parasites. Eleven dimensions and a shapeshifting multiverse with as many cosmologies going on all at once like feature movies ahead of the cartoons. And weíve got this one, starring us as both the hero and the villain of a black morality farce. The Arabs say if you canít help a situation with your hand, then use your mouth, if not, your mind, and if not that, keep a kind thought in your heart. And I used to think even growing up under the street here, you can get fat on the garbage of the promised land and rolling all your deprivations up into one massive black hole, still be looked upon justifiably by the rest of the world as a glutton. Rich people feel they deserve to be spoilt. So do most of the poor. And Iíd seen enough shit by the time I was seven to make me want to write about roses for the rest of my life. But thereís the blood of children caked all over their eyelids like make-up. And being the Canadian poet I wanted to be at the time expiating my guilt for a crime I didnít commit, I thought counter-intuitively maybe the word is mightier than the sword, though less succinct and to the point, if I were to scream murder when I saw murder being done upon the innocents, maybe the unwitting complicity of an eye witness might get off with a lighter sentence for being a dependable air raid siren. I went to boot camp to wage peace. I declared a holy war upon myself. I learned how to put root fires out with gasoline. I protested against my own seeing in the name of the inalienable rights of the blind. But savage indignation is no more protein rich than fame and flattery and going to war with a plough in your hands feeds about as many people as ploughing the moon with a sword does. So I met in the middle just a little to the left of Canada, and retrained them as shovels to dig their own graves given they werenít all that good at gardens. Which left me as defenseless as Baffin Island wearing the scars of other peopleís wounds. Quicksilver dolphins ran aground in mercurial bays due to a lack of tunnel vision. Driven exponentially by dark energy things began to expand in the aftermath of that insight until the stars grew so far apart I was compelled to make do with fireflies as an alternative state of mind. A little radiance for the blind. What did Robert Lowell say? Weíre all here for such a short time we might as well be kind to one another? Before he died of a heart attack in a New York airport. And if he were alive today? Iíd put these words into his mouth. If you wonít throw your pearls before swine, why sacrifice another messiah to a snake pit when no good comes of it? When in Rome do as the asylums do and wait for the sane to come to you pleading to be enlightened by the crazy wisdom of your daily meds. Learn to give your futility a purpose in life. Your absurdity a reason to live. Stop trying to get a grip on your mind by believing everything is out of control. Regard the extreme chaos of conditioned consciousness, yes. But donít pollute the drinking water in a mirage by throwing a goatshead into it to deprive others from finding the holy grail. Where the delusion of power rules compassion is not well served by a crueller truth. Being is highlighted by the void with a magic marker. And if your myth fits your demonic origins wear it like a housefly thatís proud of its shit, but doesnít take it out on other people because maggots donít turn into butterflies. Drink deep from the dark elixirs that pours excruciating transformations into the chalice of your skull like spiritual exiles sweetening the hemlock with artificial flavours of black kool aid. Taste life right down to the last tea leaf of despair. Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, bone of my bone, suffering is a stronger bond than love if youíre not used to it. If you havenít lost your appetite for eating your own. If you havenít stopped cherishing your misery like a voodoo Barbie doll in military fatigues. If you havenít stopped taking a bite out of your heart like a noble enemy who gives you the homoeopathic courage to carry on without one. Donít shun the black mirror to keep up with appearances and plead you havenít got time for reflection because nothingís indelible in a world that keeps changing your mind like a watercolour that didnít get it right the first time. Donít suckle your sour grapes on acid rain. There are no substitute states of mind that are fool proof. Everybody answers after their own kind whether theyíre on the road to paradise, Damascus, Pandemonium, purgatorial Perth, aligning compass needles in the direction of prayer, or drawing up starmaps like emergency escape routes out of here. As if here and now werenít the precise space and time of what their own minds are trying to run to and from like the long odds of dark horses running back into a burning barn you can only enter through the emergency exits like a substitute state of mind gone critical on an artificial life support machine. And, hey, who has the right to say, who can blame them? And expect an intelligible answer. Trying to open your third eye isnít the same thing as trying to launch a spy satellite in Kazakhstan. Life isnít a dirty movie your wife made behind your back youíre compelled to live frame by frame like a directorís cut. The triune identity of triple XXX isnít restricted to sex alone. There are substitute states of mind just as guilty of identity theft that donít leave any fingerprints at the scene of the crime because when you mark one you mark them all like plague doors and ostrakons and jewels in the net of Indra. Data is power when there are bugs in the tree of knowledge. Telescopic keyholes in the gravitational eyes of dark matter. The bituminous clarity of deep space washes its hands of the matter in fire. Which makes fire out to be just as big a liar as the hot water weíre all up to our necks in watching our lives flash before our eyes like post cards from an acid trip we havenít come back down from yet because weíve been down so long it looks like up on our passports. Born in the thirteenth house of a raving zodiac, itís your front door, and thereís no doubt itís your sign, but the junkmail accumulates on the inside like substitute states of mind without a point of reference or a reliable address. Life after life passes you by like a loveletter with return to sender as the final resting place of your name. As the windows frisk the light for concealed weapons and liberation armies addicted to dope. If the doors of perception were open, and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds thawed into a Hard Rain Thatís Gonna Fall without the carbon emissions of an exhausted life committing vehicular suicide in the garage by breathing in the expired atmosphere of a tired planet, if the cataracts in your eye were to disappear like ice off your mindstream by noon, and the mud and clouds in your puddle were allowed to settle and clear like Soto Zen, and you didnít rely on substitute states of mind like simultaneous translators trying to express your mirror image in your native language without a Rosetta Stone, all things would appear as they are. Boundlessly finite. And homelessly out of reach. Whether youíre wishing upon, or trying to shoot out the stars.

Picture-Music With bubble

LYKOEIA Lykoeia. The howling of wolves. Venting the agony in the wasteland of nightclubs, bars, jails, parking lots in the grubby all night greasy spoons with the pizza oven in the window and a heavy snow falling outside at three in the morning when the ghouls like us were out like afterhours carnies from the Ex the hooker in the corner the pervert in another the dealer in a booth in the middle and hot camera for sale by a drunk in another who isnít ever sure of where or who he is. And the Mexican restaurants where we were banned permanently for life twice because no body drank as much as us and our outrageous bullshit was good for business. And everybody knew how difficult it was to be an alcoholic artist those days and get some really good work done that never pays much until after your dead and everybody puts your picture up on the wall and thinks of it as a signal honour you got arrested first in their restaurant. You didnít live in the big homey awkward cheap rent run-down houses of the Glebe before it was gentrified back then by the real estate agents who crashed our parties to entice our women away, property for property, you encamped, tribally. Parties ran from house to house like waterclocks of booze and every fourth bucket of a house had a porch and a beached whale of a couch you could sit out on in the dark with a candle all night and listen to the music coming from the back of the house and three doors up the street with a toke, and a girl who thought as you let the story of your life in art drift off into the cool night air thematically like smoke from the end of the spliff in your hand you were a wickedly dangerous genius who could only be saved from himself if he took her beauty and her pain and her body to bed for a muse. Lykoeia. The howling of wolves like a displaced tribe of Sioux among the Seminoles lamenting the only holy war path left to them was the longest way home, venting their agony in a self-abusive wilderness of longing, madness, and aspiration. Ferocious false starts to damaged careers as a litmus test of who was sincere or not as we ran our tongues along the razorís edge of the things that we would say and the things that we would not and the things we would do that we were willing to bleed for to prove we were crazy enough to be who we said we were even in absentia. Singers, poets, painters, mimes and the wannabe agents and mythically inflated producers, the editors, publishers, girlfriends trying to con a candle into a constellation so they could be as important and controlling as a contract with a bad ear. And I still very much doubt if thereís any more murder in a terrorist cell than there is in a room thatís just given birth to a new poetry mag and all the editors claiming paternity are arguing among themselves for equal visiting rights to the baby even before itís out of the incubator. Nightfall over the city and the stars no brighter over the capital than they were over Toronto and Montreal but something colonial and sinister about the way the ass-kissing quislings and collaborators thought they were dimmer somehow and wheeled Toronto into their poetic agendas like the Trojan horse through the gates of Ottawa. So many sleepwalking through the snow talking to themselves as if they had a pillow over their mouths they could scream through or dream as it dawned on them in the streetlights outside a negligent poetry reading things are often as true as they seem and how hard it is, what a lonely brutal discipline it is to try and convince the moon youíre wounded when youíre only bleeding for poetic effect to howl with the wolves so crazed by the lunacy of what they longed for and knew was so utterly unattainable even the echo of what they asked for wouldnít be given back when they broke off the engagement to the coyote pack that practised mimicking their derangement as if to feel that way were creatively stimulating and not self-destructively real. Snarling backwards thirty years later, raising an ear, baring a fang to the past as if it were a crucial snake pit in my formative years, trying to weave the downed powerlines in an ice storm of broken chandeliers into paradigmatic creatively visual magical mystery tour flying carpets bejewelled with my tears that so many now are as threadbare as crosswalks at the corner of Bank and Fifth laid like welcome mats for the public to wipe their feet on before the revolving doors of aesthetic perception. But itís as hard to turn the memory of a bad acid trip it took years to come down from into a flying carpet thatís going to sell as well as a genieís latest line of touch lamps where you only have to clap once when you enter a room like the light coming out of the darkness and your reputationís made in the shade for a lifetime until it gets real dark and the full moon breaks out above the city and the wolves begin to howl and all up and down the Valley from Ottawa to Kingston you can hear the dogs, the cowed dogs, begin to whine like a Japanese two stroke compared to the big-hearted snarl of a bad Harley with a throttle for a throat with all the bridges itís ever crossed burning in a quarter ounce aluminum rear view mirror with a big heart-shaped gas tank metal-flaked in cherry red full of fire and freedom and tears that would rather wipe out honestly on the newly gravelled dirt road ahead than the black ice of the treacherous highway behind it thatís been unravelling like a snake with its head cut off for light years.


THE MARTYROLOGY OF A MORPHINE MESSIAH Azazel sends a black sheep out into this desert of stars to look for you. Even at forty, though less of a stepson now and more of a friend, and light years away from the sunny planet where I stayed for awhile with your mother, you still belong to the people in this life who love you, and you hope thatís blood, but just as often as not itís a mix of holy oil and violated water. So letís be clear as starmud about this. I love you. And thatís a mix of mosh pits at the Nuremberg rallies and jazz. And something softer that I can only listen to one side of because the other side makes me weep. Sometimes I look at you like the dragon that guarded it must have looked at the Golden Fleece on hot August afternoons when copulating flies were the only thing that was happening. If Iíve been the scarred warhorse for the last twenty years of your life, youíve been the radiant gazelle in a blond savannah of long hair, blue-eyed and artsy, a little flossy, sociopathically paranoid of the female principle of the world, because you are the son of a single mother, that insists counter-intuitively that you become a woman like Tiresias the blind prophet every seven years or so just to see that theyíre as humanly fallible as you are and get more pleasure out of sex. And being mortal means youíre as susceptible as anyone else to what youíve been spreading around without showing any symptoms yourself. Your flying carpets are infected with a spiritual disease that ties whatever wavelength youíre on into gravitational eyes and knots in the heartwood of a birch tree, because thatís what youíd be if you were one. Leaves trembling in every little breeze like your hands when you go to paint, flammable naphtha under the bark, like those mood swings when youíre jonesing for the moon, and one moment youíre an arsonist in a fireworks factory of mystic insight, and the next, youíre just another dumpy fire-hydrant trying to put things out. You remember Azazel? My anti-ego on the dark side of enlightenment? Heís fascinated by the way you keep shapeshifting your states of mind like a mini-multiverse thatís trying to keep more than one balloon up in the air at once like a one man, sword-swallowing, fire-eating juggler under the big tent of a small county fair like the one that encamps here in Perth every year with the same old rides. Little brother, friend, I never had a father myself, so I faked it a bit to be something approximately paternal for you. I didnít feel all that comfortable in the role, and sugared the medicine a bit with a few stars of my own, and spurned the rod and the whip and the psychological assassins I could have sent out like the Old Man of the Mountain. I never keel-hauled you on the moon. And if there was ever a point I was trying to make like a sabre, I never made you walk the plank blindfolded. I had a son once. He disappeared out of my life thirty years ago. He lives. And I expect Iím the ghost of a lot of strange feelings and eerie intensities he canít understand except by theorizing there must have been another large planet that was knocked out of the configuration of the solar system he finds himself in now, early in its formative years. Without meaning to. Bring on the fuck-ups like the sacred clowns who toy with the old taboos in gales of ironic black laughter. Everyone I wanted to be. Not me. Same as you. And itís as impossible to prove to a welfare mother that she gave birth to a winning lottery ticket of a son as it is for you to believe you actually won. You won. Youíre here. Wandering around on the earth with the rest of us like sleepwalkers gathering nuts and berries before itís too late to sustain the lifespan of the long dream weíre having like a nightmare of being suddenly woken up in the middle of a brutal winter unprepared. For what? An encore by popular demand? Regardless of what condition your human conditionís been in, I will say this, you have a big heart, and Iíve watched you stay loyal to a tree long after the other birds have left, and even Azazel who thinks youíre a court-jester with a chip on your shoulder, admires you for this, but says donít expect credit where credit is due because street justice is an extortionist racket that eats its own first. And what kind of martyr is it who doesnít expect to suffer for something good he does without even being aware of the electric chair heís sitting in and how when somethingís done right here the lights flicker like a power shortage in hell. The page boys of Prince Valiant with your kind of hair cut have long since abandoned their childish crusades to encipher their own hieroglyphic fantasies in the cartoon columns of the temples of Karnak. True deceivers. And unbelieving infidels who prefer their own tribal heretics to anyone elseís false prophets. Unionized religion. With no rights accorded to those who work on the nightshift like nightwatchmen and lighthouses and certain unassuming stars whose eyes have adapted to the dark for less than nothing. And I know youíre trying to develop a reputation as a seer, but until you can go down on the Medusa and not turn into stone, and youíve looked at nature red in tooth and claw as if it were your own like the irisless eye in the blackhole of a sharkís pupil just before it milks out to bite, and not seen a rainbow, a covenant of peace, a pot of gold, the moon dog of a Bronze Age engagement ring, or even a troll under the Rainbow Bridge where the herbal hippie chicks go to commit suicide like medicine cabinets, youíre just looking at the world through two chunks of coal in the fat head of a seasonal snowman who breaks down into tears at the thought of global warming. Youíre not flowing diamond yet. Youíre just another crystal skull in the coal pits of Pennsylvania handing out environmental pamphlets like starmaps to make it easier for someone to spot you shining whenever you blow your mind like a supernova above your manger as if you were strip mining your own immaculate conception of the mother who gave you birth. And I wonít say physician heal thyself or charge you to raise yourself up from the dead to prove your miraculous healing powers arenít just the rebranding of the same old snake oil trying to read your future in a Tarot pack of warning labels. Terminal symbolitis. Youíre dying of an overdose of meaning in a cosmic rehab centre where Sisphysus breaks his rock up into a small avalanche and boils it in a spoon like a smithy at a sacred forge to heat the iron ore up and pull it like a sword out of his veins. And Azazel says to remind you that youíre not Sir Launcelot but Parsifal the mottled fool, and sipping like a hummingbird from a spoonful of ashes isnít the same thing as drinking from the holy grail as if it were a methadone treatment programme some drugstore put in place to get the ailing kingdom to kick the absurd like a rock down the same road you took as a boy on your way home from school. Donít trust any cure that makes a profit off of suffering like a dispensing fee. In a snake pit. In a clean needle exchange. The toxins are the darling changelings of the anti-dotes. Beware of oviparous births in your love nest. You can hatch serpents out of those cosmic eggs youíve been sitting on as easily as you can nightingales. And hey, little brother, since when does the messenger of the gods, Hermes the Thrice-Blessed, even as a new moon of occult knowledge, go from house to house like a passenger pigeon brokering deals for everyone else in exchange for a toke, a rock, a pill, the leftover crumbs of the dream that fell from the corners of somebody elseís eyes, like a trader on the Toronto Stock Exchange bundling mortgages for the pharmaceutical companies that run a small town like a junkieís budget into the ground of his being? Iíve seen sparrows hunting seeds and worms in leftover gardens and ferrets in the fall hunting sparrows with the same quick nervous energy you expend crisscrossing the street enervating your last quantum of dark energy on what you think you need to live another painful day on earth. You may roar like a lion but you hunt like a fly. And, anyway, as Azazel says, even in hell the hardest of demons donít like to see an eagle being led around on a leash by tapeworm. It offends their sense of aesthetic distortion to see a magnificent predator enslaved to spineless parasite. Hic sunt dracones. Not vampire bats. Deep root powers of the earth who spread their wings like waking volcanoes, not the blood thinners of no-see-um succubi dreaming of falling in love with a blood bank like the gift that just keeps on giving the more it takes from the foodchain. I once told you you could charm your way through life up to the age of twenty-face and then the spell wears off like a snake skin or the aura around a rainbow body depending on whether they used serpent fire or holy water to anoint you at birth. Twenty-five. And youíre forty. The funeral bells have long since turned your wishing wells into the steeples of a fire-worshipping church by now, and the eternal flame looks a little more hurried than it should with all that time on its hands to brood on why it feels like the lonely flightfeather of the last phoenix that flew by on its way to the sun. O Icarus, Icarus, my ex-stepson, Icarus, I see you lining up like a stealth fighter on a Nazca runway flapping your arms like an aerial photograph of a totemic self-portrait you recently tarred and feathered trying to gain enough altitude on drugs and overly euphoric women with brain-damaged hearts to meet enough extraterrestrials who can understand you, you could become the cult leader of occult ufos. And somehow prove youíre not as crazy as the rest of us afterall. Thereís madness in your method. Thereís a triumph in your mortality. You want to ride a golden chariot through a slum that never thought you would ever amount to anything more than the golden boy of last yearís New Yearís baby. And look at you, now. Muddy Waters, thereís another mule kickiní in your stall. What happened to the manger? Now that all that holiday spirit has entered you like a float in a parade you once peed on as if you were being tested for drugs? And youíre so fucked-up, as most of us are in this labyrinth of cul de sacs we pursue like the life of the mind following the counter-intuitive leads of artistic breadcrumbs we dropped in our sleep to find our way out of this retrogressively, youíre talented by acclamation. Youíve hybridized your bestiary. Birds have fangs. And snakes sing in a perfect harmony of wavelengths to greet the morning like the powerlines of a barber-shop quartet in the rain. Auuuuum. Do wa, do wa, do wa ditty. An independently sponsored approximate haiku moment whose opinions do not necessarily reflect those of the current broadcaster. Blow up your nose. Snow in Tibetan begging bowls. Up here in the mountains. You crap once. Itís good for life. Nobody has to keep their shit together. And to play fair with the square-minded. Nobody has to lose it. Even if time on the food chain is your just desert for breaking the law of diminishing returns like a missing link that didnít want to cultivate wild grasses into a civilization based on agriculture where all the children starve to death, the shit you put into your mouth should be of at least a little higher quality than the shit that comes out. Youíd be better off cannibalizing yourself than living on that ghost food that surfeits you like a blood transfusion of pharmaceutical nectar and no-name brand ambrosia. Thereís no chromosome in your space-shaped fortune-cookie thatís going to change the fate of this nightmare in the Land of the Lotus Eaters. And any koans around here that might be worth breaking into to get a fix on yourself, have long since blown their minds like milk weed pods from the sixties and scattered their thoughts of a better world like a thousand hail-marys all at once on the last play of the game to try and make it out of their end-zone. And itís not unusual for a hippie mother to give birth to a fascist kid, or a fascist kid to turn his reactionary mother into a hippie who looks at her life as a bad acid flashback thatís gone viral on youtube and appears as if itís about to be picked up like a reality show on a major network with a viewing audience ripped out of its mind. And you flagellate the world with savage indignation because itís not logical, not rational, not answerable to the crystal paradigms you hang like swords and chandeliers above everybodyís heads because they want to fox-trot when you think it would be more appropriate if they followed in your painted footprints on the ballroom floor, and learned to waltz the way you did. But not everybodyís got a hand-stand in them, or even a novel, and sometimes itís even hard to find a line of implausible poetry. Drug-induced, alcohol-exacerbated, pharmaceutically suppressed schizophrenia. O.K. Caesar was an epileptic, Neitzsche had syphilis, Byron had a club foot, and Apollinaire almost had his whole head shot off in World War I. The black sinister hand shapes the clay on the wheel as surely as the white dextrous one does. An over-compensated disability could almost pass for a definition of genius. Or juno, if youíre a woman. Or both, if youíre really honest with yourself. But you want to salt the clouds of unknowing that make the whole thing ineffably mysterious with dry ice to make it rain acidic tears that anyone ever doubted your insight. We tolerate the mystery. The mystery tolerates us. It may be irrational, but that doesnít mean it isnít clear. Like stars are at a distance. Though up close their nuclear cores must feel just as confused as you are with the fission and fusion thatís going on inside your head. Yet out of that turmoil. The elements of life. All the way from light-hearted hydrogen and helium up to and beyond the heavy metal anti-psychotic likes of Lithium. They used to tell me in creative writing that it was crucial for me to find my own voice. Only one? For a lifetime. For everything? One voice fits all? But one day I did find my voice only to realize it was a stem cell, and quickly multiplied into thousands of others like vital organs each with a function of their own. I wasnít a lonely folk guitar with white line fever hitchhiking down a midnight highway to get to my next gig in Toronto. I was a symphony orchestra. I was a whole tree full of birds. I wasnít a seance unto myself. A lot of different ghosts spoke through me over the years. And itís the same for schizophrenia from my point of view. Just two? To handle every situation that comes up in a lifetime? Go polyphrenic. And if itís all just a big ego delusion in the first place who cares if itís one mirage or many? Go hydra-headed. Tolerance, see? Five petals open. One flower blooms. And itís o.k. to hold a seance in the middle of a mystery. Whatever comes comes. But not an exorcism. Who decides whose shoes get to stay neatly parked outside the door and who gets the boot because theyíve been tracking starmud into the house as if they lived in a pig-sty? You say youíre into light. The white magic of the radiance. But the light is omnidirectional and itís got to light up hell just as well as it does paradise. It doesnít illuminate just one side of its eyes the way you do. Or were you talking about flashlights? Head lights, spot lights, search lights, the aurora borealis as opposed to the aurora australis? Let everybody throw a little light on the mystery as far as they can, each according to their own candle power whether they understand it like a firefly, a lightning bolt, a light house, the momentary flare of a match in a dark room, traffic lights, the light at the end of the tunnel, or the Andromeda galaxy. Everybody shine. Who knows what flowers might come of it? Intense heat, unusual sprouts. Azazel, for example. You say youíve got a bad back. There are rungs broken on the ladder. You got into a car drunk with a drunk. And won again. You lived when it flipped. You see how you live to escape the danger you place yourself in? You bait your own leg hold trap to see if you can get away with something. Itís like playing Russian roulette. There are never any losers when it comes right down to it. Bang. Click. Everybody wins. Nothing but theatre after life. Just the same, you might find a wild fox or an opportunistic coyote toying with a trapline. Never a wolf. Theyíre smarter than that. Theyíd rather turn a porcupine like a needle exchange with their nose than stick it in something like that. Your friends are talking about intervention and I know you hate them for that. Iíve watched you carefully pulling the pins and needles of their remarks out of your psyche like a voodoo doll out to prove theyíre not quills theyíre mystic spearheads of Bronze Age insight and youíre so advanced in your weaponry youíre living in the twenty-second century. Different strokes of your atomic clock for different folks I suppose. And some of what they say is freaked with malice and gossip and excessive small town excoriation for the things they themselves did yesterday. Winterís coming on, and you know how people would rather put a skidmark on the black white screen, a little blood spatter, than look at nothing. Because they have no inner resources my mother would say, though there are ten cubic cords of two year old red oak stacked in the woodshed. But itís not easy to make a rabbit run in a white-out so youíve got something to chase that makes you feel Canadian and dangerous. I say cool it. You say chill out. And our body temperatures drop by ten degrees. And I can feel the edgy shadow of the knife cross my throat as the white swan you were a moment ago goes into total eclipse. But I wouldnít let anyone take you away. Especially when I hear your motherís walking out on you and your girlfriendís just told you that sheís slept with some dog who was panting under the table for something to fall off like a morsel off of Caesarís plate, if you can remember any Shakespeare. Right now youíre a mythic inflation of yourself. Not a Saturn booster. A helium weather balloon. An inert gas in the upper atmosphere. Gills on the moon finding it hard to breathe in a sea of shadows. A fever you contracted from a dream. But thatís not camphor under your nose. And I know youíre looking for another mirage in the mirror of the medicine chest youíve addicted to lethal placebos, but it doesnít look like the stately pleasure domes of Xanadu from here. And youíve got no right to make people care for your mortality if youíre not going to let them ride with you in your golden chariot in triumph. Through Perth or Persepolis. No matter. Youíre riding through your own ruins like time-lapse photography wondering where all the bling and flash went. So what do you do? You carve. You paint. You write. If the fear comes over you. You give it a name. You dedicate a poem to it. As Rilke suggests. You kiss that dragon back into a princess. You be a good apple tree. You express yourself. Not to save the world, though a little bit of that may come inadvertently of its own accord. You make blossoms, you grow branches, you recite leaves, you produce apples. The bears, the birds, the wasps, the worms, the artists, the lovers, who doesnít benefit from it? By their fruits ye shall know them. Who the fuck are you? Or anything or anyone of us if it werenít for the fact weíre nothing if not expressive? Like the sea and its weather. Expressive. Whether there are shipwrecks littered like yarrow sticks all over the seabed in the Book of Changes or all your arrows are stealing their plumage from the very birds theyíre trying to target, or mother pelicans are feeding regurgitated sardines to baby birds while cormorants bob on the logs on a halcyon sea. Thereís no disconnect between the sea and its weather. You and what goes on in your head. This is you. And as it happens, this is the all inclusive, eternally premiering movie of your life. As it happens. As it makes you up fractal by fractal. Youíre not a boarder in the House on Elm Street. Youíre the camera man. You look at a star. In your case, Castor and Pollux in Gemini. Your eye makes it a star. The star makes it your eye. Everythingís like that. See? Expressive. Creatively collaborative without trying to save anyone out of the ordinary. Making things does that. Spinning mulberry trees out of a silkwormís ass. You havenít got time to hang on to your misery long enough to make it an identity because youíve got both hands full and youíre always dropping stuff. Expressively. People see you yachting around town with two or three canvases under your arm for sale and some of the old farmers around here will begin to see what kind of tree you are and give you the name their grandfathers taught them. And your friends will begin to see that even a birch that the beavers have gnawed through when itís flat face-down on the ground trying to make the whole earth its death mask isnít a disability but a creative resource. And your madness will grow more intriguingly intelligible to them. Theyíll see the darkness inside as ore the gold pours out of like your hair. Express yourself. When has a storm ever not come too early for calm weather? What does the applause of the waves on the surface for some stunt a flying fish pulled off mean to the bottom feeders? In those depths you shine by yourself. You donít wait for the moon to do the job for you. Youíre addicted to addiction. So hook up with something thatís just as habitually good for you and youíre the only dealer. Express yourself. In or out of control. Just as you are, whatever the hell that means, and donít try to take control of things like a steering wheel on a sunami when youíve already gone down with the yacht. Check out the lost continent of Mu and express yourself. Because Muís you too. And your sister there. Sheís Atlantis. Azazelís a refugee and I was the original land mass of Pangea before I pecked my way out of the cosmic egg like a miner trapped deep in the heart of the motherlode that came down on me like an avalanche when things began to fall apart. Express yourself. Like genetic variations in the shapes of dinosaurs adapting like South America to its new independence from the establishment. Like a coal minerís canary in a tunnel. Like bananas say Iím yellow with sunspots. Make art. Make love. Make a mess of your life with taste and style. Put on an exhibition of your palettes. Go Japanese about the way you arrange your dry paint-caked brushes in no-name brand enameled coffee cans. Write like a poet who knows heís doomed to die tragically old and full of a fetal sweetness of things being born in autumn like the karmic apples of his next life. One, for Sleeping Beauty. One to win Helen. One to seduce Eve. And one because it contains the seeds of sacred syllables and symbolizes Q, the letter that stood for poets in the Beth Luis Nion Druidic Tree Alphabet because weíre always supposed to be asking why, and all the why questions begin with Q in Latin. Qís an apple-tree. And as any Druid will tell you. Once and a while itís good to eat one of your own. So be a windfall. Apples or skulls. Shepherd moons and solar systems. Dumb blind flint-knapped asteroids in their planetary middens. Express yourself. Like the Burgess Shale. Like the Grand Banks just off the continental shelf where things drop off your body and your mind and it gets too deep for any anchor to dare to pull you down. Intimidate your chains with the insurmountable challenge of your freedom. And if youíre having coffee and a spliff with death in Aleppo as often as you say you do, why waste your death on trivia, and blow up a highschool, when you could take advantage, even by a reflected glory, not what you know but who in your case, of the incredible power and freedom to take up any lost cause you want, like yourself, for example, and declaring a holy war on yourself, have nothing but a few badly defended mirages to lose? Or you could go on liberating the windmills of your mind with blood, sweat, and tears in Jerusalem without having the slightest clue about whose side your on. And donít tell me youíre on all sides at once to dodge the bullet because that just means someoneís going to have to go to the extra expense of putting a few more firing squads on the night shift. And youíre the only one of them that can show some compassion toward yourself like a blank and a cigarette and a blindfold. I love you, little brother. Take the mask off. Put this on. Itís Azazel idea. Itís Kevlar.


TRYING TO PUT SOME DISTANCE Trying to put some distance between myself and my past is like trying to stale-mate a cloud with a mountain by resorting to the last hope of all experienced liars, objectivity. Third person singular pronouns, he, she, it. Shipping containers from alien places stacked neatly on the dock like coffins and cord wood you can talk and write about as if you werenít buried in anyone of them and none of the stowaways and none of the illegal immigrants and none of the corpses were anymore related to you than Cantonese graffiti from Seattle that rode the rails all the way to Jakarta like one long sentence about something you dreamed last night in your sleep. Somebodyís elseís views in somebody elsesí language. You can stand on one side of the tracks in the red glare of the most serious-minded lights at the road block with the crossed swords and half-bored with waiting for things to pass read the story of your life on the sides of the train going past gene by gene in the most unlikely couplings of a chromosome. You can read your own genome like beads in the rosary youíre kneading between your thumb and your forefinger as if you were counting the prophetic skulls of the full moons that have passed without any sign of a harvest on an abacus. You can hide your past under the death mask of someone else. You can play scrabble with the sign of the zodiac you were born under, you can rearrange your stars and lie to your scars about which among many wounds was their real birth mother, you can spin a new myth of origin like a changeling to explain why your axis is tilted beneath the equator but when youíre finishing patching over to another gang and youíve got new top and bottom rockers and a brand new mandala on your back to empower you and your winding down the Malahat on Vancouver Island that writhes along the side of the mountain like a snake with its head pinned by your front wheel fork two hundred feet above the tiny eyelids of the waves with the white lashes on the surface of the sea below, thinking of Jefferson Airplaneís tongue in cheek retort to John Donne that no manís an island. Heís the Saanich Peninsula though they didnít say Saanich but if the peninsula fits wear it and thatís where I was at the time. You can tear the wire youíve been wearing like the narrative of your life as if your own mind were listening in on you from another room in the hotel across the street and your silence would still provide enough evidence to prosecute you for living outside the box instead of just sitting in it and trying to think of a way out. All those improbable entrances with impossible exits you walked through to change your life irreparably like some crude street rendition of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Edmonton just to verify your right to exist in a world that rejected its own extremities like the left hand of fate and circumstance. And it wasnít so much the actuality you were after, that would come of its own accord like an apple after the blossom, but just the mere chance of being someone you werenít who wasnít burnt and bitter wary, angry, cruelly clear-sighted as a spider-mount on a telescope waiting to catch stars in the webs of the glimmering constellations they mistook for dreamcatchers. Every cubic centimetre of me back then as dense and intense as a black dwarf that sucked all the light out of the air so that even in broad daylight I always felt this darkness within me like a night too heavy for the world to bear. My mind was always a wavelength shy of a snake pit when I was around other people that hadnít been chronically humiliated by growing up poor and my heart would condemn itself out of hand just to deny them the privilege of doing it for themselves eventually and to show them the difference between a passive scapegoat and a demonized pariah that wouldnít hesitate to use his horns on any matador of the moon who thought he had the crescents for it. Alone under the microscope I furnished my solitude like a habitable planet with converging mindstreams that carried me out to sea like an empty lifeboat drifting down the Milky Way like a leaf, like a poem, like a deep insight into the radiance of nothing as soon as it got dark enough to see the stars. Out of the void I sought shelter in emerged a truce of aloof familiars who were multilingually conversant with my kind of madness and imagination. And I called them Azazel, Blue Flower, Black Dog, Dead Dogís Dream Self, Character and Womanpit, and of the ones that appeared the most benign one was a mystically empowered altruistic idiot, one was the tabla rasa Adamic blank slate of everyman and one the female sister demon of my right brain that was dark and artistic and long-suffering. And of the first magnitude black hole constellations with eyes like dice pricked out like fang marks on an occult starmap of dark matter, one was a Satanic standard bearer who had gone from being a scapegoat to being the master of a Renaissance of evil with the Machiavellian curiosity of a reptile intrigued by its deepening insight into mammals and the other two were the black farces of their own burnt out legends passively-aggressive as extinct volcanoes growling at each other in the nightmare of their waking hours like fortune-cookies strung out along the same fault line like junkies who rage at the futures that keep giving up on them like a species that knows its endangered all the way from southern California through West Vancouver up to Alaska. Thereís a big part of everyone that wasnít born of man or woman when theyíre alone with their own cartoons and the mythic inflation and deflation of themselves makes them feel the whole universe is breathing along in unison with them between rapturous moments of solar exhilaration and dead seabeds of lunar depression like a musician with his finger on the pulse of the copulating wavelengths of a blues guitar in heat at high tide heís going to ride out like providence into the flood. These were my Sahaba, my lost tribe of desert companions, the nightwinds that came all wrapped in black like lone Tuariq out of the southern Libyan Sahara like dark energy in a whirlwind of stars ready to kill you from a great distance for drawing the waters of life out of one of their wells without tribal consent. And who knows what flows down into the mind from what mountaintops or through the valleys of whose heart before you? Maybe thereís some leftover starlight in the mix and the taste of a full moon lingering on the tongue of a corpse like a coin some loved one put there like a sacred syllable to protect it against the dark. And the tears of someone you never knew for things youíre not aware of crying like a waterclock from life to life like the dream theme of a mindstream that keeps the whole thing together like the loose thread of a flying carpet that just keeps on unravelling. Life is a geriatric medium with a young message. The oasis mentors the mirage like a dance company rehearses Swan Lake. Dark matter is strung out through the universe like a junkie neurally connected to the same mind we all are the way water is to intelligence and lucidity. Weíre all drinking from the same mindstream in our own skull. And when I pass mine around like a sacred chalice of the moon around a common fire to each of my familiars and anti-selves thrown together in this desert of stars like symbols that made a habit of each other for mutual survival, the big question thatís always greeted with silence is whether lifeís an exorcism or a seance. Were we driven out of somewhere we all long for for things we canít recall to never be summoned back, or were we invited here by an anonymous unresponsive host possessed by his own imagination to guess at who or what he might be so the hidden secret can know itself in every one of us? And I ask myself creatively is the potential for darkness greater than the reality of light? Is the one infinite and the other doomed to be exhausted by living it one insight at a time some with the lifespan of stars some like fireflies and lightning some in the shadows of black walnut trees and some like me who dream under the eyelids of past eclipses like a dragon who once swallowed a black cosmic egg whole to bring rain to the new moon without putting its ancient root fires out?

Street People

IíVE STOPPED MISTAKING MY LIFE Iíve stopped mistaking my life for evidence I exist. Iíve stopped watering palm-trees in a mirage. Iím leaking out of myself like sand through a crack in a wounded hourglass. Iíve stopped doing my time standing up and approach things more like a circle thatís been squared by a reclusive hypoteneuse. Iíve stopped asking how many legs are on a snake or what does it mean when things donít mean anything. For all the auditions I held I never did find a stand-in for the meaning of meaning. I can hear crutches breaking like dead branches from the tree of knowledge that rails like an ice-storm in hell thereís no light for its chandeliers. How many voices are in a secret? How many theories in a thought? How many lovers had to die to keep one feeling alive? I deserted the circus of high ideals. I unfeathered my heels and stopped trying to invent new alphabets that would read like birds before the first snow. When youíre everywhere thereís nowhere left to go. I stopped telling time to its face what hour it was and wasnít and started listening to it as if it had nothing to say. I stopped asking space for i.d. and it stopped showing me an old picture of me with one eye. A voice spoke out of the purposeless undoing of the fire and everything went up like smoke trying to get a little higher. I wasnít on a mission to save the souls of the trees like native peoples by converting them to doors and ladders. I swept through steeples like a forest-fire And the judgment came down: Nothing matters. And I knew I was free to take liberties with the abyss. And everywhere I rode a flying carpet of karma through the infinite darkness unspooling like a wavelength of light I made up my own myths about the stars that were passing clandestine lovenotes through my eyes as if they were doves sent out to look for me like land. But I had a hell of a flood of my own going on and took wing for Atlantis. Iíve given up trying to walk on water but I can go for miles on quicksand. Stars are another matter. A firewalk you take alone. I live in a house where the windows are lightyears across and a black hole is my last known address surrounded by trees that keep opening my mail like leaves of their own to see who signed what the light confessed when it wanted to get the night off its chest. Tell me your sorrows. Tell me your fears. Tell me your hopes and passions and Iíll listen like a universe to its own afterbirth like a flawed soul listens with compassion to the rain. Illusory cures for illusory diseases perhaps detailed maps of rivers that never flowed. But I take a deep breath and put my shoulder to the wind like a bell thatís taken on a heavy load like a backhoe in heaven excavating graves to see if anything can truly save us from ourselves. I come up like the full moon of a mushroom in the night and I wait for elves to enthrone me like a footstool under everybodyís feet as the last of the hanging judges takes his seat. But I know like a man who wrestles with angels how to grow stronger with every defeat. I am no longer defined by things that donít know the limits of what Iím becoming now that Iíve dropped off my body and mind like a demon jumping from paradise without a parachute. And this is the anti-papal decretal of the fallible man they stone with churches on earth for showing up blessed like a human who took the shape of the world from the inside out not the outside in. This way lies redemption. That way, too. Fireís not a heresy thatís committed to its flames anymore than autumn consumes the heartwood of its orthodoxies when it burns the trees. Desire doesnít cut the tongue out of the mouth of love for saying the secret name of God as if it werenít junkmail on the threshold of the old neighbourhood the cornerstones of sounder reasons had torn down like a slum to make room for better things to come. There are still scarlet geraniums blooming in red brick clay pots on the windowsills of longing that havenít lost their faith like leaves yet one day theyíll return to the garden. And baby boys born like heartsongs with hards on that are not the cliches of impish cherubs in a painting of original sin but angels holding burning swords at the gates of the mothers theyíve been driven out of to guard the way in. Itís deeply ontological. But if things didnít happen this way how could you ever find your own way back to that shortcut you took like time off at the beginning? And havenít you noticed yet how the universe keeps showing up a star too late for the end of things making up excuses along the way like a touring playhouse on wheels rehearsing what to say for the long delay in catching up to itself like a thief? You can tell a lot about a man by what he steals. You can tell a lot about a world by the way your life feels when thereís no one around to make a sound as you fall like a tree in the forest. How many koans need to be cracked like skulls full of insight before you get the gist of the joke that everything you see is whole and perfect and broke. Hell and heaven are only the first two stairs on this fire-escape the stars have lowered to earth. And then thereís a bridge to the other side of a river thatís given up looking for its lost shores to put an end to its weeping. And I donít know who she is yet but beyond that thereís a woman on her knees crying like one of lifeís immensities for her dead baby as she washes its blood off the floors with her hair for safe-keeping.

The Birch At Long Bay

GENEROUS TO A TRAGIC FLAW Generous to a tragic flaw I have squandered myself on noble gestures to keep something alive thatís crucial to the human spirit. Or at least mine. I have acted in proportion with the stars. I shine but not by design. A lethal tenderness overwhelms me whenever I meet someone whoís suffered so long theyíve forgotten what it was like to be astounded. Not social work. No morals. No ethics. No five-year plan. Just a man trying to make a good memory for a worse day as if to say you see itís not all relentless. Remember this. Yes there are pitfalls and impact craters but there are parachutes and airlifts too. Unexpected boons even among the unlucky who keep being snake-bit by the dice just as theyíre about to cross the Rubicon. Making a gift of a gift is the true art of life. But you donít have to discipline your spontaneity to master it. Just open your hand your heart the eyes in your blood and let go of whatever youíve been holding on to as if it only had a value in relation to you. Give the drunk who asks you for a quarter twenty-five bucks occasionally and tell him that your only condition is that he goes and spends it on booze. Why make a liar of the man and and a hypocrite of your gesture? Give him the money as if it just fell out of his pocket and you picked it up to return it. A manís body asks for water. Donít offer him bleach for his soul. And donít walk away pleased with yourself as if youíd done something enlightening about your shadow. But for the grace of God or the Zeitgeist there go all of us. You donít know how time and circumstance and pain may have twisted the space around him into some kind of blackhole he canít get out of. The way things are so interdependently original here he may have been born to entertain one random thought on an uneventful morning before the bars open that the whole universe turns upon without his knowing it. He may have thought of someone like you he didnít believe in coming through with a few bucks. Stagger his incredulity by coming true in a way that doesnít abuse the wound youíre trying to heal in passing. And however estranged you are from his unkempt rendition of human dignity because more people are familiar with yours than his donít pour weed-killer on his dandelions and expect him to admire your roses. You can kill a human deeper than you can with a knife by the way you give them something that their life depends upon. Giving is a beauty-based power not a power-based duty of soul that militates against the ugly and poor with beautiful stratagems of charity. Take the low place like the sea that everything flows down into and youíll be closer to heaven than the mountain that seeks its place among the stars. Give as if you were grateful for the privilege. And not just money. Not just the heartfelt concern of a decent progressive humanist purging the tragic with pity. Donít let the critic step out from the chorus as if there were an answer to the way humans suffer the way we do. Beyond fault beyond blame beyond judgment opinion or reflexive habit of thought we are all mystic specifics of the same mind. Distinction can change the picture frame but it canít lay a brush to the view. Itís a lame self-portrait that canít catch the likeness between him and you. In the need. Not just the gratification of it. In the seed. Not just the fruit that comes of it. Iíve met people in life standing in estranged doorways hugging their hearts close to their chests like eggshell urns full of the ashes and acids of orchards scorched by napalm. Iíve stepped over people in the street lying like corpses in a war-zone of steel and concrete and glass that stared back at humans as if they were from the wrong class of perfection. Iíve heard the poppies scream out in their sleep that the ambulance doesnít know the address of their homelessness and all their emergency exit signs are beginning to panic like a run on a bloodbank in a severe depression. Sleazy lovers made savage by love licking the toxic arrowheads they pull out of their own wounds to taste what theyíre dying of. Iíve seen a wise man stand like a jewel foundationstone in an avalanche of fools buried up to his neck in their skulls like the broken rosaries of full moons that forgot the names of God. And what can you say to the cracked mirror with wrinkled skin about why she unsilvered her beauty like a chandelier on cocaine when you know from the puncture-wounds in your own heart that thereís nothing illicit about pain? Iíve attended lectures in a street school for unmanageable solitudes given by the insane to a conspiracy of traffic signs that rewrote the golden rule. I have watched the ingenues of the spirit perverted by wannabe Buddhas and forsaken messiahs deciphering light and reason as if theyíd just broken the code to the enigmatic subterfuge of their own self-promotion. Iíve seen death close the eyelids of those adrift on the great nightsea of subconscious themes like overturned lifeboats that returned to their dreams like watercolours flowing into their mindstreams. And I have marked their likeness to Japanese plum blossoms and then detested myself for sugarcoating their deaths in distractingly beautiful simulacrums of mimetic coral when I know for a fact they had the hulls of their hearts ripped out on the reefs of their brains like the moon at low tide. The moon drops anchor like a lockmaster among shipwrecks she canít exhume. You look at a human and you see right away that pain plays the chameleon. That suffering isnít the effect of illusion. Itís protean. It envelopes itself in its own coils like space. It slowly seeps into a childís eyes like a watershed without rainbows and irises when she cries. The features of her face begin to go awry and you can see another one coming through like a wisdom tooth. With that dumb blank stare of a human looking down into her eyes like wishing wells that didnít come true. Asking why there are no fireflies in her lunar landscape any closer to her than the stars. Agony of mothers kicking their breastmilk cornucopias down the road like an empty soup can that fell off the bumpers of their honeymoons. Nightshifts of jellyfish tangled like kites in the downed hydrolines hissing like lightning in a snakepit because they donít know how to holster their neurons before they empty their gun on the guilty bystanders. Shadows that have grown paranoid of the people who cast them. People who were defeated by everyone they ever believed in and went around preaching despair as if the word hadnít already come to all of us in its own good time without screaming like an air raid siren to take immediate shelter from oncoming comets butterflies and stoned Mayan calendars predicting the end of the world though they didnít anticipate that they wouldnít make it to the end of their own. And from cradle to grave for every living thing death has never been any further away than their next breath. And whether youíve packed a backup atmosphere for a parachute or not or youíre just freefalling in a cosmic starfield like some anticlimactic Icarus whoís just been washed like a cinder out of Godís one good eye. Fear smells like death to us and a vast darkness reveals to us whatís uninhabitable about all we behold. Living on earth is like being homeless with a roof over your head. Weíre all faithfully waiting like cornerstones with nothing to build on. Even the dead who excavate their names like masons with time on their hands. I have seen the despair terror the fury the hate. The machine-think of calculating minds in their white knight armour of chrome and tinfoil who like to be known for their largesse with big numbers provision an army of children with violent video-games to make up for their lack of creative vision. The incubator on the night ward full of baby rattle-snakes that were born as toxic as their parents. In the great war of the logos against the icons itís easier to kill something you never think youíll be than it is than it is to learn to live with the difference like one of your own eccentricities. Itís not even enlightened self-interest to ignore the fate of the woman and child sitting next to you in the same lifeboat with solar-powered oars rowing toward Vega down the Milky Way in a full eclipse of the sun. And singing in the choir isnít going to feed the children of Darfur or stop rape in the Congo from becoming a military tactic of war against the womb. Anymore than this is. Radioactive outrage in the humiliated heart. The obscene gigantism of unseen olegarchs casting their shadows upon the earth like the gaping Martian canyons opening up like the gaps between the rich and the poor. Who owns the air the water the food the cure? Obese spiders importing fireflies like databanks on the optic fibres of the worldwide web tearing under their weight like a safety net the poor rely upon. The enslavement of knowledge. People summoned like ghosts to the seances of virtual avatars to be re-educated in an upgrade of their simulacrums. Innocence corrupted by children. Experience revered like a warcrime in trying times as the last alibi of a demonic adult in front of a firing squad of his peers. But sometimes the bullets take lightyears to get there if the history of the victors is rewritten in the blood of the victims who are as loathe to pull the trigger as they are to face the fact. You canít dupe a jackboot into believing its out of fashion anymore than you can impress a Nazi with compassion. Liberty isnít red white and blue a cracked bell fifty-one and a half stars or a maple leaf. Thatís a flag of blood blowing in the wind like Isadora Duncanís scarf. Thatís a head wound. Thatís a fatal shot. The poppy that bloomed from a musket ball. The scarlet bunting of Ouzi machine-pistols redecorating the highschool dance. Canít you smell the reek of formic acid advancing over the distant hills like a conflagration of red army ants inspired like pill-sized runts of fire to destroy greater things than they ever dreamed of coming true in their vision of a coma? You can look in the eyes of the pumpkin-skulled candle-holders any wind can blow out for lightyears and still never see a comet on a grailquest looking to quench its thirst in tears. And wash its hair in the light. Most people speak a universal language theyíre born knowing but theyíre as possessive as an apostrophe-s after their names. The fireís free but they own the flames. Everyoneís free to express themselves but donít trespass on the false claims they lay on the history of misdeeds like an alibi to justify the new moon of blue blood stuck like the dumb-bell of a sacred syllable through their ancestral tongues. And itís a small matter of aesthetic indifference whether you bleed like a red ribbon on a birthday surprise or a bottle of wine with a message to the world that he doesnít want its help washed up like a drunk in the gutter. If you hang out in Babylon long enough you might communicate like the polyglot tower of Babel but youíll end up trading your human accent in for the high rhetoric of a different class of jargon and you wonít be able to speak of left or right-handed holy things without a stutter. The skulls of old men mutter under their breath to the aeons about their loss of face in history and the young lions are spayed on the threshold of a zookeeperís philosophy of rendering caged ferocities impotent. Lightning rods and weathervanes pulling the fangs of the storm out by grounding it like a snakepit to an antidote. War offering sweetmeats to the poor to go off and spill the blood of the poor like the flag of another country no one wants to belong to anymore except the slumlords that depend on the poor for a living and are willing to defend themselves with their deaths for it. Politicians like pot-bellied guitars with blackholes in their guts and tapeworms for spinal cords and strings. And it sings an octave higher than a spider-web but it lies about the lyrics just like the vox populi lip-synching the words to the national anthem. Just another bass guitar trying to pretend heís a man of the people who could rock with the best of them in sensible shoes. And feigning the humility of a humorous failure at hitting it big in the music world is willing to run like a band on the road like the lead singer of a country that beats the drums for war. Government has no fury like a politician scorned. Frustrated sex is sublimated into power politics. A select few are elected to reject the will of the people for the good of the nation. The lineaments of satisfied desire are martyred in the fires of sexual frustration. Good can quote chapter and verse but evil doesnít even have a table of contents because it doesnít go by the book. The light might have a better bedside manner when things fall out but itís the darkness that lives on forever and ever as if nothing happened of any consequence. Like water after someoneís drowned in it. Like the silence that follows the telling of a story where heroism doesnít stand for anything and the villains are all victims of circumstance. Everything you give isnít a winning lottery ticket. Itís just a chance. A way to tweak evolution in someoneís favour without thinking of it as a course correction in the direction of prayer. Luck loads the dice with two of every kind like snake-eyes in a casino. A random neutrino arises like the full moon on the event horizon of a wavelength that still thinks of itself as a particle in a unified field theory. Flood myths from the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates lose their significance like waterdroplets and tears in a shoreless sea if you make your frame of reference big enough to include more than 180 degrees in your triangles so you donít have to do an about face when youíre scuttled in your final resting place like an ark on the top of a mountain in Turkey. But even if youíre as cold and hard and adamant as a diamond about seeing things clearly you donít have to thaw like a snowman to be a radiant focus of fire. You can warm things up like a thief of fire. You can steal industrial secrets from the gods. You donít have to curse the crow to exalt the dove. As above so below means that enlightenment is omnidirectionally true for all of us and to know that is to render yourself homeless at all times and places like Heisenbergís Uncertainty Principle. No locus fixed in space. No place at the table. But plenty of camels and tents on their way north on the Perfume Trail so the Queen of Sheba can dazzle the King of Israel with the Lion of Judah like Bob Marley with a thorn in his paw making up redemption songs like Yaís asmatographer to ease the pain of his abandonment. Giving is the greatest irony of all in an absurd universe that takes what it wants without regard to the consequences. Babies are torn from their mothersí arms like apple blossoms and those who lent a helping hand to the local villagers just as often come home dismembered like stale breadcrumbs as whole and golden as a silo of wheat at peace in their hearts. Thirty pieces of silver. Thirty nights of the moon. Or a school bus in Bolivia. And Jesus Christ is repatriated to heaven like an illegal immigrant and Che Quevaraís bones return to Cuba forty years later. To address yourself to the need of the multitudes means you have to learn to feed your assassinís children with no regrets. Your flesh. Your heart. Your art. Your mind. Your means. Your dreams. Your blood sweat and tears. Until youíre an emptiness that even God steers clear of for fear of not being able to fill it like a vacuum she abhors. The night is not a reward for shining and space isnít the inner lining of a crusty robe of jewels meant to entrance the onlookers with the blazing of their blindness. Giving is coming across something ugly and painful and making it beautiful and whole for a moment as a matter of taste like you just sewed another button in the eye of the doll to take the lost oneís place. And it wasnít a law or a reason that made you do it. But the look on a childís face when you give it back to her repaired and she stares at you like the first letter of the alphabet trying to put words together out of the silence of her astonishment that even a poet canít. Giving is a way of saying thank-you for flowers to the flowers and stars to stars. Water to water. You canít keep what you wonít give away. And the only place youíre going to find a stone to lay your head on for the night and dream of every threshold youíve ever crossed as the last step of the return journey home is less of a place than a way of seeing how unjustifiably bright everything is. Giving is a way of handing out poems like one of a kind pamphleteering snowflakes to people standing in line at the foodbank no two alike to remind them that the ore might be pitted and dark like a Martian meteor that had the bad luck to fall out of the tropics into Antarctica but itís still as full of the gold and diamonds and lottery tickets of life as it had sewn into its lining when it left home. And then to offer one of them your Josephís coat because itís cold out and say keep whatever you find in the pockets. And not revel in the realization that you can change a species with the slightest impact of the tiniest thing youíve ever given away. That every atom of our bodymind starmud is the unborn beginning of a new universe that gives it all away in time like a secret that was hidden and wished to be known. Giving is a form of self-expression when thereís nothing left to say to the emptiness inside about why hundreds of millions of children go to bed hungry every night. Why one man floats on an inner-tube in a swimming pool on a hot day and another drinks his own tears like a mirage in a dry wishing well in southern Sudan. Feast and famine. Beast or human. Yeast in the whole wheat bread of the summum bonum rising like the intimate smell of home cooling on the windowsills of heaven whether we imagine it or not just to make it happen like a good guess or the hospitality of the lampshades and urns of Auschwitz and the ashes of bitter broken burnt unleavened loaves of millions of corpses rising from the ovens like the six-horned spark of a phoenix ascending like the first sign of karmic life in a nuclear winter where lizards are feathered like birds in a tree where nothing sings. Giving is a way of depleting yourself without diminishment. Of defeating yourself by celebrating the victory of the outcome as an encounter with the demon or the angel in your way you never walk away from weaker. Even when youíve given up believing in the lies in the eyes of a seeker. And thereís nothing to illuminate and nothing enlightened in the stars over head that shine down on nothing like a nightlight in a morgue that closes the eyelids of the dead like the petals of a rose in full eclipse or white peonies of moonlight shedding their feathers like a rape of swans on a newly tarred asphalt driveway thatís trying to run them out of town like the hidden god of the KKK even though theyíre both dressed he same way. And those are seashells that were their eyelids. So no one can tell the difference between a burning cross and the immaculate crucifix of Cygnus in the Summer Triangle migrating down the Road of Ghosts to nest in the west like the souls of Ojibways Persians and Pythagoreans bottled like a message from an island universe in the bodies of birds. Like the man who stands behind these words like the red-shifted wavelength of a distant echo in the shadows of the starfields who doesnít think thereís anything holy about being a ghost but hangs on to it like the last known identity of a sentient transcendental life form singing like a secular nightbird in a sacred grove of trees as if all he had to give was the memory of a new insight into an old lucidity. And to go on believing without a single shred of proof that wherever we walked upright in the tall grass to get a better view of spotted leopards in our surroundings is the holy ground of our common humanity. Not a golden chariot driven through a slum but things sitting full lotus like a windfall on the flying carpet of the earth waiting like an airlift in the desert like manna from heaven. The bread of life shared in the midst of danger and pain and want not nuclear missiles of apocalyptic serpent fire with alternative interpretations of the same revelation. But the extraordinary ordinariness of our natural genius for decency and compassion to invite the Whore of Babylon to join the choir without making a liar out of her. Either that or weíre all immoral oxymorons trying to keep a lifeboat afloat at high tide in a snakepit that threatens to overwhelm us like a last sos on the same wavelength as the approaching sunami weíre trying to avoid like Atlantis. But giving it all up is the code that breaks the enigma of the fortune-cookie like a run of good luck against the odds of not being sunk by our own lies like a wolfpack of periscopes on the moon. It is the generosity of the human spirit within us that will save us from the obscenity of our own lovelessness and the insanity of our pain. Not the spoonful of ashes we make of our native tongues when anyone asks us what weíre doing on earth and we donít know whether to reply like houseflies that taint the meat or dragons that bring the rain.

The Cloud

MEDITATIONS IN A SNAKE PIT OF DISSONANT WAVELENGTHS Meditations in a snake pit of dissonant wavelengths. An anti-Zen photo-op of enlightened dark energy. Does a clean slate mean thereís no starlight in the windows, no fossils in the Burgess Shale, no kings with any grave goods in any of these hills? And I suppose I forgave you some time ago but if I did youíll forgive me if I forgot. Things have been intense over the past few years. Iíve been living secretly underground like a nail driven into the heartwood of an old growth forest I donít want them to cut down whether itís the tree on the moon or Clayquot Sound. Most peopleís relationships are mediocre books with purple passages. Ours was a purple book with all the pictures torn out. And thatís o.k. too, and thatís o.k. too, and thatís o.k. too I keep repeating like a mantra to myself trying to zone out into a trance that helps me feel as numb as a frozen gum whenever I remember you in moonlight with my eyes half shut and my heart not as wide open as it used to be. My eyes focus on a memory but it seems theyíre just seeing for show and thereís no insight in it neither they nor I want the courage to know. And I guess itís you Iím talking to here or this simulacrum of what I remember of you thatís kept on growing inside me like a ghost that hasnít made its peace with me yet or maybe just this void I imagine among billions of eyes has yours in it too and the way things are inchoately connected somehow resonates vestigially on the same wavelength you and I used to. But even if nothing and no one are there anymore thatís o.k., thatís o.k., thatís o.k., too. Iím not going to break my teeth on a koan with a time-lock Iím not going to give myself a concussion knocking on a door from the inside to get someone to open it and let me out. The last time I did that you were the storm that took me in again. You were the third eye of the hurricane and I was the star you washed out of it because you couldnít make it fit that cocaine constellation you liked to buff with fairy dust before you took it to the streets to find a black market for inspiration. I was never desperate enough in those days to keep up with you in your moodswings so I tried to get behind you and push your voice out onto a stage equal to your talent and you wowed them. You did. You had them standing up on the tables and afraid to come out of the green room. And I especially liked it when you dedicated Walking in the Rain to me and ever since Iíve listened to it like a gnostic gospel I buried in the desert to keep from using it like a sacred text to start a fire. Hey, but two days later you turned from a hit into an atomic albino Queen Cobra Apache-Aztec witch with your fangs stuck like a wishbone in the throat of your voice coach for not singing as well as he listens to what the lyrics of your raving hysterics meant between the lines when you were coming down like a junkie in a decaying orbit that didnít make it all the way to the moon. Living with you then once you got back on the blow was like walking across a mine field covered in blood-stained snow. A black rose with the bite of a rattlesnake. The thorns of a Yaqui mesquite cactus like the tongue piercings of a prophetic skull trying to make itself known like a hidden secret in a savage language written on flesh and bone. Remember that night you slashed my sportsjacket down the spine with one eagle-feathered swoop of the knife for doing the dishes that had sat growing green mould like alien life in a junkyard of contaminated space parts because you didnít want to be taxed like a dealer with the same chores as everyone else? I liked painting all night at the kitchen table with you watching me like a kataba worm at the bottom of a bottle of tequila wondering whether I was toxic to eat or not. I painted you four by six foot love notes on square-riggers of canvas that ran before the wind like the skull and crossbones from the slower angel fleets trying to regain command of their own lifeboats to rescue our relationship. But thatís o.k. thatís o.k., thatís o.k., too. Iíve deepened my perspective like a shipwreck on the moon inundated by shadows below deck with none of my water gates and fire walls in tact. It took more light years traversing the void without a point of origin or destination to ever make me feel off course because in any dimension and every direction one move was as good as another before the cosmic mystery dwindled into the mundane fact of the aerial perspective I put behind me when I painted time blue to keep it in the distance. Just as I was happy you were gone with our son like d.n.a. evidence we did have something to say to each other once before the house burned down with me in it spitting into the ashes of a demonic failure to immolate me at the stake of a familial heresy while the birds were dropping in mid flight at forty below outside. I was far from a daycare father but I hoisted him up on my shoulders in pride as if the weight of the world were nothing but the bubble of a laughing boy goading an elephant with no sense of gravity into a full gallop before he starts flapping his ears. But thatís o.k., thatís o.k., thatís o.k. too. If you walk it long enough alone youíll find thereís more dust on the road than youíve got tears to keep it down. People might want to cling to your skin like cornerstones and you might rather want to be keel-hauled on the moon than wash your hands of them. Sometimes the heart thinks itís indelible. The stars have fixed the tats for life and all youíve got to do is connect the dots to see what constellations have been revealed as signs of loveís misplaced centricity. And then one day gone. Just gone. Who knows where? There was a bubble, a gravitational eye, A birthday balloon full of laughing gas, a shepherd moon with an oceanic vision of life, the impression of scarlet lipstick like rose petals on a white kleenex beside a make-up mirror that managed your campaign of faces like a drug cartel running for mayor of Shangrila. Glacial ages of archival snowfall sublimate like dry ice into thin air like dreamers at their own exorcism like the ghosts of wild swans evaporating off the Rideau in the morning without warning, one moment there, incredibly the waterbirds, the light, the shapeshifting clouds, the pudgy hands of a child that hasnít yet learned to make a fist and the body of a woman with a taped wrist. A fish jumps and disappears like a comet back into a starmap of black holes that plumbs the depths of your soul from top to bottom like skin-divers dragging the river for the corpses of nightclub owners in Hull. Forgiven, forgotten, foretold and fulfilled, no more bones to make of it, when you werenít the blue lapis lazuli mask of a jaguar goddess in heat you prowled nocturnally like a smile through shady emotions on the bestial floor and you killed, not so much out of appetite or to propitiate some ancient instinct in blood but for the thrill of it, the rush, the ride because you could, just because you could. And no divinity was served. You didnít sleep with men. You dragged them off into the bushes by their necks. And thatís o.k., thatís o.k., thatís o.k. too. The last time I saw you you were draping yourself like an oilslick over the shoulders of a bad movie who was trying to man up among coke dealers in a nightclub where people danced out of desperation because everyone there had the lifespan of a photo-op in the fast lane. You wanted me to see though I thought you overstated it a bit how wonderful it was to be free of me and spend the rest of your afterlife in theatre. You couldnít have been pleased to see me with another woman though I swear I didnít know you were going to be there. I made a cold truce with the worldís brutality and moved deep into the country to mime the moonlight on the winter snow where fate ran a cleaner casino than destiny. At least the mouse knew when it was being torn into pieces of Orphic meat as the fragrance of hot blood steamed starward it wasnít being consumed by a coke rage and the owl needed to eat. A thousand re runs of that night have tempted me to say something magnanimous and make a gracious bow from the audience as I headed for the emergency exit knowing that was it for good between us and what was left could only get worse. Time is a stem cell in a shopping mall that waits like a terrorist in all of us outside an abortion clinic for the right opportunity to replicate the lack of heart that just couldnít go through with it. Born in fire eventually the salamander grows back its tail to keep the phoenix intrigued with the resurrection of its body parts. No need to talk of a soul. The fire-pits are full of bloodless abstractions that burn without smoke or flame like the jinn in the Koran some good some bad some grant wishes like new lamps for old and some are weaving snakey emeralds into the imageless wavelengths of their flying carpets to tie up loose ends in their threadbare snake pits by looking for live embers in the ashes of a long firewalk and more in the way of a Zen mondo than a black mass in the way I put them out to see more clearly what Iím stepping on in the dark than I used to give a second thought to and be able to say with genuine conviction even if I do by some mistake thatís o.k., thatís o.k., thatís o.k. too. Namu amida butsu. Given all I lived through with you itís easy for a retroactively enlightened man to understand why you had to lie to stay true to your public. You had the radioactive charisma of a terrorist movie star up for an Oscar. And I was the donkey you wanted to smuggle your amps in. I may be slow, but Iím as thorough as a fuse-box when it comes to snake charming circuit-breakers so that the lights go out long before the musicís over and the real stars emerge from hiding from the aftermath of your blazing with google maps and cellphones. There are darker intensities and gentler lucidities wired in parallel to the universe like black matter to our synaptic neurons. I snapped out of you like a lightning bolt but it hurt to wake up from a coma and learn youíd gone off like an i.e.d. after the big event. Things that shine for themselves like the light of a dream chemiluminescent fish in the sunless depths of the sea or the T Tauri stars in the Pleiades are better seen with the spotlight off than on. And I donít know why. Maybe you suffered from stagefright and overacted but you always killed the messenger by sending a lighthouse to do the job of a firefly when a blasting cap in a beaver dam would have done the same collateral damage. But thatís o.k., thatís o.k., thatís o.k. too. Two fools saw their names in light. The bright one reached up for stardom. The dark one looked down for insight. The donkey looks into the well. The well looks back at the donkey. And things just go off by themselves.

The Pearl

YOUíRE A SWEET LITTLE ZOOKEEPER Youíre a sweet little zookeeper but Iím not the beast you need to fill your cage. Youíre a constellation of fireflies, a chandelier of warm spring tears but these burnt out eyes of mine arenít the reflecting mirrors youíre trying to make them out to be by adjusting their focus to see you shining in the dark. You might dance like a star a glow worm in a Mason Jar the chimney spark of a good fire on a cold night a go go dancer behind bars enflaming the tinder of desire in the love nest of a rising phoenix but Iím the total eclipse of hope seen through the wrong end of the telescope. And even if you were to turn me upside down and burn me like a heretic at the stake to correct the error of my ways Iíd still be the snake on the cross nailed to the doors of paradise like a notice of eviction like a warning against trespassing and not the waterbird with folded wings youíre trying to get a rise out of like a moonlit lake waiting for a footsore messiah tired of walking on waves whose feet you can wash with your hair. Hic sunt dracones. Iím not the dark window of wisdom you want to consult like a starmap to see if you can find in my eyes any glimmer of insight like a star I named after you you can wish upon. Go away from my window little bird. I donít want to see you hurt trying to fly through your delusion of open sky like Alice in the looking glass when the moon is cast through it like a stone to see the whole in every part of a broken heart. I am not the stem cell of a new relationship to hell and you are not the vital organ of the clone that might come of it were I to love you as my second self. Beauty is the moonboat of the heart. Life fill its sails with gusts of stars when things are full and when theyíre not takes them down like daylilies in the fall. I am not the new moon of another beginning and you are not the total eclipse of mine. My sails are black and bloody. Yours are white as waterlilies. Sunny laundry on the line. The shroud of Turin with the shadow of your mother burnt into it and you playing nearby on the lawn as the late morning light grows too strong to stay outside. Go home now. Go seek the other youíve kept waiting. Go follow the song until the longing stops and thatís where youíll find him waiting like a guitar carved out of heartwood strung with circular tree rings keyed to the tuning forks of the rain like all the springs heís dreamed about you. Iím as deep as a star receding into the boundless darkness within me. There are planets in my wake that make me wish Iíd been a better gardener than they thought I was and I donít want you to be one of them. Thorns lie along this path. Long firewalks in the company of ghosts who were once great enough to let go of what they cherished most like water and blue air and nights when a single candle lit up the whole universe in a way that baffled the stars when love blew it out to make the darkness shine with eyes everywhere eyes in our blood eyes in our flesh eyes in our voices eyes on the tines of our tongues and fingertips like large pheromones of light that looked into the black mirror that made things appear inconceivably mysterious and near. Your way back will be strewn with flowers. Apple bloom and asters. Chicory and the petals of wild roses. I could make you the high priestess of my art but those robes of night and snakes of insight would weigh heavy on you. So go home now. Travel light. Someone waits to offer you their heart. To turn your suffering and solitude into music and teach you how to play all ninety-nine chords of the rain as lucidly as the willows down by the Tay strung out like harps on their pain. Apprentice yourself to the light awhile like blossoms on a windy day. His radiance is white. I shine by a different light that life in time without a teacher will pour into the fruits of your seeing when the darkness grows sweeter than your sadness like wild grapes on an autumn vine and you feel something fall from your eyes like cataracts from a crystal skull like winter windows from starless skies like fountains that offer you the elixirs you seek to drink from like flowers and grails and wishing wells rooted deep in their fathomless watersheds. When the sun shines at midnight and the hour comes round at last like a lamp in the hands of its own long dark radiant journey into insight you will taste the waters of life in the tears of the sorceress standing in the doorway to clarity that summons her to leave everything behind and without hesitation or reflection know for yourself the dark wisdom in the heart of the light that makes the black mirror older and deeper than the white. Thereís nothing in this world however far you wander from home nothing youíve experienced nothing youíve known you can claim as your own until a stranger comes back from the stars with no trace of personal mythology her hands full of the earth she weeps upon and shapes like starmud until it flowers in her eyes into a universe where poppies and wheat see you in the same light by which you see them. Dreams and bread. Opioids and magic mushrooms. Passion and common sense. Peasant gypsy fish with hoops of the moon hooked through their earlobes and long scarlet scarves of fire streaming from their necks like portentous comets that arenít trying to scare anyone nibbling at the broken loaves of the flesh being distributed by a foodbank on the hillside. Go home now. Go dance naked and alone in the rain whenever you feel like it. Who needs to bind themselves to the void when their emptiness is everywhere? Be as kind and compassionate toward your follies and delusions as you are to the deepest of your insights and one day youíll see the crazy wisdom of it all and be humbled like a fool in tears by that which exalts you like a constellation of fireflies deep in the darkest nights of your being. Those brief flashes of lucidity that are half the silent rapture of the cool bliss that blows on the fire and half the last flaring of a call for help when what you treasure most sinks to the bottom like a sea chest full of hope and desire and comes to rest like the moon in the breast of a big-hearted shipwreck. Stars in the well. Night lights in a morgue. Candles in a coffin on nightwatch. The sacred syllables of the fireflies on the snake-tongues of neural lightning witching for rain on the moon in a sea of shadows and mirages putting down roots in the darkness like zodiacs along the cowpaths of the starmaps that laid out the Milky Way the Road of Ghosts like the short cut of the mindstream that follows its own inclinations like wild flowers through the abandoned star fields to keep the lights on in this house of life long after nothing else will.

The Trees in Stewart Park Before The Ice Storm, Perth, Ontario

HIGH IN THE Y SHAPED BOUGHS High in the Y shaped boughs of the nude wrecked marsh wood a gathering of abandoned heronsí nests that look like a colony of lonely vaginae that have done their work and were put aside when everything went south. Crowns of thorns on the heads of crucified saviours no one ever bothered to take down. Or you could see in them the beginnings of new fires the tinder and the kindling waiting for someone to strike a match or come down like a bolt of lightning on a tuning fork and burn the witch at the stake for heresies of love she wonít forsake and a vow of silence she took before the mystery of her own dark science that she wonít revoke. Pyres and sky burials and begging bowls as if they were orphans asking for more or humbled celebrants beseeching the stars to receive the little they have left to give and add their nothing to the nothing that is. To judge from the number of taboos at the gate shrunken heads atop the lodge poles of an Ojibway village that abandoned its gods and moved on when the river began to rise and left it to the sky to cover their nakedness with the whole cloth of a tent that doesnít keep the wind or the cold out like the unpetalled stems of the black-eyed Susans spreading like a cult along the banks; to judge from the apprehensive signage of my instincts that it isnít death but life thatís as dangerous and near as my next step is to falling in this must be a sacred place the animals come down to like totems at night to revel in their starmud and give thanks the stars were brilliant enough to root their pure radiance in the mutability and muck of decay. The wombs of the milkweed have exorcised their ghosts and the paint brushes of the wild irises are no longer loaded with violet and stand uninspired in a blue canning jar in the corner of the deserted studio of an artist who just woke up one day and disappeared without a word of a lie like a crow into his own mindscape as if he had finally achieved what he was looking at. But if the moon doesnít fear walking here nor while I. Startled wavelength of a black watersnake fleeing like dark energy across a supple mirror of stars and there on the withered eyelids of the lily pads the hold out bullfrogs disgruntled in the aftermath of their boom times by the lack of insects and their loss of sexual appetite like the mythically inflated rhetoric of bellows that canít get the fire to light. The Clovis point arrowhead of a jumping trout hits its own bullseye from the inside out and embeds itself in a flank of wounded water. Among so many nemetic affinities you could lose your heart like a waterbird that nests in its own reflection to a snapping turtle around here where the swans of moonlight for all their enchantment hold no more sway over whatís beautiful and not than this parliament of necrophiliacs in the dark ready to pull them down with their parrot beak vise-grips into the carrion beds of the house rules that say even the Taj Mahals must rot and Ledaís just meat to the gods. Forty-three years later feels strangely like Iím back in my old neighbourhood and this marsh is its emotional life. Peacock blue green sky closing its eyes to see the stars better in the dark Taurus and Gemini up and Cygnus a lost crucifix in the west. I step on the trunk of a fallen birch. It gives way like a leper whose flesh is as dozy as a bowl of wet cornflakes. My foot slips down into the ooze as if a hand had reached out and grabbed me by the ankle. And then lets go with the pop of a suction cup. Right idea. Wrong sex. And besides among shipwrecks Iím just a birch bark canoe not an ark and this is not Atlantis or Mt. Ararat. This is the low spot. This is the drainage ditch of afterlives. This is the boiling pot that everything runs down into like the effluvium duff and detritus of the mindstream. This is the meditation of a Zen master who isnít appalled by anything and embraces all as it is with indiscriminate compassion. This is the scum and the froth and the fizz and festering of creation in the Vas Hermeticum of a biodegradable alchemist throwing flower seeds on the shit like tiny chips of a the philosopherís stone to turn the shit of base metal into the golden petals of the elecampane. Four amino acids open and one protein molecule blooms. This is the catacomb and bone box of an early Christian buried next to the Via Cloaca of Rome waiting to rise like an enamel-painted buttercup or nuns of the wild columbine meek among the towers of the common mullein the Algonquin used to use to line their moccasins in winter. This is the matrix of the dark mother fouling the waters of her womb with life. This is the cauldron. This is the crock pot that simmers the flesh off the bones of the deer and the fox and the rat together with an eye of bat and the briny legs of the frog and reeks like a corpse flower in the bridal bouquet of a wedding party of Elizabethan witches. This is the dismembered body of Kingu and Tiamat. This is the consecration of the desecration of the flesh made whole again like the wafer of the rising moon thatís waxing to full on my tongue again as if it hadnít learned by now what a pagan I am. This is the filth we were born from to serve the gods if youíre Sumerian enough to believe it. This is the one-finger salute of the staghorn sumac to the October wind that plucked it like a phoenix after showing up to blow its green wood into flames like a flight path for the fires of resurrection. This is the primordial id. Cannibal stew made into a soup for leftovers. And no one not invited to the table above or below the salt. No oneís fault. Not a moral issue. Just the way it is. Starmud and cell tissue. As above so below. Heronís nests in the crotches of dead trees. Mermaids that ran before the prow of the ship like dolphins and wooden figureheads parting the waves like the cleavage of their breasts now in slingshot bikinis high in the crowís nests among the masts of a sunken navy on the lookout for a northwest passage. But Iím not fooled. Iíd be a drunken sailor on this or any other ocean from here to the moon and beyond. On the great radiant sea of awareness on the third watch of the night Iíd drink stars from my skull until I slumped down in a coma of insight that showed me my way through here like a life boat through a northwest passage with an oceanic view of things even when itís scuttled in a swamp. Goblet cup or cranium Itís the heart you pour the wine of life into that determines whether itís a poison or a love potion. Death might be the medium and this swamp the rite of passage of a drunk through his delirium. But whether itís full or empty a loveletter or an s.o.s. life is still the message.

The Way Home, Westport, Ontario

A CANADIAN POET SINCE YOU ASKED A Canadian poet since you asked. Iím madder than the landscape. Glaciers have scarred me retreating north like my father. My heart has been shaped by neolithic chisels into a dolmen of Michelangeloís David with a silver bullet and a rock in his hand and the determination of a statue who refuses to be intimidated by a scarecrow. The end of an ice age. No leftovers. The platter scraped clean as the Canadian Shield. Savage runes carved in rock by rock. Older than the Rosetta Stone my silence is indecipherable. I mean marrow. I mean broken bones. I mean blood on the snow. The moon comes like a nurse to the wounded pines and applies a cool poultice of light to their limbs in a season of storms when the lake raves and the fish dive deeper into themselves and the bears huddle up under their layers of fat in caves theyíve turned into dreamwombs and I burn underground like the root-fire of a radical evangelist among survivalist cedars gathering under tents of snow to be born again in the blood of the Caribou. There are more heretics in the wilderness than there are saints. Whatever it takes to keep warm. There are nights when my spirit is so cold it congeals on my eyes like breath on a windowpane and Iíd say anything without amending an iota of it just to be burnt at the stake and thaw the chandeliers of frozen tears that hang over me like the sword of Damocles or the brittle radiance of the Pleiades where they pick glass apples from sapphire trees or the crystal castles of Arianrod in Corona Borealis where everything turns like a Sufi top but no one ever gets vertigo and the Celts pay back money they owe the dead after they die if you can imagine that. I make a significant Doppler Shift in my lifelines and heaven sees red. I am a Canadian poet and my wingspan is the sky over Saskatchewan. Iím the firemaster of the staghorn sumac when it rises like a phoenix in the fall and then Iím a bird in the chimney like a word stuck in my throat I canít recall but it had something to do with a wishbone and a harp. Iím not the nice guy everyone purports me to be. Iíve got the manners of a mountain and the emotional life of the sea and if I seem happy to meet people itís only because it sometimes gets as lonely here in the vastness of this snowblind no manís land as an icebreaker shattering imageless mirrors like cataracts in Frobisher Bay. Iím a warm house that opens its door to strangers on a cold night. I bond like fire and shadows to anyone against the impersonal inclemency of the weather. That said no man is Baffin Island but there are foreign submarines breeding like pods of killer whales all around me. Explorers have been planting flags here for years like artificial flowers in real gardens but they keep getting lost in the holocaust of maples gliding through no manís land behind a barrage of pine-cone artillery shells to overrun the hill like October assaulting Vimy Ridge. What the earth teaches us here like a female warrior shaman is the hard love of an exacting mother that no one owns and canít be possessed by another because sheís got thresholds like timberlines even a wolf canít cross and a memory like the Arctic if sheís taken for granted or real estate. I am a Canadian poet. White gold from English ore and uranium from the French. The raven trickster of native lore. The sacred clown. The dangerous taboo that lives too deep in the woods for anyone to break. I am a Canadian poet. I marry knives like superstitions that are meant to protect me from myself but the moon keeps baiting my lovelife with sexual acts to trap and trade me in like the skin of a mink for a double-bladed ax. I am a Canadian poet with multiple identities. A multilingual polyphrenic patriot. A chameleon with a passport thatís turning green. because itís spring here and the lilaceous asphodels are up but the seasons change like manic moodrings and by the fall Iíll be burning my i.d. in a protest rally of disaffected leaves just to balance things between Cain and Able heaven and earth murder and sacrifice in a fair-minded farmboy kind of way where everyone gets their ten minute say before God and then sits down like the House of Commons to break meat and wheat salt and bread loaves and fishs or barbecued burgers and hotdogs with the crowds. I am a Canadian poet. I was cooked like a kid in its motherís milk. I grew up on the scraps they threw under the table. Iíve learned to sing like a streetcorner guitar case that belts it out like an open coffin at the Last Supper where all they ever eat is flesh and blood and Iím a desert on a diet thatís not into moral food. If religion wanted to do my generation any good it should go confess its accusation to a world itís misunderstood like a child it wonít admit is the issue of its own miscegenation. I am a Canadian poet from a big country with with an aquiline overview of human nature red in tooth and claw and like you I am a citizen of the same abomination. I arm myself to go to peace. I talk myself to death instead of committing suicide. When nobody wants to know you what have you got to hide? Thereís no risk in being open. And yesterday always tells me the truth about why it lied to my youth about why the windows were weeping for the future like a skull with glacial lakes for eyes and a place on the totem they keep for the dead where I just canít seem to get ahead of my own prophecies. Hereís one. Stick a fork in it. Iím as done as a barbecue in hell and that doesnít mean I just donít feel well it means I can feel the flesh slipping from my bones like snow off a roof in a spring warm-up and all Iíve got to live on is recalled food for thought. Iím grateful for everything but sometimes itís hard to know what to be grateful for when everything tastes like a foodbank or Canadian culture with the government for a muse. For nearly fifty years Iíve burned like a furnace with the mouth of a fountain firewalking across the waterstars. Thereís no axle on the wheel of birth and death but for years Iíve been spinning it in the mud thinking it might go somewhere if I drive hard enough but all Iíve done is carded and spun whole cloth like Ghandi from cottonmouths and fer de lance meant to regulate the baby boom in slaves like a cottage industry. Now the skin I wore like Yeatsí coat of old mythologies in the foolsí eyes to cover my enterprising nakedness fits like the shroud of Turin in a snakepit of sewing machines that keep testing my bloodstream for plutonium. Itís hard to learn to walk on water when itís high tide without any waves and youíre always falling through the ice too far from shore to risk a rescue. When Iím cold enough to take my own advice. I am a Canadian poet. Second to none. Because more than any nation could encompass Iím first and foremost human. And though itís my brain itís not my mind anymore than the wind is and what it thinks is not my personal property to put my name on and say I own this. Sooner say you own the leaves in fall you can at least take a rake to and gather up and dispose of like junkmail that came to the wrong address than say this thought is mine and that thought is yours. You make a fist of an open hand. You begin to live behind closed doors to keep yours in and theirs out. You concoct wars that get out of hand to change their childrenís minds. Wasnít King Canute and Britain when she put to sea enough to convince anybody that if anyone did rule the waves nobody told the waves? Itís the same with your mind. How are your wavelengths any different than those of the sea? Itís like a star saying I own that light. And Iím the one who decides whom it falls upon. I am a Canadian poet. The light is free as it always has been to create anything it wants to. And though theyíre my eyes who can say the seeing belongs to them alone? You get the pointless point of cowboy Zen? Iím not a fountain pen with blue blood for ink. I say what I think without a blotter to wipe my mouth clean of what Iíve said like snow melting on the red oak in the woodshed because it canít take the heat and wants to get out of the fridge. I am a Canadian poet. Wilderness flowers. Fireweed after every conflagration and columbine in the ashes that didnít know what else to grow. And I suppose I should say something corny about wheat and beavers and maple leaves and Mounties and all that but you already know and besides at the bottom of all these totem poles and reformed trees that went to A.A. for drinking too much Iím a lot more complicated than that. Iím more dangerous than any hardware store youíve ever met before. And one thing about being born into a country with enormous natural resources like a mouse in a well-stocked pantry you can afford to be seen being kind and considerate to the poor or as I do scream murder when I hear them being killed on the news. Orpheus picks up his guitar in the corner and begins to sing the blues. See what I mean? Itís obscene to be so decent about suffering you raise both hands to stop it. Every quarter given that was asked. No surrender. In this country that makes me an iconoclast. Stand fast in the name of any deception you disown and youíre an outlaw bad to the bone. In literature class they teach you to kiss ass anapestically at wine and cheese soirees making small talk awkwardly across language barriers with cultural attaches after the reading after the hour you spent listening to cement lament some lost cornerstone that brought the house down like the government when she just couldnít shovel or churn it out anymore and pretend it was butter and good luck woman made for the door. He wants to call her a whore. But heís too nice for that. So he talks about her poetry as if it were as flat-chested as she believed she was playing to her worst fear like paint ball in suggestive overtones of camouflage. A whole hour waiting for one good line that isnít about making jam or bleeding maples for their syrup and how to flip a pancake like a lyric over an open fire on the shore of Canoe Lake where Tom Tomson drowned standing up in his birchbark to take a piss or being hit on the head with a poker out of jealousy and somebody swapped his body with an Inuit so its hard to intuit whose ghost was left to give the creative seance of poets on tour a sponsor to write about. I write from the inside out not the outside in. I put the pauper before the prince because I donít like dressing up for royalty and my girlfriend couldnít afford a hat to meet the queen. She was a hell of a human being but she had rude hair that wasnít familiar with protocol. She could paint like Frieda Rivera or Georgia OíKeefe but she was raised on welfare in Westmount and didnít think she needed a hat to go anywhere except when it rained and even then she didnít mind getting wet. Things are so bittersweet here youíd think everyone kept killer bees and a hive was as good as a muse to poets as dormant as smoke. They all burn cedar boughs in a bucket they swing like pioneer incense to chase the bats out of the attic across the road to their neighbourís house who answers them in kind with odes. But Iím not a turtle crossing. I am a Canadian poet with low enough self-esteem like the sea at the foot of the mountains to compel me to abuse myself by pursuing an earthly excellence thatís always a threshold beyond my material means to achieve but works wonders for the spirit you wouldnít believe. I can conceive gold easy enough when I write like the Yukon but I live like ore at the bottom of an abandoned mine that was staked out by alchemists years ago like base metal trying to strike it rich without having to be philosophical about it. I am a Canadian poet. Thatís not a fact. Thatís an interpretation. And Iím turning it like a jewel in the light to see if that means Iím the right man for the wrong nation. Nature or nurture. Dynamic equilibrium or the membranal equivalence of hyperspace blowing bubbles that pop like worlds? The same eye by which I see my country is the same eye by which it sees me? I can live with the ambivalence if need be but what I canít stand is the artificiality of the collective unconscious when it starts adding flags and logos to its archetypes. Jung would weep himself to sleep every night like a recurring nightmare for years or turn into an advertising executive just to see how polluted things can get when you leave the farm to an idiot. You end up threshing waterlilies and the engineers canít help competing with beavers to see who can build the most dams. I am a Canadian poet. I think like Montreal but I feel just like Toronto with Vancouver for a spiritual life and Ottawa for a conscience. But Iím most at home in the backwoods with flowering weeds and islands of trees the farmers circumnavigate with ploughs with little things that go on in the grass as if everything that went on in the rest of the universe were of absolutely no concern to them. One-eyed Zen. Ants on the chicory. The fox is in its den. I can see more space in a grain of sand than a dragonflyís got places to plant pot on crown land. And I like the way time stops when nobodyís watching and thereís something ageless about aging I hadnít noticed before that makes me feel Iíve been here forever and none of my questions about what human beings are doing walking around on the earth really mattered anymore now that Iíve found a place for my homelessness in Canadian folklore. I used to feel trivial surrounded by so much that was majestic. Sunsets out over the Pacific that put poppies to shame and the savage pyramids of the pharoanic Rockies too young to have an afterlife worth the time and effort that has to go into it. And besides who needs hieroglyphs when youíve got the Burgess Shale? I used to feel small scurrying around in the shadows of the tall imperium next door under the feet of a brontosaur waiting for a meteor like my only hope to get this dinosaur off my back. I donít have the genes to dominate a species and evolution when you get right down to it isnít much of an achievement when all it amounts to is trying to make up for what you lack. In art that means thereís lots of grants for ingenuity but none for genius. The first painting goes up on the fridge. The second jumps from a bridge just to show them how creative it is. But that was years ago when the only things I didnít doubt were trees. I learned to weather things like a whistling cherub in the corner of a map that tells you which way the wind is blowing by the gps of its cheeks. I tasted the weather for myself and found out all that rant they taught me in highschool about the pathetic fallacy not being true was just scienceís way of looking at snow like a labcoat. I am a Canadian poet. It really does rain when I do.

* All works Copyright (c) 2012 by Patrick White.


Former poet laureate of Ottawa. Eight books of poetry: Poems (Soft Press), God in the Rafters,(Borealis), Stations 
(Commonerís Books), Homage to Victor Jara, (Steel Rail Press), Seventeen Odes,  (Fiddlehead Books), Orpheus on Highbeam, 
(Anthos Books), Habitable Planets, New and Selected Poems, (Cormorant Books), and The Benjamin Chee Chee Elegies, 
(General Store Publishing). His work has been translated into five languages and appears in hundreds of national and 
international periodicals and anthologies, including the likes of Poetry (Chicago), Dalhousie Review, Texas Quarterly, 
the Fiddlehead, and Georgia Review, etc. Winner of the Archibald Lampman Award, Canadian Literature Award, 
Benny Nicholas Award for Creative Writing, he was also a runner-up for the Milton Acorn Peopleís Poet Award. Founding 
editor and publisher of Anthos, a Journal of the Arts, Anthos Books, and producer-host of Radio Anthos, a popular literary 
radio show. George Woodcock wrote of his Selected Poems in the Ottawa Citizen: He promises to be one our best and best 
respected poets. Sharon Drache, in the Kingston Whig Standard: He might well win the Nobel Prize one day in his own 
inimitable way. And Orbis, (London, England), has said of his work: His images are strong, lyrical, moving. He dares and 

All selections are copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is

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