Flowers Are The Clocks Of The Light

Flowers are the clocks of the light.
Spring grey. Clouds. Half smoke, half crocus.
The rivulets are carrying last November's leaves away
like long lines of ants bearing the gnostic gospels
of the snow thawing into a spiritual life of water
back to the shrine of their colony
to be chewed over by the divines
masticating the mystery into something
like an edible orthodoxy of mystic impiety.

My heart is a bruised apple with purple blood today.
Neither passionate, nor aloof, clinging
nor unwilling to let go if that's what I must do.
One foot on shore. One in a lifeboat.
O what funny bridges we make as if
we were trying to balance the axis
of heaven and earth upon our nose
like the calves of giraffes learning to walk on stilts.
But there you go. What are you going to do?
That's the way it seems.
You've got to look up and stick your neck out
if you want to graze on the stars.
Same way with dreams. You've got to
risk waking up if you don't want to lose them.

I've wandered off from the carnage
of my doomed holy war of one with my heart
into a peaceful valley where I can sit
on a glacial skull of prophetic rock
and sheathe my sword in the wound I drew it from
like fire from the ore of a crippled dragon
that walked with a limp out of the war
weary of winning these honourable surrenders
like Jacob wrestling with the angel in the way.

Soft here. Easy on the eyes. A gentle touch.
The air on the verge of tears and the trees
about to see who's a skeleton and who's a survivor.
Who made it through the winter, and who
dreamed they died in their sleep and did,
and who, the ghost amputee of the limbs they lost.
I have a mindful heart and a warrior's compassion
for lost lovers, friends, suicides, martyrs, heretics,
neglected gods, defrocked saints, those
who fell half crazy on the broken panes
of their own clarity, committing hara kiri
on the splintered plinths of their own love-crossed stars.
One-eyed artists riding a pair of red bicycle glasses
in a high-wire act without safety nets
like a dropp of dew on a spider's thread
trying to lay the first cable of a suspension bridge
they hope will follow them across the impassable abyss,
offering themselves up like uncertain sacrifices to oblivion.
Big-hearted poets who scattered their works
like the apple bloom of hidden orchards
as their eyes waxed wide-eyed
as a harvest moon into late October
and wound up being gouged by slumlords
in squalid apartment rooms
with an atlas of cracks in the windows,
dunking the hard crust of the bitter life
they were given back in return
for breaking the bread of their souls with strangers
even as they bled to death like a goldrush
and all that was eventually left were the nuggets
of the hearts of coal they dunk in their tears
to make them more palatable
when the Hesperides burn out
the last of their radiant diamonds
and all that's left of their sidereal lyric
is written in the braille of black holes
that comes up snake-eyes on the dice
they've carved from their starless skulls.
And painters whose visions fell from the sky
like rain on the eyelids of dirty windows,
like stars who were washed out
like nocturnal watercolours they painted in tears
like hot cinders from the unradiant world's
way of seeing things with its eyes closed.
Those whose flame burned
like the hydrogen blue of a wild iris
and then disappeared into the perfected heat
of their spiritual immolations, and those,
who scattered their ashes like morning doves on the wind
as if they were breaking their bodies
like loaves and fishes among the flowers
thronging up the hillside like the jester-caps
of the wine-stained trillium
getting drunk with nuns in white.

Just want to let my starmud settle in a puddle.
Look at a few clouds for awhile, the crowns of the trees,
notice the deepening red of the upper branches of the birch
reaching out like thermometers for the sun
and how they look so much like ground willows
raised up high on a marble obelisks and altars
like a blood offering to the sky.
I'm at rest for a moment like the nadir of a bell
in its arc of sadness and bliss, life and death,
one breath and the next, neither heads nor tails
of the copper penny of the moon on the horizon.
And from here I can see the Elysian Fields of the Blessed
littered with the corpses and bones
of my companions and fellow aspirants
the spirit knows as its own.
And I mourn the loss of so many heroic children,
so many glorious losers, determined clowns,
all the lost pages of the books of crazy wisdom
that died like the rainbow bodies
of sages and gardens in their own arms
like the new moon in the embrace of the old.

These are my war dead. These
are the crosses and poppies of blood I kneel before.
These are the ones for whom my tears,
my sorrow, my blessing, my heart is shaped
like a dropp of dew at the tip of a blade of stargrass,
ready to fall at the slightest quaking of an insight
into the intimate beauty and cosmic cost of their sacrifice
not for what they believed, but in what
they tried to make come true without knowing
what it was until it appeared before them
like a child with a piece of bread in her hand,
pointing with the other to the birthstar she comes from.

These were wishing wells of clean water in a dry land.
These were people whose skulls were lunar grails
they offered up to the ailing kingdom
and said, here, drink until I'm empty.
These were people of plenty who walked
in rags and scars, poverty, exile and despair
only to be crucified at the stake like scarecrows
in the starfields of their expansive hearts
come to harvest in the hand of Virgo
like the autumnal equinox of a generous soul.

Sitting pensively here before the gates
of the realms they've entered, it's for these,
I wrap my blood like a robe of silence,
like the gentle mantle of this approaching spring
over their shoulders to keep their memory
alive, warm, hauntingly near and eternally human.
These, for whom my heart grows mute
as this long loveletter I've been writing all my life
knowing by the time it finishes me
all those I would have sent it to will be gone,
gone, gone, gone, altogether gone beyond.
But like any war memorial without a heart of stone,
I am a happy and a sad thing simultaneously
to celebrate the indefensibly human divinity
of these who sprang up like poppies in the grass
and spread their spirit like wildfire
in a rage of renewal that proclaimed
the spiritual innocence of our births and deaths,
evangels standing at the sacred forks of rivers
with nothing to say about salvation in passing
but keep on flowing your own way
flawlessly to the sea that receives and seats
everyone below the salt in the lowest place of all
before it raises them up again to fall
like snow on the blue hills
of a deciduously spiritual mindscape.
These who didn't labour in iron chains
but beaded the light and the water into
a necklace of eyes on the loom of a spiderweb.
As if a jeweller had shown us how
to make dreamcatchers out of our tears.

No. Stone will not do to mark the passing
and return of the water birds to the zeniths and nadirs
of these northern lakes I'm peacefully marooned among
like the shattered pieces of two way mirrors
that put an abrupt end to the conscious interrogation
of their own shadows, reflections, echoes and ghosts
like a spiritual form of espionage
as enlightenment slowly dawned upon them like a firefly
that revealed they already had the answers
to their deepest questions
even before they knew what to ask.
Even before it's wholly dark out, the nightwatchman
is lighting up the sky with stars.

Yes. It must be nothing less than life itself
that honours these whose spirits leaped up playfully
like a gust of stars to blow on the flames.
Their names must be written on the wind
with the occasional ink blot of a crow to keep things
spontaneously unavoidable, as fallibly unpredictable
as they lived their lives on the wing
feathered by the fires of life.

So I live my lives, I die my deaths,
I suffer my wounds and my joys,
my eurekas, hallelujahs, my wonders
my masha Allahs, my oi veys, my inspirations,
the barnyard airfields of my mediocrity
with the wingspan of a kite afraid of heights
hanging on for dear life to something grounded
like an ostrich with its head stuck in the stars.
I rise from the ashes in the urns of my burnt-out genius
like a phoenix with the endless afterlives
of a recurring comet wondering
what it's the sign of this time, what message
does it carry like a loveletter or a warning
not meant to take itself too seriously, and to whom
is it addressed if not as a tribute to these
who have adorned and deepened the darkness
and intensified the light by colouring outside the lines
of the taboos of their homeless madness
standing on the thresholds of their beings in transit
like the unacknowledged orphans of what they're becoming?

I observe the branches of the birch,
I taste the ancient breeding of the light
in the plush syrups of the bleeding maples.
I listen for the night bird in the green room
getting ready to sing its heart out
at its debut appearance in the spotlight of the moon.
I watch the sapling aspens shaking nervously
as they recite their new leaves to the wind
at their very first poetry reading
and in a startled rush of heron's wings
I can hear the one-handed applause of the ghosts
of the more seasoned trees of an old growth forest
that once stood here in the midst of life
as lyrical once, as vulnerable once, as these.

I can see death's door ajar ahead of me.
I come to it out of the dark
like a befuddled bat to a porchlight.
How many lives before have I sat here
transcendentally defeated by the better part of me
and watched the stars slowly emerge like eyes
out of the peacock green silk of the sky
like the ghosts of ancient mulberry blossoms
unfolding their poems like the sails of paper boats,
messenger butterflies with secret love notes
written like starmaps to their otherworldliness
in the indecipherable mother-tongue of all holy books.

Antares, Arcturus, Aldebaran, Betelgeuse,
among all these big ripe red stars,
I'm characteristically human enough
to have realized a long time ago,
even before the volcanoes did,
compared to their radiant enormities,
my life's just another blood stain
among many on the darkness
that can't explain themselves
or account for where they've been,
what they've seen, or counter-intuitively why.
Or who spilled the wine on the sun.

And I'm more than well aware
of the concentrated intensity
of the needle-eyed focus
I've been trying to thread my life through
like this night creek flowing before me
like an oilspill on the moon,
like a sacred syllable smuggled
through the lapis lazuli bull-gates
and up the emergency backstairs
of the polyglot towers of PsychoBabylon
where the faithful are called to prayer in tongues.
In the beginning was the Word.
And it was a nightbird singing in the dark.
It was an image of everything that can't be said,
Imagination trying to render the likeness
of an imageless space, the features of a face
that lets you see the stars in her eyes
as the mutable signs of her ineffability
shining through the dark matter of a veil,
even as you're mixing
complementary colours on your palette
like a stained-glass soul to give your life
to what you cannot see. Even in
this morgue of dead gods, this eyeless reality
arrayed in all its creative potential before us,
the dark abundance of the plenum-void,
or however you want to picture or not,
what else could it be, given we're all born
out of our own image of love
with the playful hearts and minds of artists
with the aesthetic tastes
and spiritual genius of children
transfixed by starfish in the morning
well within reach of their shining.
All artists are lunar orphans
that have been left on the stairs
of the last shrine of idolatry
before reality leaves them speechless and deaf.

And how many times have I come here
just to watch my mind painting
in the light and time
of this mystically specific life
my thoughts, emotions, intuitions,
my clarities, the occultations of my fireflies
trying to get a fire started
out of the dry kindling of lightning
I've piled up like a pyre
for my imminent sky burial
like waterbirds lifting off the lake
in a shower of eyes and insights scattered
like seeds and broken rosaries from their wings
to turn into all other things like spring
returning to its myth of origins.
Or a singer alone on the road, homesick
for the silence he broke into with his song
like the pebble of the moon
thrown into the quiescent pond of the world.
Like the call of Canada geese high overhead at night
returning empty from the land of the dead
having delivered their charges successfully
without looking back retroactively upon the past
to see if they were still being followed or not.

But then, again, who isn't walking
in the footsteps of ghosts who went on ahead of them
on some forsaken shore somewhere?
And I've been mistaken often enough to admit it,
I've sat here on my stony throne sometimes
in this abdicated kingdom,
in the middle of this boneyard
of courtly fossils in the darkness
of the La Brea Tarpit in a black out of stars
at the end of my own tunnel vision
when I looked at things in a dark mood
through the third eye of my orbiting telescope
and all I could see was endless space
with a widow's ashes smeared on its face,
not the chromatically abberated rainbows of rosier lenses
with more of a two-eyed outlook on things
that swim into their ken like cults
of shepherd moons that outnumber
the schools of fish than I've ever seen on Neptune.

Just the salt flats of a future that's not much good
at growing flowers and stars,
but has a knack for keeping things from going bad.
And I whispered suggestively into my left ear
that's not a reason green enough to go on living.
There's no food for thought in the ashes
of the Alexandrian Library of the dead.
There's no harvest, there's no end of the world
stored like grain in the empty urns
and back amphorae of the new moon
bobbing like cormorants on the mast
of a shipwreck Atlantean fathoms below the waterline.
And remembering a dead poet friend of mine,
thought old age is the year of the locusts,
though he didn't live it that way
well into his nineties and beyond.
And finding nothing up ahead to give it forward to
gave my future up to living it for people like him
as if it were no less theirs than mine,
only to realize as I progressed backwards in time
the return journey through the zodiac
I've made of the stations of my life
is so much more spiritually vital than the first
that wasn't quite as down to earth
as this one where solid things seem
like mere shadows of the picture-music
streaming like the Road of Ghosts through
a sad nightmare we're all glued to
like constellations of black dwarfs to flypaper
compared with these translucent masterpieces
inspired by the song of a hidden nightbird
empowered by the singular longing
of the candle it keeps lighting up and blowing out,
like the eternal flame of the synteretic spark
looking for enlightenment
with a white cane in the dark.

So. Yes. For me, for them, for people
it will be ten thousand lifetimes
before we embrace again at zenith
when the sun shines at midnight,
and the wide-eyed lunatics
follow the moon like a cult to the dark side
to see what she's been hiding from them
like a black pearl in her other hand.
So, yes, yes, even now that my tears fall
way more often than they ought
or I should even remotely like,
I give my assent to them all like spring rain
on the withered stars and rusty spearheads
of the brown New England asters.
I live it like a living memorial
to future generations yet to come
of what it was like to be human
in a makeshift Eden of desiccated tree limbs
where sacred water snakes
once sang in their green boughs like birds.
I live it for them like the spontaneous flightplan
of an heretical root fire
spreading like a phoenix
through the valley of death
in a frontal assault of fireflies
going off like fireworks in all directions at once
as if the easiest way
to storm the walls in the way of anywhere
and enter by the right gate, is to live
the way these did each in their own good time,
no matter the ferocity of the species-killing meteors
that were hurled against them like the Perseids.
Or the eviction notices they couldn't ignore
that were slipped like razorblades
across their thresholds of pain
to vacate the premises of their biospheres
by such and such a moment on a Mayan calendar.
And in spite of all that, in the face of the fate
that befell them like wild apples
in a windfall of last year's trees,
live it even now at this late date through me
like a legacy of surrealistically enlightened madness
that can always find something to celebrate
about walking around on the earth for their sake
cherishing my insignificance in an unworthy world
just to see in whatever I turn my eyes to
what a jewel of awareness that truly is.

I see the uprooted tree where lighting
decapitated the head of the Medusa.
I see the crocus in its cap
more like two hands folded in prayer
trying to keep warm over a small golden fire
than I do the pope of flowers.
I smell the fragrance of decay
in the damp, green moss of a funeral home
clinging to the cliches of its emotional condolences
like wigs on a skull waiting for a hair transplant
of red columbine with its blonde roots showing through
like the sun peeping through the eyelid of a crimson dusk.
I break off a blood-stained horn of sumac
and savour it like the taste
of a lemon-flavoured couch
I spit out of my mouth like high-protein lint
at the bottom of an empty pocket
that knows how to survive in the woods
without having to live for itself.

My hand caresses the water
like the wing of a loon on a moonlit lake
that isn't waiting for its return.
I pity a dead squirrel with eye-sockets
that have been gouged out like white meat
from the shells of black walnuts
and I can feel compassion whelming up
in the eyes of the dead who can see this through me
like a death mask I place on their faces
eyebrow to eyebrow with this vision of life
I'm living like a lifeboat in the aftermath of theirs.

Compass needles like infinite directions of prayer
among the abandoned pagodas of the pine-cones
waiting for fire to awake the sacred seed syllables
they've hidden under their eyelids
to raise them up to renew the world again
like evergreens in a towering wilderness,
like morning doves hidden under the eaves
of their crumbling temples,
or a nightbird such as me
with a star in its beak
like a lost earring of the moon
it's retrieved like a holy word
from the mindstream
its shining was once returned to
like a silver tribute to the river.

Venus and Jupiter going down in the west.
Saturn and Mars rising late in the east.
Love, power, pensive sorrow and war,
the lifelines of the least of us
flowing like dynasties of blood and tears
down the world mountain,
out of the melting hills
into the new seabeds of these
who were magnanimously blessed by the moon
realizing as they approach the deltas of the dead
they're finally at peace with themselves
like a poet sitting on the banks
of a woodland stream in the early spring
sleepwalking through everyone else's dreams
not as someone who made a vow over a deathbed,
not as mere words mouthed breathlessly
like ghosts dissipating into the chilly dead air,
but the heart of a nightbird returning
to the lyrics of an ancient repertoire
it can't help but remember and sing
like an overture of picture-music
as a prelude to the pagan advent
of the ancestral recurrence of a prophetic spring.

Stars like nocturnal waterlilies soon
crowding the banks of the Milky Way.
A moonrise of lustrous bubbles in Pisces
like fish swimming in the reflected treetops,
singing along with the boundless birds
that nest like a choir of homeless voices
returning like the dead in vital bliss to their roots
like a fire sign to the living
from these who were interred like ashes
in the urns of a phoenix
born with the wingspan
of an autumn sumac that went down in flames
like the names of the noblest of these
who were moved like Luna moths and Icarian comets
to risk flying too close to the sun,
to burn the flightfeathers of their imaginations
like love letters expiring in the heretical fires
on a pyre of broken wands and empty pens
of what inspired them the most to write
in the indelible inks of the human spirit
read like a secret message of invisible desires
over the a fire in a script of cursive smoke
like spring returning like words and birds
to the lyrical mouths of lonely, holy ghosts
trying to put an earthly picture-music
like flesh back on bones of the flutes
of their ineffable spiritual longing
to sing for the unattainable like the high note
of an inconceivably sustainable table of contents.

by Patrick White

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