river

Exposure

concrete mountainrange starshadow
the uncountable windowpanes
of the Sears Tower
dark outline, a figure in a dream
barely beheld, looming
we wished on a penny
thrown into the smoking, black river
we would have followed each other into,
laughing, shocked, overwhelmed

on a hotel bed you swam in the dark river
of your own mind, and I couldn't reach you -
face hidden, crying, pinned in place
by the pressure of all your past and future.
You said your face was not your own,
that your dreams were an alien landscape,
that you were afraid we would destroy each other.

I could photograph the Chicago skyline,
caramel sun, grey lake, jagged buildings
making us so small,
but not you - bigger, more real
than water and skyscrapers,
smiling in your sleep like a Buddhist statue.
I want to expose a film to your inner suns -
delicious alien light exploding in the skin, bone and eyes
of the destroying goddess dancing

Dark Night of the Soul

shrieking under folds of blackness,
hands clawing at the fabric of an unlit tent.
veins swelling in a vacuum, empty eye sockets wide.
the midnight of his memory full of monsters.
what we know as horror: the crossing of death into life,
the corpse walking with a blind smile,
the puppets jerking at their strings.
his mother's bloody grin, holding her own head by the hair,
and he ran out the door into the apocalypse they promised him:
the destiny of the destroyed atom, and a trillion ghosts
left to roam a nightmare planet in unfinished visions.

slicing himself for the feeling of bright sharpness, the reality.
sky on a frozen winter's day, the cloud diamondcutter.
the clarity when he first loved her, when he first recognised her
and became a river running to her. the deathly fear
when he lay awake in the living night-time, presences
crowding in his awareness, afraid to turn over.
when he took the elevator to the basement of his mind
and found the mutilated man, madness shining in his remaining eye.
the boy in the abandoned house who swallowed a living scorpion -
tongue numb with venom, his skin turned black and livid -
but inside he became a storm of daisies, summer light and wind.
someone who would love the demons and angels alike -
an alchemist, at war with the dead physics of his universe.

strange notes from the other side of a drugged mind:
"what the FUCK happens when we die?" and the feeling
of crossing into an unknown land. his only journey:
miles of roads lined with bodies and flowers, tiger paws,
daggers, vertigo footage from cameras falling off cliffs.
or, like faded newsreel, spotted and flickering, set to the sound
of muttering, whispering voices, old showtunes:
the body's last words,
spoken on a sunlit evening stretching into neverness.

Reasons Not To Go Home

The city is drunk
and then there's me -
sober, surreal, softly
walking beside the viscid river,
witnessing:
her spangles, white and orange;
her patience, the way she gathers
everything in strange arms
as gifts for the ocean.

I have gifts, in a plastic bag:
a chocolate egg left from Easter.
A copy of Time Magazine.
Stray words in my mind,
which I will write down
because that is how I can stay alive.

My mother gave me the egg.
She wastes nothing, except time.
She never learned how to live
with time, and its gathering
of all the pretty things
to the mercy of their endings.

Alone in my bedroom, I can hear
traffic, voices from the street,
wind sometimes, and if it rains
I will leave my window open
and imagine that I am on a journey
across many miles of water.

I truly have no reason to be here
except that I'm waiting
to feel my lover's hands on my face -
I'm waiting to lie with her
and whisper that I remember her
from a lighter, more gentle place.

One day all the stories of me
will end, like the lights on the river -
maybe borne like funeral candles into the sea,
or maybe disappeared into daylight,
but either way, tenderly, without harm,
no one there to see or be afraid.

For now, I can only be a prayer
in the living darkness,
heard by silent companions,
stilled into the air's memory
even as I am carried without end
from moment to moment. And she
is the prayer that I am, the plea
that I make, the desperate language
that no one ever taught me -
no one ever needed to.
 

Emperor Norton

Steamcurls from canal surface
writhing in ghost arms around his head -
praying on his knees in the road
before any blood was shed, by blades
of glass electric, silence
holding the striking hand

as before sunrise
a fragile paleness
for building cities
viscera of bulls

scattered into the black bay
sinking into unreflecting water -
trees cold to the touch
leaning and darkening as if for a burial -
deep in the wood,
lucid dreams of a titanic return
only the innocent left unburned

Incarnated once in a hotter land,
nailed into history: the traffic
backs up for miles behind the praying emperor
- haloed in emptiness -
gulls will not fly over the chaos maker
nor clouds form in his sky.

Divine fingers uncurl the roads, spines
shudder under mountain vertebrae,
lakes spill as their eyelid beds grind open
a madness
of hard-dreaming hobo bones
unbroken, the chill of centuries -

Our shadow caster -
sunburned, longing for sleepy rain -
churns blood through river-smooth stone
the ebon pool, angel hands
to encompass stars
flung a hundred leagues
ribcage lightning conductor, judgement
of the heart and nerves -
today only

the stillborn children hug on the riverbed
alone in the morning of the sea