A metamorphic ode and other poems

Like a turtle

If you are lonely
and your hands are sad
without a human love to hold –
cross the distant universe
of longing
and know
that what you mistake for absence in your palms
can fill with the presence of the light
of every shining constellation
should you only hold them
open, empty
to the heavens
in an offering
of acceptance of what is.

If you are lonely
and the beautiful idea
finally of finding
your twin soul
rising, blooms
for no-one,
learn from the ancient wives
who knew something
of sacrifice –
they clipped the Spring's idea-flowers
of all the seven colours
for medicine
and in so doing
encouraged the Beings' roots
to deeper grow
into the soil of what's real.

If you are lonely
learn to become a good husband
to Mother Earth –
tie leaves to your feet
and learn to walk again
above the one who loves you most
in gentleness
and respect
for all that's holy

If you are lonely
learn to become a good wife
of Father Sky –
tie flowers in your hair
and learn to breathe again
below the one who loves you most
in reverence
and respect
for all that's holy

If you are lonely
do not be kind
to the lie
you've told yourself –
write it on a piece of paper
fold it four times
and give it to the invisible
sacred fire
that's burning at your navel
since your birthing-day
around which
nigh four thousand
of your ancestors
in seven generations
are circled in attendance
at the grand drama of your story –
singing, dancing, desperately
and joyfully calling your attention,
loving, blessing you,
from where they now live
in the village
outside time.

If you are lonely
remember well that the old ones
in their wisdom did not just worship
the surface
of the sun
but also loved
the divine being
and beyond
that radiant skin –
and should someone worthy
of your worship –
someone capable
of wearing the proper names
of Goodness,
and Truth –
that calls in Love's triangulation
to generate the closest semblance
of a perfect union
that we may witness
on our momentary earth-walk –
those wise old ones
when somehow finding
such a precious treasure smiling
from a set of human eyes,
in their wisdom
did not just worship
the surface
of their beloved
but also loved
the divine being
and beyond
that radiant skin.

But in the meantime,
if you are lonely
tend your passion
with patience
like a valiant turtle
slowly stolid, racing
to a rendezvous
at the mating grounds.
~Abbotsford, March~

Hold open, heart –
hold, 'til brilliance shines its last,
lays its head of shaggy rays
on Grandpa's chest
and stories us –
he, the axle
of our many-armed embrace
in family flown to circle Grandma –
the adults all childrened again
saying, “Dad,
through the tears.

Hold open, heart –
hold well in hearing
what passed in quiet voices
when Grandma's sisters flocked
to the old golden-gilded Bible's
sordid reclamation –
glean compassion hid
in his farmer's sacred grumble –
and mark well a grandson's music
lending our eyes a good excuse
to close in listening.

I held open –
held well the Milky Way,
and heard the ancient Mother
the star-goose
who laid this world-egg
sing her fountain song
calling all together
into Being.

Grandpa also called us all
into being.
In his final gathering, I saw
ourselves holy as a circle
of givers giving gifts
of love in grief
even in how far we yet live
from the cross,
from the crossing,
from the River
that's always so closely flowing
it's rarely named aloud.

A very private man,
he held open
to live on in what he told me
of conflict
never feared, saying
in this Dutch-thick English,
“Don't let it crop up.”
It was a parable
of the truth
of anger –
of one of the many faces
of God.

In peasant wit,
his gold was brilliance –
like every Christmas morning
he would truck off to the barn
and return from his daily pilgrimage
covered in shit.
“It's the smell of money,”
he'd say.

stood by his deathbed, offering
a hearty attempt at,
“You're looking better dear.”
“I wish I could say the same
for you,”
he replied,
seeing her rouge cheeks
run with tears –
his spirit's characteristic twinkle
flashing like that
through lapses of morphine
slipping towards a peace
beyond my ken.

when the doctor told him
he didn't have much time left
he said,
“I've had a good life.”
He said to Mom,
all blue-gowned dignity,
is pretty good.”

Hold open, heart –
hold in brilliance memory
of his youngest son
who, in a desperate fit of Love,
at ten years old
scaled three steep stories
of pale hospital wall
to see my Mom, his oldest sister,
flown home to heal
after she was nearly given back
to the Water
by a black bear's teeth and claws
in the North.
destinies –
flocks of geese,
and the migration
from world to world.

As he lay dying,
within those same pale walls
scaled by his youngest son
a winged family had flown
to circle and nest
on the hospice roof
and by his window sat in ceremony
guarding the Souls
dwelling in their eggs,
waiting to be born -
and guarding also the Souls
dwelling in their beds,
waiting to be dead -
from Abbotsford's coyotes
or cosmic wreckage.

When I arrived,
he was too weak to speak
in any language
other than his smile.
I went to him
and laid my head
on his sun-drenched chest.
His lifting arms were trembling,
and frailed
with cancer – and yet
he lifted still
to hold me
one last time.
I heard
the ancient Mother star-goose
singing in his heart

Abbotsford's name
tells tale of a devout man
who crossed the River
to get to the other side.
When Grandpa crossed,
in March
the mother geese by his window
in the boundless circle of their nests
were calm
in the gentle rain
watching over
the dying in their beds
like goslings
under wing.
~Morning, Sky~

enter a soul-in-growth-in-grief,
enter, wan as a doe
and slow
to rouse with plays and pageants trouped
across her looking meadows orange and green
when they bat awake at Sol's husky call – how sweet the clearing
in the Wood of Being,
that clearing come a-rushing down,
down-down the mossy deer-trail
rushing to my walker's broken cadence,
to the opened centre of my Line's red water –
the clearing-rushing moved in resting
to where it's always been
atop my ancient bluffs of trust
and standing tall
to kiss the morning sky.

Oh heart.
Oh hearth.
Oh fire-place.
I Hunger for those antlers –
for what the rutting elk carries in his crown.
To roam the flaxen weave, go up and in
to where She pours a gathered Beauty down and out
into the chaliced vastness
of a slowly-flowing-reflecting-all.
A question on those flaming lips –
to see
to Be,
as Beauty is
this morning.
O Sol,
O Sol,

O Sol.

My learned-soul betrothed
to the Elders' deathly wisdom,
slow to rouse, doe-wan she wakes
and walks a-blessing with her feet all of Mother's toils,
Hungering for those wings,
the angel-song of flying,
sunny eyes of old ones smiling at new-born little lights,
village constellations
scattered dandelion-like
flurried through this wretched storm
of blades –
the sleep;
the root;
the bloom.

See Her play and pageant set?
The cedars listen in, and the ravens
ever keen to ken
what my human folk begin.
One by one we will arrive
to attend this hopeless feast.
And true or false, if there's no end, we'll say this at least
of Hunger –
it will eat you.
For Hunger is an Elder god whose only meal is Grief.
She'll throw her well-stocked cellar wide, release
the weary-guarded pantry
of her chest.
For by measure of the sacrifice
is how a love be blessed.
So sing the nigh-forgotten bards
that such is the table set –
to play a night in Beauty's arms
is grief's eternal rest.
~A dog's dream~

Little could the ancients know
there'd come a time
when even Cerebrus would die.
The old dog
who lays between my jaws
could not be goaded on
by duty, or reward,
or his own mongrel pups.
He ran wild, wild
for the deer, the hare, the coyote –
wild, for innocence
with three silver muzzle and creaking bones
on the floor, asleep –
for a dying dream.

After all, no one wants to run home alone
so we surround ourselves
with our regrets.
I regretted my loneliness
until my change box filled with coins,
flipped down winking from the sky
by my Mother's Father.
I can't make heads nor tails of it –
nor of the strange daily insistence
of the Sun
to see us again.

How many more deaths must I witness
before these orchards fill again with birds?
Once upon a time, a herd of wild horses
stood motionless
in my chest
as a coyote appeared in the dusk,
like how all my blood had gone unnoticed
until I saw through the eye
of another's wound.

Pain's like that.
It taught me
that my hopelessness
is the kind of idiot
with a straight spine
weak knees,
closed eyes,
and hands folded before the heart.
And, O funny Grace,
even for my oldest heroes,
their prayers were so often answered
with a cosmic laxative.

When I lived adrift in the city's oceans
I longed to be saved
by a cactus flowering
under sage.
“Messiah! Messiah!”
I must've mumbled
on the floor, asleep
twitching like an old junk-yard dog,
hands pinned by the spikes.
But some poems are such
that they flower anywhere,
even if they're not like the mighty fir
tall and strong and silent,
shouldering all our pale sins.
In portraits of great men,
it's still possible
to get another glimpse of Heaven.

And is Beauty not responsible
when a snow-clotted fir
snaps and wrecks the power lines,
and night suddenly arrives?
Surely Goodness is responsible
for the farmers in the fields
hard at work,
growing children.
And Truth should be responsible
for the Mother
who will always have enough in life
to satisfy Her suffering.

At the old cave's entrance,
the Sun is waiting.
After a long, dark walk
of delirium and desire,
a man on the edge can look back
and see doubt
or God
or his wife
in the saddened eyes of Orpheus
who sings, “When your life finally empties out
and when you fill with holes
an autumn breeze will breathe
into your hollow body –
you have become a bone
flute for the Divine.”

After all, magnetism is nothing more
than the way that stones
go teaching Love.
Can we take all the miracles –
like the apples and the nuts –
from Luther's hands
and give them to the young and hungry?
Or will we become the kinds of monsters
whose apologies
are eaten by our sorrow?

All I know
is that if they die,
give your dreams
a viking funeral
at sunset when the darkness rises
to meet the falling light
of mystery's
loyal, dying canine shape –
that fits
the mountain to the valley,
~Of all you hadn't loved~

She would dress you in love more often
not to keep out the chill, but to keep it in
to do its shiverous work on the golden boy
the treasure-hunter who buried himself alive in libraries
eyes drunk on soft candles and dark old words
who tracked death high on the maze of mountain trails
lungs full of moon-dust and sky-light
who stalked the sacred in forsaken pools of wooded creeks
his aloneness all oneness, mud-covered, erect and still and wild
he who lived just to lift the the dead-dried brittle body
of a purple dragonfly from the fresh elk-track in the scree
who lived to touch the long, frilled memento of a crow feather
pressed between the musky pages gone yellow with forget
who lived to drop entranced by the dancing water-weed
and undulate with thin green ecstasy in the clear deep circle’s flow

She would dress you in love more often
not to keep out the chill, but to keep it in
to temper the pulse of molten star-fire in your heart’s walls
trembling from the maddened hooves thundering in your veins
of the ready red horse of your battle-loving, pagan youth
of the down-white horse of your holy, priestly pride
and of the vast black horse who rides so slick and sure
through all the secrets of the night
and you, joint-lashed with corded rope
to each howl and froth and leer
who came with a name to claim your bridle and your saddle

She would dress you in love more often
not to keep out the chill, but to keep it in
to teach you ice and hunger, labour, death, and winter-snow
and cast you into a dire dream’s apprenticeship
to plunge the glowing metal of your will into your cold regrets
and pound out your temper’s hammer-song on its long heft
to heat and pound and douse and weep
and laugh and praise and shout and keep
a keen eye on the sharp edge of your sacrifice
a weary boy-shape at the bellows, his faithful gold
now dulled with ash
all to draw that shining sword from the hearth-stone of your grief

She would dress you in love more often
not to keep out the chill, but to keep it in
and wed your wandering smoke to solid soil
like how you placed a marker-stone
on the butt of your last cigarette
that you wept for as though the golden angel died
who alone stood between you and your oblivion
yes, it was just one smoke between you and that
the day before she looked you in the eyes
and you fell through joy to the hidden treasury
brimmed with the sorrow and the wrath
of all you hadn’t loved
~Wine glass~

Swirl and see in the glass you hold
dulled the sound
sighing of the castaways
the sour and shrivelled rotten ones
who no wine will make
but ferment and die to soil
the drum-beat of their final falling
sounds the dance of fat waddling bears
tongues lapping orbs of sugar in the rows
made sullen
by their delight
the birds raucous, wheeling high to dive
and in coloured wings adorn the arch of harvest

In the liquid crystal looking-glass
learn how abandoned grapes
half-shamed in secret yearn for us –
like how Grandmother’s nipples
on her dependable old bosom
are rich with longing
for the round-lipped thirst of babes
clothed for an interminable sentence
in the warm green-gold shade of leaves
like two soft old doves
her swaddled breasts of mourning
sadly smile to time – Ah,
those wet and naked memories
of Motherhood
sigh in the vineyard’s emptied lap

Beneath human feet, the perfect ones
were held in awe –
were dark and ripe and mad,
mad they were for the crush-pad
their purple juice
a lusty chorus
mouths adjoined in songs of praise
to the coming flush of warmth on winter nights –
mad they were to stain deep the hems of long cotton skirts
thrown to the cottage floor –
mad they were to be in the room
when the day’s rough work was done
and the night’s tender work began
a lusty chorus
mouths adjoined in praise

The ache of this ancient cycle
Hums half-awake in the picker’s weary soles
in a dark green glass his grief enclosed
he came undone at season’s end
at the thought that his reward is sacrifice
and that in the cellar’s deep
we may yet find Christ
he knew nothing of his purpose
beyond the briefest sacrament
of a little handful plucked in thanks
tasted gently in his mouth

And in that fluted chalice,
swallow the white spider
who lived in a cluster of dusky globes
knees drawn up around his chin,
eyes half-closed
as if he dreamed this whole strange bright world

The bread is on the table
but where now is the fine Old Man
dressed crisp and clean
thin as a vine
in a chair on the patio’s sun-soaked stone
vessel open - empty glass in hand
waiting for the bees
to make honey in his skull
~Loving Old Man Wind~

I’ve watched so many skies,
both dark and bright,
waiting for the impact.
Our tears
may leave no craters –
the Grail is empty still,

But the waters gather in our high depressions –
cold lakes
hidden in the mountains
soft and golden
as Coyote’s tawny breasts.
But on the desert’s belly
there’s a madness of blooming vineyards,
row on row of drunken acres –
Mother’s milk
is running dry.

It’s been a long time
since the rivers had their way.
Somehow the crickets are still singing.
The lie of the land is nigh.
I haven’t heard the crickets sing
like this in years.
I submit to their susurrus
that there may be no ovation
to raise the encore.

For the wind has run his course
and stumbled in the tall grass, weeping.
I rush to the Old Man weeping
with open arms,
crying, “Father! Father!
Why hast I forsaken thee?”
My arms close about his emptiness.

I see stones strewn across the grass.
I think it was the hand of love
who laid them there –
love who carved upon them epitaphs
and laid every body beneath their care.
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