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I Did The Kind Of Good A Storm Does

I did the kind of good a storm does.
I may have broken some tree limbs
and downed some powerlines along the way
but I cleared the air of its festering
and from top to bottom
we got down to the roots of things
like lightning and rain
like real radicals
free-basing the ideological ions
addicted to their brains
like razorblades.
O ya
I remember now
we were going to save the world from itself.
I gave up trying
when I realized
that if we did that
there would be no one left
to save the world from us.
Trying to justify yourself in retrospect
is like trying to exonerate a big hairdo
you wore back in the early seventies.
It can't be done
except as a kind of dangerous chess
you play with yourself
and cheat.
It's fun to play
with the lethal intensities
and swaggering immensities of yesterday
as if all those great sublimities that moved us
like fixed stars
had come down to earth
like the ashs of fireflies
in a snakepit of thought
poured out of tiny urns
the size of a human heart.
When I've got nothing else to do
and the moon bores me late at night with its looking
I run my tongue along the edge of your words
like old knives
I've kept like a collection of my favourite smiles
to see if they still know how to draw blood
and what that might still mean to my heart.
Maybe I should have fallen on them like swords
as you wanted me to
instead of reading them
like a delinquent boy
in front of a no trespassing sign.
Back in those days
my heart was a rock
and my mind
was a broken windowpane.
But I'm not one of those people
who long for the past
as if you could step into the same river twice.
Everyone forgets
memory
Mnemosyne
is the mother of the muses.
Everyday the past
comes up with a new song
that surpasses the last like the future.
The ghost of tomorrow returns to its grave at dawn.
The past is just as spontaneously inspired
as the present
and makes it up as it goes along
thinking this is what it must be like
to live on and on and on
with your cosmic elbows
leaning on earthly windowsills
wondering what it might be like to die
and come back
reincarnated as a horizon
or a threshold.
But I don't go back to the past
for the view
like a tourist passing through
his old neighbourhood
to see where he was born and died.
I don't want a brass plague
for a birth certificate
and a postcard
from the edge of nowhere
for a passport
that lies about my record
for telling
what I mistake for the truth
to anyone who'll listen.
I don't want to fake my way into reality
the way they do in Zen.
I don't want to begin again
like tomorrow's has-been.
I'm not trying to convert the faithless
to my disbelief
like a tree preaching to a leaf
like a cross to a crucifixion.
I'm not trying to pump my latest work of fiction
up into a universally inflatable religion
you can take on camping trips to the holy land.
I'm not sure
I'm even really trying to understand
the way things were way back then
when we didn't need to.
Just something to do
when I'm watching the moon
float downstream
like the prophetic skull of Orpheus
all the way from Thrace to Mytilene in Lesbos.
If I look at it long enough
even through a dirty window
I can see a footloose waterlily
preening its feathers
like the swan of a loveletter
late in the autumn
to someone
who will pick it up out of the water
and wonder who it's from
for the rest of their life
like I do
remembering you
as you are to me
now that all these lunar calendars
have shed their blossoms and leaves
and stand naked as the tree of knowledge
adding zeros to everything
like tree-rings in the heartwood
of my personal history.
I've never made a cliche
out of any muse of mine
whether she took me to bed or not.
If she infused me with inspiration
I didn't abuse her
with a parting shot
like the afterthought
of an ignoble mind
or a paper phoenix
that couldn't take the heat
when things got sweet and hot.
I come back
like an old wind to a funeral pyre
that blazed its way up to the stars
to see if anything
was left unburnt or unanswered
in the ashes of the scorched earth.
I rock the cradle awhile
like a manger in hell
that once gave birth
to a childless messiah.
I transcend my own innocence
and fall toward paradise
without asking to be forgiven.
Love hangs stars above us all
that take the fall
for the way our scars
demonize our open wounds for living.
I drink from my skull
to your memory
and then I drink to you
whoever you are now.
In a desert on the moon
in a sea of shadows
I drink in the darkness alone
like an open window
to let the birds out
as if they were the only words
I had left to say
about the passing years
to hide my crazy tears
like an atheist on a grailquest
who knows that life
is a mirage
of burning muse water
that tastes like broken mirrors.

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