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The Stars Will Not Devise

The stars will not devise a way out of your life
that they haven’t already offered you
and the sprawl of green fountains
that hallows you now, the victorious trees,
will later dropp all their keys
like a nightwatchman too drunk to get in.
You must stand in the ashes if you want to study orchids,
you must fill your body up with clouds
and red-tailed hawks, and autumn leaves
torn from the pages of the history of fire
if you want to follow what the wind is saying
back to its mouth in the sun.
Everything else is the source of everything else
and the rain knows more about circles and arrows
than all the bows and compasses
of the sad magician who’s stripped his purities of flesh.
Stay close to the earth if you want
to look deeply into the eyes of the stars
and see the golden maggot that hangs from its lifeline
like a message in a tear delivered with wings.
Your blood, no matter how you say it,
is a prelude of wild roses beside a murdered brook,
and there are legends of light on your skin
that are ancient instructions
on how to bring it back to life again. Denude yourself
of those feathers and leaves and mirrors
you dress the morning up in
to go and sit on the corner like an open guitar-case
to deprive the music of the night before.
There are women everywhere, half-awake,
who grope the sheets for you like spare change
in an empty bed, and blue doors where you live
waiting for you to fill the tiny eyes of their spy-holes
with ruined moons willing to sacrifice themselves
for a few moments more.
If you give your word to me
you won’t desecrate their graves with shallow questions,
I’ll show you where the harps
of the enlightened peacocks were buried with honours
when they saw through the veils of the eclipse
that opened their eyes to a dawn
they hadn’t expected. Get up off your knees
in that house of chains and crippled ladders you worship in;
there’s nothing holy about the crutches you contrive
in a shipyard of able bones, and your voyages
are already blessed by the sea that pounds in your chest
to add you to her islands. Can’t you feel
the soft adagios of her secret distances
swaying the keyboard of your crossed horizons like waves?
And why do you quote the fool of your own silence
to contradict the wisdom of the night
that everywhere answers you
with the shadows of bells and owls
you can read between the lines of the stars;
isn’t it clear that all that vastness is a rock in a well
she’s singing to you, a fragrance of time
that wants to voice the solitude
of her lachrymose labyrinths to someone
who knows how to listen
in the nocturnal flowers of her native tongue?
Write, yes, write; by all means
show us the beauty of your soul
in its passage across the moon
whether coming or going, array your lonely jewels
on the carpet of the sky before us
like the fruits and tears and eyes
that have congealed from your sorrows,
and those dark drops of amber and tar
that preserve all your flights and fears intact
like supple summers jailed in a locket; let’s
hold them up, too, to the light and wonder
that you could endure such fables of pain;
and not just your bleeding rubies, not just
your emeritus emeralds and the radiant sapphires
that fell from the crown
that graced the domain of your regal demeanour
with a northern constellation,
but the painted fish and electric eels,
and the sharks and the crabs and the jelly fish
that live in the dead cities of your all night corals
like cheap actors in ravenous wardrobes of blood
playing for real; let’s see them as well,
and all the rank gardens that grow in the dirt
beneath the crescents of your untrimmed nails
slumming like landlords in places you wouldn’t live;
let’s see all of these and more lifting the veils
on the ferrous brides of your unimpeachable sincerity.
But when all the vows have been taken and forsaken
and your dead have been lavishly mourned
in brass, granite, marble, and staples,
let’s see if you know how to drink with the shadows
you go out every sunset
with your tongue as thick as a broom
to sweep from the stairs? After the cool, blue, jazz clefs
warming up like fireflies and fiddleheads
to the implications of emptiness improvising
on the black trumpets of the scorched daylilies,
let’s hear from some passing storm now and again
that you’ve learned how to die enough
that the pulse of a profounder heartbeat
that marks time with the breathing of nightfall
is all that keeps you alive.

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