Scared boy, he even fled a cloud reminding him of what might happen when his father returned from sea, wasted, to find him perhaps again locked out in the cold, waiting for other drinkers to come home (his mother, her lover)--the catalysis of routine violence passing close like a storm cloud insisting rain; until the rain did fall and the father left, returning though once with a clarinet . . . And when the cloud came back in the sound of a memory the boy had grown, had learned to let it swell into the note he now holds in me as a laser reads his tone mastered for fidelity-- sweet prismatic splinter and swing, a double-timing scrape aiming for my ear alone in a rented chamber. Nowhere, and I'm with him, fully in tune as if he stood hot before me, his life seeming no more dear to him than the sax he hawked for any kind of syrup he hoped might creep into his heart like fucked-up love that felt like love in the belly meadow warmth of his measured joy. Hungry Art, Art of wind, of lips upon the reed; Art of blue, foolish Art, would you be so nice to come home to?-- Bragging his genius for a time turned rancid in San Quentin, swaggering with a ripped-off thuggery honor and sick with the terror of not seeming criminal . . . White man junky thief whose skin glowed narco-green with the sound of Keats amped through Pound I repeat his name jacked-in to the straight blowing of a life clarifying like butter over flame: what's home, where's harm; how to fix; how praise-- Lover, come back to me. Why are we afraid?
When I sing to you I am alone these days
and can't believe it, as if the stars
--while gazing up at them--just shut off.
I search out the one light, brightest light
in the night sky, but find
I cannot find it without weaker lights to guide me
like red tail-lights on a car up ahead
after midnight when I'm sleepy, that illustrate
how the highway curves,
curving to a hook, and maybe save my life
and it means nothing to me
because nothing has happened, not the faintest
glint of drama.
(Raining gently, the tarmac turns slick, moistened
to life with renewed residues;
I can sense it with my hands on the wheel,
the drops--not too heavy--
drumming off-time rhythms on the metal roof,
the metal surface like a skin tense and sweating
and the road empty now, there are so many
exits . . .)
Where is my family, both hearth and constellated trail of flicker
I have always followed to your word?
There, but mastered by fear of dark compulsions
and loathing atrocities committed in your name,
they hit the dimmer switch and extinguish themselves
whenever I sing your praises. . .
Who can blame them?
(I can't help but blame them.)
And anyway they are far from me
(farthest when they come to visit)--
I should be self-reliant, in my armchair
like Emerson reading by a single lamp;
I should not need them, finding in you
myself, little firebug needing no outlet,
my soft light blinking as I oxidize my aimless flight
to love, to the good,
even my glowing chemistry unnecessary now
in the ultimate light of day.
But what good would that do me?
With you, in you, perhaps others do not matter,
but this isn't heaven, and I cannot make a circle
all on my own--
Photon, luciferin, meteor: as I burn myself
to pieces, I only pray
let my sparking tail remain a moment longer
than our physics might allow,
some indication, however brief, that there continues
(amen) a path to follow.