The Phoenix Temple

Did the young monk guess
the fate to come
for this beautiful gilded bird,
the hordes who would trudge and sweat
through the stifling Kyoto heat
to stand and gawk and smile,
take their pictures and leave?
Because that’s what you do
in the presence of such awful beauty,
seen now
as a strange and precious animal is seen
behind the tawdry bars
of its menagerie
in an occidental zoo.
Perhaps the young monk knew
and decided to give the gorgeous firebird
one last rebirth in the licking flames.
How beautiful she was that night
as her gold became
heat, sparks, constellations
under the charred sky.
That vision,
the marauding tour guides
and their flocks
will never know.

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The Monk Shonen

And when the hermit felt sure
this was the place,
he had his temple built
deep behind these mountains of Ohara,

where the ancient pines spoke sometimes
their words on the wind,
or became a thousand silent ears
listening to the void’s toll.

From the madness of his age to here,
where the stillness gathered
in the hollow of the stones,
in the palms of the leaves,

where he could feel
the world’s hurt, more pure,
and the sharp pine needles
that pierced him when he took
the mountain trails deep into himself.

For his diet now was only
pain beyond his own.
He’d seen how the trees
could take the exhaled sighs of life
and give back crystalline breath,
so many million beginnings.

And so he fasted
and inhaled the dark nights of the living
and slowly withered to a
black and twisted branch.
Then, when hunger’s gnawing mouth

became a roar,
he bid his followers
lead him to the cave at Amidaji
and seal it,
where he succumbed at last
to all the lids that closed
with a whimper in the forest.

Perhaps one man,
as a fool who loved too wildly,
could never stem the ache of this life.
But here the tall pines
at least understood,

and washed over the husk of the hermit,
purifying pain into birdsong
and new breath
and thunder deep within
the waterfall’s bright music.

The Command

I am busy deciphering your
blood, a language of
wild rose gardens; of laughing
sunflowers, mad ones like

Van Gogh’s; of pink water
lilies, sprawling in their
luxurious vines, seducing the
sun’s obsessive gaze.

I find myself here, alone at your
edges, always at the edge; the
clamour of bird-songs scattering from
gunshots into your un-answering fields.

But the deep center of my body is
something outside of me calling to you,
more certain than me
striding into your pain.

Older than both of us, it
closes in like a thousand burning
nights, filling your cheeks with its
command: break him.

Undone

My lover’s vagina has undone her.
She had me fooled
that she’d mastered this impossible world,
and the motive of her body’s force,
and those eyes and lips that,
in her fiercer tides,
cast me to the wall
where I was utterly freed of artifice.
But at her moist core
the unbrushed hair and thickening scent
of her sexual water,
the things she would conceal and abate,
that too often speak the fuller voice,
the tongue she cannot tame,
that holds her at an angle
until the joy flows out,
and drips a crimson necklace
ringed around her sleeping collar,
her sleeping sheets,
that hurls her into silence,
into the ancient temple of her body
where her giantesses’s will stands mute,
and learns to heal
amidst a dark and painful incense.

Thread

Have me, my long night’s companion.
I come from so far
bringing centuries of fevers,
sorrows, solitudes,
woven into greetings,
bridal bracelets to clasp to
your aching and formidable blood.
I’ve been gone too long,
fugitive in the
wandering hearts of the clouds,
wrapped in their pure silence,
your whispering absence.
Have me, the thread of my long day.
I long to walk in the gardens
that spring from your feet as you go,
the lush, overgrown paths
of weeds and yellow flowers
that delay my sensible hours,
and the drunken bees
drowning in the dark nectar.

Tonight the roaring sea
breaks its bones on the dark walls
in great shards of foam.
It roars at you, unresponding girl,
your eyes of transparent shield.
The full moon burns across the night,
shredding clouds,
casting beams over the scarred earth,
wreckage of trees, shells, animals,
disembowelled by the storm.
It pleads with you for succour, absent woman.
But you clasp your hands
closed about your life
like a shell that awaits
the right pain to open it.
I plunge the ocean into you,
I plunge it deep with the drowned moon.
And your silence,
turning like distant galaxies,
takes these fevers, quells them,
refines them into a single grain of sand,
bears in your folds
all the violence of the world
like a dark pearl.

Return

Tonight I hold you again.
After so many hours of dreams
clenched in the cracked dawns,
miserably chewing rinds,
toenails of longing, leftover passions,
scent of coagulated need,
I hold your true burning
uncontained body, unbrushed hair,
eyebrows like tantrums,
and I wind you round my soul like a root
that will fly apart.
Just by rising every day
and entering and leaving
the rooms of this world
you pile defeats upon me,
sent like smoke signs,
scent of conflagrations
over wooden cities
that choke my absent hours.
And so I come back,
having scavenged after my own lonliness
and searched my pain and power,
into the purr and embrace
of your waiting feline blood,
stretched out in the shadow
of your quick and fugitive days.
And I am the happy fool
and the waiting turmoil,
and you will set your songs to the wind
and the catipulted continents.