|The Tao of Cannabis
South of Iowa City the road ran
Straight and flat to the crossroads
And Jeffrey’s white frame, pond and toads
Vociferous as only toads can.
Five mongrels barking their larger din
And bhang within to the tune
Of Sergeant Pepper that late June
When I first got high off a pale thin
Hookah, brass mesh and scent,
At the oval coffee table, round wire rim
Glasses, grannie dresses, beads on trim
Lean poets, punning, utterly bent
By the smoke, or was it parsley laced
With DMT? It seemed to take
Over me, poetry in the sullen wake
Of sadness at nearly thirty. We faced
Our childhood. Country Joe
And Donovan, and later the stop signs
Phosphorescent as if by deliberate design,
Home, time stopped, the slow
Arc in by the river, the bridge
I had crossed to Wordsworth and Blake
Now quite irrelevant. I would never take
Another seminar. I was free. Judge
It yourself. A kilo the following week
From Stash, the balding dealer,
The goateed mystic agent, healer,
A novel in progress between tokes. I seek
Even now to capture that radiance.
Rolling down hills, sex on a threadbare rug
Beside the stove, burning myself to hug
Such ultimates, her sexual cadence.
Art Spellman, manic in August,
Commandeered the Datsun toward a hemp field
North of the Reservoir. The resin yield
Would be slight, I thought, thrust
Deep in the seat, sucking cold Hamm’s
From a notched can I tossed
As he cut the lights, crossed
The road. I made the ditch, Uncle Sam’s
Duffel bag cradled, eyeing
The stand, ten feet and better, proud,
Feminine, moonlight on the dark shroud
Earth, the insects loud, dying.
Twenty pounds reduced to a jar of oil
We mixed with raw plant
And smoked in joints, scant,
Slender, powerful as Christ. Do I spoil
This narrative? Lying belly down
Toward earth, a carrousel winding slack,
Motion, color in the inner blinding black,
Amplification of the sound
Of touch the taste of sound,
That inner carrousel, August to autumn,
Chasing lazy circles toward awesome,
Liquid presence round and round.
Art Spellman, florid, speeding on nature’s
Juices, diving sailor fashion,
Nude, cape flying, ass and
Genitals flapping, amazing creatures
Of another cut, was left behind.
I taught in Wisconsin, ate oil, went inward
Toward McCarthy’s memory, a.w.o.l. toward
Canada from Vietnam, decent, kind.
Some things I cannot alter,
Johanna’s twill rump climbing the crest
To kneel at sun-blond earth. I must
Recall breasts free of halter,
The drape of their flawless weight,
Brown-tipped, as my daughter
Shared jellybeans, laughter,
Her buttocks in turn pale, slight,
Belly taut, lean as the tines
Of her ribs. I too smiled, undressed,
Scattered color on the grass, pressed
The pastel tablecloth, designs
Of clown and high-wire act, our resin
Heightened lunch, our Kool-Aid
Innocence no brave charade
But real, true as my growing addiction.
That autumn melted, burned.
We held each other toward Madison,
Milwaukee, Buddhist candles, jasmine and
Sandalwood before it turned.
Walking the shops on State,
Ice cream and cashews, flower children
Vaguely floating on prayer and mescaline,
Bearded prophets and their freight
Of mantra and lament, staggering hoarse
Through psychedelic tunnels
Of candy trees and capsules
Toward corporate dreams and worse.
I suckled startling light
From your innocence, your eyes, above
The spiral braided rug, then barefoot, love,
Crossed frost and leaves toward fright.
That day in true winter I drove
To class the cosmos shook crystalline dust
On a mystic ’59 Buick conveyance, rust
And primer. I could not remove
That great dome of absence, a metal-gray
Concealing angry Jahweh
And his legions, nor later slay
The little man in overshoes, his tray
Of coffee in Styrofoam cups,
Eyes burning like incandescent holes,
Sucking my purity, master of middling souls
Strung tight on downs and ups.
Along the corridor to seminar and lecture,
A flow of whirling light
And sound, all were agents in my sight.
I was master of metaphysical conjecture,
Omega Point incarnate, Lucifer and
God, freezing all sentience to breathe again,
Purged of the grin of teeth. My mission?
To defeat immortal carnivore.
That clean taut wench from out the void,
Taking my arm, her awesome
Bosom at my chest, her handsome
Face I easily erased, the rest destroyed.
Three hours lotus on the desk I stared struck
At them in frozen space,
Their blond absence, lent grace
To vinyl tile and pastel cinderblock.
My mission seemed complete,
Chasing wildly home through color, dance,
Eyes blasting cave-ways through the prance
Of robots clicking in the street.
I pressed you 18 hours, daughter,
In tempered steel I crushed your head
Against her writhing on our marriage bed,
The light a van Gogh shudder.
Her litany of pain—Lord, spare at least
My child—Johanna’s color bled
Toward cancerous forms. The dead
Observed with sexual heat. I fed the beast.
Through light and dark, shapes
Whirled beyond the window, saucers
Of the powers, Shakespeare’s, Chaucer’s,
Milton’s lurking in the drapes.
Michelangelo arrived with green hauteur,
Fashioned my figure out of stone,
Shaped my greatness to atone
For marble virgins, flaws of character.
A host of incarnate demigods
Gathered to press my anguished lungs,
Hoarse threats to sever lips and tongues
Should they deny me. The odds
Were honest they would cry,
“Deliver us to mercy, union, rapture,
Transfigured one, our lord and master.”
Plainly a pity they should die,
Or was it simply fate? White male robots
Came for me that night,
Monster insects in the light,
Clothing me in anti-Christian habit,
Drape of institutional garment,
Slippers princely as Christ alone
Would adopt, ascending the heavenly throne.
In leather straps I heard their torment.
In the naked end I scaled
The mountain of Jehovah past rotting limbs
And jagged teeth shrieking their carnal hymns
To greed and vengeance, infants impaled
On thorns, minced by the leopard’s smile,
A wail of abject misery
Across the littered slope, suddenly
Still, sweetly warm, a leak of pus and bile.
I was alone. Mad skies poured
Lymph and tears across the yellow stench
Of Creation, a billion years of wrench-
ing folly. The elements warred.
A temple finally loomed on flawless sand,
Fashioned of gold and platinum,
The finest porphyry. Struck dumb,
I knelt on smoking segments of the damned
And opened my eyes to Insect,
Rhinestone and leather purse, an aging face,
Smiling as if to recognize her son, to trace
His visage in restraints, dissect
His attitude, his grace, writhing
Fetal beneath her treacle smile, her voice,
Roaring like Ursa Major in the maw of space,
And then the father—“Surprising
You haven’t had the decency to get a trim,
But then you always were
A disappointment. Your wife and daughter
Will survive in last account. It’s rather grim.”
That great God Fly
Of childhood, bouncing on a fat paternal knee
Before it burned, lazy summer’s poetry
Before the worm. I ceased to cry.