Treasure Island

Patrick White

(September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)

A Good Day And Night On Earth For Me Would Be


A good day and night on earth for me would be
hurling paint at an eight by four foot canvas
propped up on a rusty hay rake for an easel
on top of a hill by the soft basswood trees in late September.
A thin thread of blue smoke rising from the farmhouse
down below, somebody home and a satisfied ghost,
rising idly like a spirit from the heartwood of a log
of two year old maple I cut and split and stacked myself,
ten cubic cords of habitable planet to make it through the winter.

A good day and night on earth for me would be
like the early Muslims under Umar ibn al-Khattab’s caliphate,
knowing the angels were going to visit the town
around four in the morning, knowing everyone on earth
were given bread and flowers enough not to go to bed hungry tonight, that everyone had something
they wanted to get up for in the morning
that made it easy and exhilarating to be alive, wild asters
saturated with sunlight and the humming of clumsy honey bees
just below the window apprenticed to a telescope.
Short focal length, Schmidt-Cassegrain reflector
on an equatorial mount with a clock drive synchronized
to the wheeling of the earth like a moonrise in Virgo.

A good day and night on earth for me wouldn’t be
knowing I was loved, but looking back over the tree rings
in my heart like the history of rain that left its mark on me
like every woman I’ve ever loved, sad, mad, bad, beatific
or indifferent to the fact she could make a locust tree bloom
as if it were enraptured by its own crucifixion, the crowns
and stigmata of the thorns it wore with prophetic distinction
like the first heretic ever burned by the new moon
who could taste the mystery of life in the ashes on his lips
when she kissed him one last time, and to steal a line
from Jim Morrison, turned his blood to mystic-heated wine.

Not to assess how well I was loved, but to feel extinct
knowing I gave everything I had to love and still fear
it wasn’t enough. It’s an indelibly memorable mode of madness
I may have fallen into like a habit that stuck like the La Brea Tarpit
somewhere along my antediluvian way, but I hold
the onceness of forever as lovers step away from each other
like an abyss on the downside of a dangerous precipice
up to my jugular vein a razorblade away from where Allah says
he is when I have no reason to disbelieve him. Love
is a sword dance with a waterclock in three four time so

a good day and night on earth for me would be
out walking with the stars alone through the high summer fields
quilted by wildflowers as the moon came up like a water-gilder
and breathed a skin of gold around every one of the tears
they’ve ever shed in joy when some cosmic egg cracked
like a koan in a dragon’s jaw and they were set free
like a winged horse beside Aquila and Cygnus to ride
their own eyebeams in the free range of the sky anywhere they liked,
when the wind throws off its chains like the rain
and I feel forgiven like a starmap for the times
they stubbed their hearts on my life like an asteroid belt
they couldn’t see in the dark on their way to the black market
of a species exchange on earth for something completely different.

A good day and night on earth for me would be
advancing backwards through all the stations of my childhood
and father myself like the man I always wanted to be
like some kind of playful wizard who knew he was
a great fool to squander his life on joy, but knew how
to stop the bleeding in a boy by uncuffing his life from a bike chain
or at least, when the lifeboat goes down, keep him
from feeling like salvage that should have stayed aboard to bail.
I want to mend that wound in every adolescent heart with gold
like the midnight sun smiling on good starwheat in the siloes
of a radiant end to a dark start. That what I sow outlives me well.
Like morning glory in the lobby of the Hollyhock Hotel.

If it were a good day and night on earth for me, it would
have to be for everyone else as well. I’d have to see
the homeless wearing new thresholds on their feet
that welcomed them at the door like prodigal sons and daughters
that didn’t want a black sheep slaughtered in their honour,
and every young girl weeping in the corner of a restaurant
right now so her friends don’t see her nursing a broken heart
like a voodoo doll gored on the horns of a heavy curse
might rise from her gloom like the moon-rise
of a Minoan bull leaper vaulting through the crescents
of her dilemma and landing on her own two feet on the other side.

Submitted: Sunday, April 21, 2013
Edited: Friday, September 27, 2013

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