Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
A Haze Of Dust On The Windowpanes
A haze of dust on the windows at dusk,
cataracts glowing in the epiphanous sun
that leaves the night coming on like a door ajar
for the light to get out on its own like a cat.
And the next moment all the eyes
that were on the road to Damascus
blinded by a revelation are returned
from the darkness of their clarity
to their normal muddy mundane vision
and I can see the birch groves from here
upping their quota of white canes on the nightshift.
And isn't it strange how things emerge
from one mindscape into the next
like a serpent shedding its skin
like a sky it's been consulting about wings,
or the effortless birth sacs of the dragons
who have made the same transition
from the lowest of things to the highest
like a flying doctor bearing true north?
Polaris and Draco wrapped around
the tilted axis of the earth as if it were
the sign of a caduceus in the hand of a messenger
that says night is the best time to heal
and leaves us to the moonlit herb gardens
we planted in the spring of our dreams
when wild crocuses where just beginning
to poke their innocent noses through the snow?
Now the dark when the magicians come out
and the bats and the stars, and the fairies
are enthroned on their mushrooms and sacred stones
and retinal responses to reality
turn visionary in their pursuit
of an earthly excellence of their own
that doesn't belittle them again
as the gods and goddesses of a world of their own.
And me, I'm sitting here alone
wondering if I do empty myself of myself
so perfectly there's no one left to tell me
I've finally become no one fit enough
to lift the veils of Isis without expecting
to find just another starmap in hiding.
Or if I've rinsed myself clean enough of myself
to be washed from her eyes in tears
that fall like mirrors of mercury
in a fever of mystic thermometers
stuck under my tongue
like the silver bird bone flutes
of the perennial theme songs
I've been offering to ferrymen
in lieu of the obol of the full moon,
my penny in a wishing well,
to pay for my passage into death and back
like an enlightened return journey of a poet
who knows how to find his way home on his own
like a prophetic Orphic skull.
Ride the dragon. Play the flute of fire.
Cast a spell on the winter sunset
and take it off again in spring. O
what could I ask of the flower
that I didn't receive from the leaf?
It takes a rootless tree
to show you the way home.
But it doesn't take a road to know you've left.
I can hear my eyes weeping behind a deathmask.
Early wood sorrel under a leaf of duff.
Venus is in my rain washed window,
closer than blood could ever be.
The sky thinks it's a strutting peacock
but I know I painted that window
well over a year ago when I grew weary
of being myself like a stage without a play.
Do you know me yet? Can't you tell
when the roses bloom in the palm of my hand
like the stigmata of a starfish on the moon,
I'm the lost cause of a shadow
demanding more of the light
than a sacred clown on a burning ladder
could possibly know what to do with?
Meagre, meagre me. What immensities
I aspire to with a broken bouquet of arrows
like stalks of wheat in Virgo after a hailstorm.
I am not the slayer. I am not the slain.
I don't hold the crescent moon up to my jugular vein.
Or cut the throats of poppies to milk the dream.
And I don't care a hair for the difference
between the enlightened and insane.
I look at Venus through my windowpane
and the window's clean. Burn white. Burn silent.
Express yourself, but don't ask it to mean
anything more than you are to yourself
when no one's home, including you,
and you're shining for someone else.
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