Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Burning World, Take Me
Burning world, take me, fold me in your flaming arms
and let me disappear into the unforgiving night.
Among these blind, here, in their black eggs,
eyeless birds who nest in their own ignorance,
I am the leper of light they drive out
with the stone of the moon, the wolf
with the mystic wound that will not heal until the last star
is born of the bleeding. Return me to the cold, brutal beauty
of your mineral wilderness, my bones on Venus
and my skull an abandoned planet circling the sun at midnight.
Let my eyes be the last of my tears to fall
and my blood be strewn like a gypsy scarf across the darkness.
Erase all trace of me as you do the path of the water-stars
who walk here among the dead like spirits from another world
intrigued by our passing. Pygmies in a circus,
cannibals and emperors all, leaping from thought to thought
rock to rock in the lifestream
to the applause of future funerals, o let them fade
like the idiot savants of last night’s dream, meaning nothing
but what they meant to themselves,
trying to jump their own distorted shadows.
What difference between the venom of the bee and its luminous honey
to these whose flaring in the vastness
was the kingdom of a match? At most
lightning on a water droplet shaken from a blade of grass.
Did they think the great fires of being flowed like blood
around their carbon hearts? Sweet world,
bestow your flowerless garden upon me and let me forget
the holy wars of their tiny gods against my solitude.
Didn’t they see, so full of themselves,
there was never any room in their arks and shrines and coffins
moored like lifeboats to the rotting dock
they built like a bridge to nowhere?
I never meant to be unkind or rise from the depths
in waves of light and blood that wiped them out
like the mythical monster of a shore-bound sailor
too far out deep down to be confirmed by their disbelief
or worse, their shallow faith. Leave them, undisturbed
to the shadows of things they trade in
like spiritual money. I wish them no worse, no better
than who they think they are, little prophets
inveighing against the purity of my absence.
The dark mirror is better, brighter, more abundant
than the poverty of their trembling reflections,
mere nothingness more tender than their lies.
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