Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Dancing With An Old Man Under The Moon
Dancing with an old man under the moon
with nothing but your tattoos on,
as it rose over the treeline like a mushroom
and as beauty is to wisdom,
the blossom of your fire
to the smoke of stacked firewood
waiting to be immolated in the Bonfire of the Vanities
like an library of fingerprints on paper
just to prove that we were here once
long before this autumn made a ghost of us
and we could feel more naked with our clothes on
than we ever have done with them off.
Junkies hitting up in a snakepit of desire,
the Burmese python a heroin addict in a swamp,
the high-wire act of the rose in the circus,
the aerial acrobatics of our noblest emotions
swinging through the unimpeachable air
on a one-handed trapeze that was the axis mundi
of the world in the aberrant orbit
of a lightning struck weathervane.
Your body, a guitar; your soul, an inflammable violin,
when I wasn't burning bridges with you
like connections we didn't want to make
we were going for long firewalks among the stars
hand in hand like a couple that grew up
in the same neighbourhood that paid no attention
to whether they went out into the world and made good.
I was improbably inclined
and you were desperately uncertain
and we kept the little that was chaste between us
bucolic with shepherd moons
and major and minor dogs trying to pasture a rabbit.
Some women are beautiful like moonlit gazelles
and Greek vases are, and you stand back silently
as you would before any masterpiece of classical form
cooly and contemplatively as if you were musing
in your amazement on a first magnitude star
it would be an aesthetic desecration to touch
with anything as unshapely as a human in love.
But you knew how to swing your hips like an hourglass
and I've always been happy to be suckered by time
into filling in on the night shift for a sacred clown
who had to meet a dead line, finishing a cartoon
of the constellations he drew for a newspaper
like an out of date starmap that had to cut back on its print run.
You came with doves, I saw them, with plaster casts
on their broken wings, deadly nightshade, black orchids
that had once been the shadows of beauty queens,
and the fragrance of big pheromones charging
the summer night in your eyes with an aura of urgency
you kept hid under the eyelids of your innocence
and I could never tell whether you were the salvage
of the witch that was drowned in a trial by ordeal
or the one that showed everyone how easy it was
to walk on water when you had to save yourself.
Intrigued by the dawn of your smile, by midnight,
I was ready to sacrifice myself to the cult of it
like a Druid with a lunar sickle to the apple-bloom
of a tree alphabet deranged by the dissociated sensibilities
of an occult muse just coming out of eclipse.
I was making catalogues of the stars
that lay like ashes in my eyes when you suddenly flared up
like the saline spirit of a green flame burning in all my firepits
that began to feel they had the vision of a young dragon again
to see such foxfire blooming in the eye-sockets of its urns,
after the dark rain and fire storms, the excruciating pain
of living a life of coal predicated upon the possibility of diamonds,
the transmutation of the low into a union with the high
like a snake with wings that could ride, by God, it could ride
its own mystic wavelengths like a plutonic alloy
of the early Bronze Age just as the heroes were getting ready
to cut the umbilical cords with their hysterical, Medusan mothers.
Gratitude? Yes. You braved the taboo of the wizard
like a night bird on my windowsill, like a star
through the bars of my isolation cell
in a covert observatory buried underground
like a radical theater in a dead planetarium
staging doomsday scenarios for an unenlightened think tank
that never turned the light around on themselves
to discover that their third eye isn't the lens of a telescope.
And maybe you were the last hurrah of my flesh and bones
but, baby, you didn't leave anything elegaic in my blood
to prove it and I think it came as no less of a surprise to you
as it did to me, beyond the shadow of the searchlight of our doubt,
love had removed the black spot from my heart
like a planet in transit across a Venutian sun
and put it on your cheek like a beauty mark
in the name of Allah, the Merciful, the Beneficent
to tempt Hafiz into offering Samarkand
to a young slave girl if she would only take his hand
among the rose bushes on the banks of the Ruknabad
even if it meant he had to account to the khan
for what he squandered like gardens on the moon.
Born with wings on the heels of my cowboy boots
instead of spurs, who so club-footed
or cloven-hoofed and sodden
as camels in a B.C. gold rush
as to dance with you in sensible shoes?
Your hair was autumn. Your eyes were spring.
I lived for awhile, o who could know how to thank you,
for six months like a supernova in love with a black hole
at the vernal equinox in the thirteenth house
of the zodiac I still consult like a starmap of your tattoos
when I'm out walking in the woods alone
with the full moon that hasn't paled them in its light
even after all these years, still dancing with you in the night,
an old man circumambulating the fires of a dark bliss
by himself, certain he knows who he's dancing with and for.
Comments about this poem (Dancing With An Old Man Under The Moon by Patrick White )
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