Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Dying Young In Autumn
Dying young in autumn,
the ideal death of a flower or a star
whose beauty's still as obvious
as a door that's been left ajar at night.
The fireflies are search parties
out looking for someone
who's made an escape through the woods,
or they're lamp lighting deer
out of the dark into the glare of their insights.
Train whistle in the distance
works its ghost to death
Doppler-shifting its lament
into an infra-red eclipse of existence.
And then the stars in the eyes
of the recurring storm of the trees,
flaring over-eagerly like candles and dragons
to burn for the sheer delight of it.
I make my way through a labyrinth
of foliage and moonlit shadows
to nowhere in particular
with a rocky slope glacially graded
down to what the locals say
is a fathomless lake none of their childhoods
were ever deep enough to plumb.
I lie down upon the cool poultice of the earth
and I can feel it drawing
all the fever out of me like the effluvium
of swimming the thousand polluted mindstreams
I've become osmotically enculturated to
like a dendritic form of spiritual gangrene.
The moon puts a new dressing on my wound.
I urge the pain to rest like a homing bird
on a limb that's healing like the rafter of a house
that broke under the weight of what it upheld
when a three alarm fire in the heart
sought sanctuary from an ice storm
and it was nobody's fault but my own
that I didn't let it go out like a flagging comet
with the rest of the daylilies
that died in harness like parachutes.
I've kept it alive for lightyears
like a book of the occult in an industrial library.
I've cupped its light in my hands
like an ancestral offering
to the enlightenment of my peers
and though the clouds have raved
and the wind turned vicious
it still burns in me like a dragon in an aviary,
a canary in a mine, a muse in a lantern,
a genie in an old lamp, a female demon
that only blooms in fire like a black waterlily
with nothing to fear from the new moon.
Or the fireflies trying to find it on a star map.
Comments about this poem (Dying Young In Autumn by Patrick White )
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