Every Leaf, Every Page, Every Poem, A Patch
Every leaf, every page, every poem, a patch
that's been ironed on to a leak in the mindstream
I've been watching from the stone bridge on Gore Street
while the Perth Water Tower stands astride the Tay River
like a Martian colossus out of the War of the Worlds,
its reflection wavering like the dissipating wavelengths
of watersnakes as the moon ascends like a pearl
above the ragged willows pouring their hearts out
along the shore where a long overhanging veranda,
an iron stairwell and several backyards end at.
A commingling of poetry and prose, I've got
to walk several miles out of this sleeping town
before a Zen cowboy can take his spurs off in the wild
and wrestle his boots like sections of chimney pipe
in exchange for a pair of winged heels that can fly by night
like an autumn waterbird. Let my life flow on without me
like a spinal cord I've been hanging on to
like a rope I used to try to climb up to heaven on
like serpent fire entwined around the axis of my backbone,
on the flip side now, an anchor chain of chakras
tied to my body like a lifeboat my heart isn't in anymore.
I lament the dry paper that became of the orchids
and waterlilies, the skin of weathered women
or an aging snake that slipped out of itself like a condom.
Autumn in my earth mind, I'm consoled by the stars
gleaming through the leafless trees of my emotions.
The whole forest floor, a sodden library underfoot,
trying to get to the roots of things like etymologists
reverentially deciphering the cartouches of dynastic words
that were once as common as the Huron all through these woods
until smallpox, the Jesuit, and the decultifying schools
that savaged their magic with white, and taught them
to turn the other cheek to the dark side of the moon,
brought on an onslaught of the Iroquois who finished the job
a few beaver pelts, an arquebus, and Champlain
in a war canoe, without really wanting to, had begun.
Somehow their ghosts in the birch groves
make everything seem more human to a trespasser
that responds more like a guest at a seance
than the host of the exorcism that drove them
from their lands. The moon's not a swan
and I'm not laying traps like a snapping turtle.
Nothing heals here, but the wounds seem more manageable
and death isn't a dirty secret sequestered in a hospital.
Everything out in the open you can even
have sex with the stars and nobody's eyelashes
are going to fall off like a haystack of pine needles
that blinked once too often at what they couldn't believe
they were seeing without their death masks on.
I like the symphonic chaos of the place as life
over writes itself like wild grape vines climbing
a trellis of deer ribs like the palings on an unhinged gate.
It's really just a matter of taste what you prefer
to furnish your solitude with. I like to spend my time
in the company of things suffering the same fate I am.
Patrick White's Other Poems
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