Treasure Island

Patrick White

(September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)

If I Were To Cry Now At This Age


If I were to cry now at this age
It would be a grey, September rain, running down
The half windows, half mirrors of my eyes.
Alloys of light. A veil of rivers and roads
I’ve firewalked on burning diamonds to get here.
A waterfall of waterclocks. Time run amok.
A dog let off the leash of a long continuum
To remember tomorrow as if it only happened
Yesterday. No more eating the dust at the heels
Of Orion as if he were chained to a parking meter,
The dogstar sniffs at the ankh-shaped fire hydrants
As it will, free of the master and his noose,
Black Dog shadowed by Blue Flower on the loose.

If I were to cry now at this age
It would be as a sage washing his face in his own ashes
To get the greenwood creosote off the glass
He looks through darkly into oracular dragon fire
Dreaming the world on a lotus of flame
To ember in the blaze of two year old red oak
With cracks through the tree rings of former springs
To testify it’s aged right as eyes and wine,
And still burns hot as blood in the caldera
Of a volcanic heart. Prophecy might be the art
Of great discretion, but poetry should be as
Open-faced as the skull of the moon in a mirror.

If I were to cry now at this age
It wouldn’t be for fame, sex, power or influence
Among the literary politics of the nitwits
In the regalia of a kingdom of gnats,
Nor yet as any kind of repentance for the life
That demonically guided me in and out
Of the stations of the mystery through the rootfires
Of paradise that blossomed like stars and waterlilies
In the fetid gardens of the fallen transforming
Their swamp lust into paradigms of amorous enlightenment.
I disciplined the severity of my disobedience
Into rules of thumb that let more of the defeated live
Than the one-eyed angels with blood on their feathers
Ever did. Heaven condemned my demon to compassion
For never taking offence at anyone else’s miscreance.

If I were to cry now at this age
I doubt if I’d remember precisely why I wept,
But my bet would be it had something to do
With life not cherishing its own creations
Like a busload of schoolkids at a railway crossing
With a brutal sense of timing, or twenty-five million children
Who starve to death every year in their mother’s arms
While farmers pour galaxies of spilt milk out on the ground
To keep the price of human kindness high
As a subsidized quota of children that have to die annually
To reach the projected goals of unweaned shareholders.
Why so many children open their eyes like flowers on time
To be flogged by the whips of their own umbilical cords
Like weed cutters along the fence of an indefensible border.

If I were to cry now at this age
It would be for the beauty I discerned growing
In the cracks and crevices like blueweed and dandelions
Between a hard place and a rock
That kept rolling down hill at the peak of life
like the door of a tomb somebody used
for the foundation stone of a corrupt house of life
built on sacred quicksand that lost its footing
Like a burning ladder of rafters in an earthquake
That buried the priestcraft of a snakepit
Without the last unction of an oilslick on its forehead
As if God looked upon the works of humans
And spit on their eyelids in disgust at a waste
Of quantum foam that frothed like hydrophobia
From the shrines of the dry seabeds of their mouths
As if every ditch of hell were once an ocean unto itself.

Submitted: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Edited: Monday, September 23, 2013

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