It's Been Tried Before, Evil Come To The Door - Poem by Patrick White
It’s been tried before, evil come to the door
to school me out of my muscular optimism,
my seven times down eight times up approach
to not throwing the fight, the agon of life, until I’m dead.
And even then, even then I’ll probably end up wrestling
with the angel in the way, strategically growing stronger
with every honest defeat. I weld my wounded heart,
the crack in my skull cup into a deeper bond
with these challenges in life that flatter me
with the quality of the enemies I’m known by
just as much as my friends. A medicine man
is only as strong as the wounds he’s called upon to heal.
Physician, rise from death. The dragon’s real.
Though the princess is fictitious and the knight’s
overdressed for combat, what difference between
the slayer and the slain when they’re both quantumly entangled
in the same ghost dance of the sun and the moon for renewal,
the bull and its matador with seven cloaked eyebeams
driven into its back like serpent fire as it kneels
in the garland of its own blood like a rose
releasing its dark abundance from the sweet meat
in the mouth of its wound. Horns and thorns,
the moon gored on its own sword to pour starwheat
into the empty siloes of mammals, crustaceans and reptiles.
Defeat as a sacrificial act of love that shames its victories
into more self-abnegating modes of power that flex
their generosity without knowing where the gifts come from
or who they’re meant for, but uphold the rhythm of giving
like a waterclock determined to make it through the rapids ahead
like a thread through the third eye of a needle
trying to stitch up the rift between the discontinuity of chaos
and the narrative theme of the space-time continuum
that keeps unfolding like the manifest destiny of a bad guess.
If you don’t feel stupid and foolish and empty a lot of the time
trying to attain the unattainable you’re not much of a wise man
or a woman in her craft. The genius and jester
of your own crazy wisdom, enlightenment comes
every spring to the locust tree like unlikely blossoms and honey-bees,
to teach you to respect the unpredictable absurdity of returning to joy
like a dead garden on the moon looking for its way back to life
suddenly breaking into light like a starmap of dandelions.
The destroyers hate the irrepressibility of life
and they’ll come with the Tetragrammaton around their necks,
undertakers with eyes like available sky burials to the dawn
chanting elegaic aubades over the afterbirth of the stillborn
like black laughter at life’s irredeemable inconvenience.
Even the little fires can’t empathize with their trained indifference
to burning in the name of anything the stars aspire to
but an urn of ashes like the fortune-cookie of a crematorium
that begins where it ends like an adolescent geriatric.
You can carve a guitar out of rotten heartwood
and teach it a few chords and a sense of timing
like two minutes with a hook at amateur hour
but that doesn’t make you a singer with a gnostic turtle shell
for a lyre. The destroyers are endlessly tuning
their eye-puncturing guitar strings like spiders
mending fishing nets for the big catch
their nasty boy selves riding Apollonian dolphins
are going to sheepdog toward shore like pitbulls
as if Rubick’s cubes and Moebius strips of feigned emotion
were the necromantic tricks of arcane magicians
they never got out of their own nets to see how vast the ocean is.
Any poet worth their stars has always intuited
a bridge is the third bank on the river of life
and kept reaching out for their opposite extremes
like the wingspan of a waterbird in oxymoronic unions
of disparate elements, hammering the slag out of their words
and tempering their fire like the swords of the vows
they made to the mindstreams of life like an unbreakable alloy
held in trust and tribute until the night they drown
like a reflection of fireflies in the eyes of the stars
sitting lightly like the laurels of Corona Borealis
on the crowns of the black walnut trees that oversaw the fledglings
fly from the nests of their leftover begging bowls
as if the earthbound were holding out its arms
to offer the gift of a gift to the sky from the bottom
of the watersheds it’s rooted in like black swans
among the counter-intuitive waterlilies anchored in our starmud.
No other way to say it or hear it without contamination
except to express it faster than you can think about it,
before your shadow can get a leg up on the light,
or the past starts writing epilogues for a future
that spends its life longing to happen
as if something were always missing
like the truth of a man lingering on a bridge
watching the waters of life pass beneath him
like the picture-music of a sacred verb in a dream,
waiting to encounter himself coming the other way
like the faces of everyone who’s ever crossed to the other side.
The destroyers will always try to live like legends
of something that’s already been tragically achieved
and off-handedly left conspicuously behind them like a rootless tree
so the screening myth goes, walking casually away
from its fruitless windfall like Elvis leaving the building.
They hate the infinite creative potential of stem cells
with no identity of their own so they can live on call
like organ donors with a healthy respect
for the heartfelt failures in life who don’t know why
they tried, but did. And in so doing, fell toward paradise,
feathered by the light, riding their thermals
like inspirations of the earth and the air toward nightfall.
Solitary hawks as clear-eyed as the stars they’re dancing around
like the fires of Cygnus and Aquila in the east
and the burning Lyre we’re heading toward at
18 kilometers a second as the Great Winged Horse
springs from the severed neck of Medusa wishing
happy contrails to the underwhelming grandson of Sisyphus.
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