Looking For A Stairwell Of Stars - Poem by Patrick White
Looking for a stairwell of stars in a labyrinth
of fire escapes I can slide down the bannisters of
like a childhood planet in an aberrant orbit
as if I’d wandered off somewhere like an unattended kite
or the black sheep of a shepherd moon
into the same vast spaces where the stars
graze like dragons on the ashes of themselves
and all along the river, fleets of waterlilies
break into light as if they were hauling their sails up
into the wind like the flightfeathers the moon sheds
like a waterbird lending its plumage to the waves
so they can soar in the depths of a borrowed wingspan
or swim through the stars on the oarpower of their own fins.
I’m parasailing in the Pleiades like a dandelion seed
that’s about to ignite into a big yellow sun
with planets all around it coming into consciousness
like life losing its innocence by becoming
aware of itself like a secret it shares with a stranger.
I’ve freed my dreams from the tyranny of mirrors.
My windows into the soul are breeding
with my mirages in a happy connubium
of appearances with the way things are
deep down underneath the rock you turn over
like your heart for the pale, yellow worm
of a meaning to life once you’ve come to mistrust
your senses into making better spies than friends.
I take as much delight these days in the way
things end, as I ever did in the way they began.
I rejoice in my impurities like sunspotted beauty marks
on the coronas of my crazy wisdom
and the alluvial laughlines at the deltas of my eyes
flowing like some soft-spoken waterclock into the abyss.
I sink and rise like the tides of a bell on a shipwreck,
despite myself, and sing out like a pearldiver
that drowned on the moon trying to open its shell,
all’s well, not, hell, maybe heaven, but only for awhile.
I beat myself up like a pinata of the heart
to be a righteous gift at a poor kid’s birthday party,
but I always feel deluded by the sacrifices I have to make
to transform the dupe of my morals into the sacred clowns
of the high ideals that have been making a fool of me
most of my life. Nobody trusts anyone anymore
if they can’t discern a reason for why you’re good to them.
Sad embassies on the moon waiting for a terrorist attack.
Whether you pour an ocean of compassion
into a teacup with a crack in it that’s as seismic
as the one in your crystal skull, or measure it out
drop by drop like some kind of Chinese water-torture,
even if your right hand gets caught spying on
what you’re doing with the left, things ebb and neap
like tidal shadows in the Sea of Tranquillity
where emptiness is always full, and maybe,
we’ll prove most useful when we’re not even here.
Not indifference square in the middle of things,
ignorant of its embittered self satisfaction
trivializing the aesthetics of its own solitude
by carrying the angry placard of a wallflower
in a protest parade that reads, I don’t care,
though it’s never true. When you most expect it to be.
Like a silent majority looking into their cellphones
like the third eye of God making collective decisions
for the mob that’s itching like the internet to flex its authority.
You can say you’re committed to a cause
you’re life’s been a long preparation to die for,
but the greater discipline is enduring the agony
of living it as if it were something beautiful
forever passing away. Like night on the face
of someone you love when you’re not trying to possess it
like a starmap on the black market to happiness.
Or the solitude that binds your quantumly entangled vines
to the wine in the eyes of an opposite,
blood of your blood, bone of your bone,
flesh of your flesh like the shadow you cast
in the form of the other as if it were a mask
with the eyes missing to see deeply
into the dark waters of the mystery of life
that sight is the kind of love that includes
the absence of itself like an old moon
that once knew what it was like to hold
and let go of the new moon in its arms.
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