Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Not Interested In The Brand Name Of Your Audience
Not interested in the brand name of your audience.
Poetry makes its own up on the go, resonates
with the stars and the fireflies, mysteriously
marauds its own sacred shrines for the relics
of holy metaphors that can be melted down
into new sensibilities. And you, when you lose
your faith in your herbs ability to heal,
is it you that lets the medicine down,
the exhausted wavelength of an imploding star,
or is your magic just not strong enough anymore
to know when to keep its mouth shut, its grammar
like the secret name of a god, not a public convention.
It's irrelevant to me if you blood your abstractions,
mythic deflation stabbing them through the heart
to keep it from pumping the colour out of the rose
and hanging them upside down over a bathtub.
Or that your insecticidal severances have been
so cleanly disposed of like the wings of butterflies
in the mandibles of seriatim ants. The reek
of formic acid. And it's hard not to notice
that your gypsy nettles don't dance to music.
You've got your head stuck up the eye of the needle again.
Must cost you a fortune in locksmiths.
And why, when you make a confession
of all your sins of omission, does it always sound
like you're ratting someone out? Or you've got
a deathmask on you're always threatening to take off
like a crab carapace in a tidal pool with a detached claw
trying to intimate the great sea of awareness beyond
that's never heard of you, into making waves
even a shore-hugger buried in a puddle could handle?
You can make a cult of your doubt and cynicism,
snakes on the ladders and stairwells of your pretensions,
but I'm not going to be initiated into it. Just because
I was born in a sewer doesn't mean I bathed in it
every time it rained. A metaphor is a metaphor
that's looking for something to compare itself to
and picture-music isn't a drum roll at the unveiling
of a new logo for the hysterically futile fans
of your dysfunctional aspirations to make a big splash.
As if the pond were never big enough for the frog.
Your words don't touch my heart, change my life,
make a serious attempt on my life, derange me,
do anything to me, just lie there
so disconnected from my spinal cord
they're clear cut yarrow sticks that have never heard
of the Book of Changes. Lean-tos and collapsed tents
in the shadows of Stone Henge. No moon. No Taj Mahal.
You're an architect of flowers, but you don't come
with any instructions for assembly. Or even a bag of tools
to flint knap your costume jewellery into arrowheads,
you could always hurl at a turtle on the run, since
it's obvious there's nothing wildly alive in the woods
that has anything to fear from a poet who can't handle a bow
anymore than he can a lyre strung from his own gut.
No urgency in your work. No necessity, risk, danger.
Nothing lethal in the windowsill jungles you explore.
Nothing driving you like the inconsolable dead
into the unmarked grave of a black hole
that never bottoms out like a death in life experience
giving birth to a whole new universe of not two
every morning you wake up in it grateful for the chance
to teach your club-footed absurdity to dance with the bones
of distinguished skeletons who are experts
at knowing how to necro-romanticize the abyss.
When words talk to words about words
it's not because imagination has run out of poets
who aren't unsayable or self-destructive enough
to sacrifice their voices bleeding for the unattainable
so that every poem is history written by the losers,
it's because there's no visionary flash back
when you drown in your own reflection
in a narcissistic labyrinth of mirrors. No crash and burn
in your elegaic encounters with what you're missing.
Your absence doesn't leave a mark on the world
as you seek corporate applause for your trained individualism
tweaking your neuronic synapses with the reflexes
of early amphibians, one foot on shore, one in the boat
just to play it safe, a wishbone bridging both mediums
like a witching wand twitching over a watershed
with a dislocated pelvis that makes you dance with a limp
like Giovanni's frog jumping between electrodes,
or as I remember, growing up, little girls playing hopscotch
on a sidewalk chalked with the outlines of corpses
with photo ops of the brand names on their toe tags.
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