Treasure Island

Patrick White

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

Sitting At An Open Window In The Studio


Sitting at an open window in the studio, nothing
on the easels, watching the night rain
in the storefront puddles on the road below.
Earrings falling from the lobes of the leaves
of the trees in the half glow of the overgrown streetlamps.

I rest the flying buttress of my elbow
against the wall of the abandoned cathedral
of my top-heavy head against a windowsill
chipped, pocked, scraped, thick with years
of old paint discoloured as scar tissue, my cat
a quiet sphinx beside me, and it’s one
of those moments when you know for sure
as it sometimes does like a wounded eclipse of the moon
without a word, or a sign, it’s come to this,
as if the insignificance of an entire lifetime
were summed up by the stillness, silence, and solitude
of a stranger at the gate death left open
when it grew tired of waiting for me to arrive.

Not much of a garden and still less of grave
to house my bones in autumn, somewhere tonight
an old man is contemplating suicide like the tuber
of a flowerless life and it feels all right
to be uprooted like an eye of rain in the dark
without hope of seeing anything bloom again
quite the way it used to. I’m blocking in
an underpainting of the truth to see if the truth
is beautiful or not or just mucky with thought.
Or careless of the way it looks, life blooms
and then it rots. All that contested magnificence
of the rose exhumed like Richard III from a parking lot
to be reinterred in a touristy tomb as befits an English king.

I turn off the lights and light a candle to remind me
of the vapour of a dream I once had
when the arpeggios of the rain last played me
like Scarlatti on the keyboard of a harpsichord,
but it goes out like the denouement of cathartic pity
at the end of an unappealing life in a tragic city
where everyone walks over the corpses of the chorus
as if fate were of no concern of theirs.
Bring on the darkness exorcised of the false gods
that don’t know enough to leave things the way they are.

Everything gleams like a coat of varnish
on oils that have long bled out like Proserpine
leeched by the underworld until next spring.
It isn’t easy to go down singing into death
knowing half of every breath you take
is the expiration date on a prophetic skull
that knows all too well that looking back on the past
retrieves nothing, even when you’ve got wings on your heels,
you can bring to the surface of consciousness
but a last gasp of desperate bubbles that flash
before your eyes like the life of a man drowning
in municipal puddles of agitated starmud
the rain keeps falling into like blackholes
in the asphalt of a road whose cup runs over
like the gutter of a grail drunk down to the lees.

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

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