Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Solid Enough In The World For One Day
Solid enough in the world for one day
sit down at your desk and evaporate like something real.
Let your spring mindstream wash your detritus away,
lave your overturned roots like feet that have stood their ground
long enough, as if it were keeping an octopus wet,
or you were sitting down on the job having a good laugh
with radical crows who cherish you like an iconic in-joke.
One sweep of the sword and the knot in your heartwood’s unravelled
like the rain, like the pain you’ve been carrying inside of you
like the bottomless bucket of a baby that’s never going to come to term.
It’s grey outside. The air is opalescent. You’re
pearl diving in an hourglass like a nacreous agitator
that wants to add a little lustre to life. Something satin
that isn’t wasted on a coffin. Fair enough. It’s one
of the nobler ways of ruining your life in the name
of something no one ever completely understands.
Make your mind dark. Walk homeless within yourself
instead of saying you’re lost when all you are
is overwhelmed. Be overwhelmed. Astonished.
Awed. Full of wonder. The way the sky feels
every time the stars emerge like unexpected insights
into the abysmal nature of its creative potential
coming out like wildflowers, each in their own hour,
in the Lanark hills. Trout lily, hepatica, crocus.
Enthrone yourself like a queen or a mermaid
on a rock you like down by the run-off of the river
but this time don’t ask the willows what they think of your song
look at the red-winged blackbirds gathering on the hawthorn
that can tell by the way the wind applauds in the trees
you’ve been practising since they’ve been gone.
Is it so bad? Is it so wrong to enjoy the fire
from the smoke’s point of view once in awhile?
Just drift away into the night as if you had something in common
with the white, sweet clover along the Road of Ghosts.
Who knows what genies might spring from the lamp?
Is it so hard to imagine having a heart like yours
and being at ease with it? Peace doesn’t mean
you take the tension out of life or you have to dance
with the fireflies if you don’t want to. Nothing’s prescribed.
No need to try and heal the medicine. The blue stars
of the sage are shining like sapphires left over from last spring
when you went down into the underworld but refused to drink
what it offered you. A chance to taste death as if
you were homesick for a past you looked forward to having.
The river clarifies itself in its own running. Be carried away
circuitously, as if you’d wandered lightyears from the shrine
of your own lost pilgrimage. Ask any experienced oscilloscope
there’s more intelligent life in a curve than there is in a straight line.
But don’t hold it against the turkey vultures
they’ve got an appetite for roadkill. We’re all buried in life
like organ donors with no idea of who we’re going
to give ourselves to except we hope it’s useful in retrospect
when it comes time to clean out the garage, that we suggested
the mind can make out all right on its own, but you couldn’t part
with your eyes if they didn’t go with your heart
like moonrise in early April, like apple bloom
in the abandoned backyard of the house you were raised in.
Haven’t you suffered enough on this long night journey of your soul
following your gut like runic scars on a Viking sunstone
to dapple your wings in a few fountains along the way,
run down to the bay naked and laughing as if
there were nobody around to scare or plunder
and even Eric the Red must have had a child in him
that sometimes came out to play like a pup seal on an ice floe.
Stop asking the tongues of the roses to say awww
as if they had thorns caught in their throat
like polyps on a voicebox or starlings in a chimney.
Treat your heart to the down and contrails
of unknown flightfeathers for a change
and skip the usual darning needles like an eye
you don’t have to pass through if it’s always closed
this time of the season. There will always be hard rocks
willing as an avalanche to take some of the load off
by kicking your foundation stone from under your feet
like the footstool of the turtle the world mountain balanced on
in a race with Haigha, the mad, March Hare and the Mad Hatter
to see who can make it all the way to May.
Relax. It’s all out of control. No need to be
progressively droll or superciliously altruistic
about bettering a world where the peasants ate cake yesterday
but today they’re engaged in a holy war over the recipe.
Blossom or windfall, leaf or meteor, let things
fall out as they may. Don’t give your roots
a nervous breakdown when the lightning
is witching for water by testing the air with its tongue
to see if you’re enlightened or not, and if not, bite
so you can return like spring every year released from death.
Sit down at your desk. Barefoot. Feel the starmud
ooze between your toes, as if the flesh and mind of the earth
were your flesh and mind, as they are. Be smoke, be tendrils,
linger along your own path fascinated by all the blades
of the wild irises sprouting like jackknifes along the way.
Look at the leaves unfolding like scrolls the way
we used to roll and unroll our tongues as kids.
Could you do that? Or did you whistle better than everybody?
Everybody’s got something that makes them special
some little trick or quirk they’ve mastered
whether the world recognizes it or not, some few did
and they’re still standing there somewhere in time
gaping with their jaws open you could do that
and that was the cherry blossom of the moment
when you were perfect. As the Upanishads say
This is perfect. That is perfect. Take perfect from perfect
it’s still perfect isn’t it? The question’s mine.
But that’s what we’re born and perish with however we change.
The big questions in life aren’t lacking anything,
and the answers, they’re so simple, they don’t like to be asked.
Treat the solid to something new once and awhile
and make it real. You’ll stop being in such a rush
to know who you are when you realize you’re
an ongoing event, not a thing that had to stay home
and look after the farm, and a few exotic peacocks
that moult their eyes every year just for show.
The rich man dies of democracy on his death-bed.
The genius longs to be credibly stupid among people.
The beauty-queen grows jealous of the stars like a firefly.
The athlete grows love handles like a trophy on his perfect physique.
The lover lives in a moment that longs for the past the rest of her life.
The sage wonders if wisdom is a sacred clown or a trickster.
What has the dove got that the crow envies?
Why should you harry oblivion like an alarm clock
as if life were wasting its time on you if you didn’t hurry up?
Comments about this poem (Solid Enough In The World For One Day by Patrick White )
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