Patrick White

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

Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump, Thump


Thump, thump, thump, thump, thump, down
the hollow stairs, steel-toed construction boots,
the tenant next door who lives a wall away, five a.m.,
off to work in the dark again, slam, the mechanical arm
pulling the door shut as if something were concluded
like the end of a hardcover book that pulled it off,
a gavel, the decisive beginning of a chronic routine
that must be endured as if he were in charge
of something trivial unrelated to his life.

Out on the streets, Sisyphus with a snow shovel
scraping the sidewalks third time tonight
in and out of the infernal spotlights
in the tungsten stained cones under the lamp posts
alone, alone, alone, with just me looking down
from my window, wondering what desperation
drives him to take his job so seriously.
It's the man that ennobles the work, not
the work the man. Same way with words.

Truck engines wake the day up before the birds.
Crunch of car tires on ice. Plumage
of carbon monoxide, exorcisms of breath
through the mouth, unrevealing fans of visibility
on the defogging windshields as one vehicle
after another pulls up to the atm machine
in the sterile temple to money across the street
as if they were lighting candles in code
like the name of an unknown god in the niche
of a push button shrine that photographs
every move they make as it welcomes everyone
the same, like a priest at the door of a church,
electronically. Work should be the form
of their worship, not the fruits of their labour.

I'm Upanishadic that way. I abhor the numbing
of the human spirit. I loath seeing jackasses
leading eagles around on a leash. Hooded ospreys
on the arms of falconers assuming their virtues
by proxy. Puppet masters pulling their spinal cords
like the strings of a kite tugging at its life to cut loose
even if it means flaming out in the powerlines
or falling back to earth like an unsuccessful proto-type
of what it was born to be, endowed
with mind, heart, imagination and spirit
and the lifespan of snow on a mine field,
or the lighthouse of a firefly in a hurricane of stars
for greater events than the tyranny of greed
and circumstance allow. Wholly human and free
by birthright to explore the mystery of their own lives
creatively, with only their own hearts to answer to.

Government by dead metaphor. Reality the consensus
of a habit. We don't walk anywhere without
coffins on our feet like shoes in a cemetery.
What can other species expect when we squander
each other on nothing, on death, on a waste
of the wonder that we're here at all in the presence
of so much else that managed it as well as us
by doing what it knows how to be best.

Me? I got up because I couldn't sleep, falling
into the crack between a dream and being awake,
lying in the dark of a false dawn, my mind trying
to pick out the chords of the picture-music by ear
in a cosmic collaboration of gestural constellations
jamming with diamond spiders on blood red jazz guitars
carved out of the heartwood of a mad man
troubled by compassion for the extreme chaos
of conditioned consciousness, as he answers the call
of an unsummoned inspiration, to resign himself
to getting up estranged by his own will, sit
in the interrogative glare of a one-eyed computer
in the dark, and write it all down as if
that were somehow crucially important somewhere
to someone who's never felt this way before
without feeling so alone, so alone, with messages
they received lightyears before they understood them
from someone crazed enough to risk his mind to know
while there's time yet to listen unintelligibly open
to what was being said by a voice out of the void
as if that's what he did, without making a sound.

Submitted: Thursday, February 21, 2013

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