Treasure Island

Patrick White

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

Witching For Water In Hell Is Like


Witching for water in hell is like
trying to drink a mirage from an hourglass.
All lightning, no rain. More axons than glia.
Hazel yokes might break like wishbones
but you never get what you want.
I wanted you like a madness I never
wanted to get over, I’d have to make
a truce with to live as if it were worth it.

Nothing’s true but that’s beside the point.
Take true from false and there’s nothing
left to go wrong though the fools play
one off against the other like razor-blades
at a cock fight. Cock-a-doodle-do, who
are you? King of the dawn with a Zippo coxcomb?

Witching for water in hell is like
reality living the afterlife of theater.
You just don’t know who to believe anymore,
the writer or the actor. Or you’re gulled
in the wake of a B.C. Ferry by your own ideals.
Your audience hides behind the wavelengths
of the curtain that you’re parting like the veils of Isis.
If you can do that, if you can pull back the rain
to see there’s nobody at the door, you’ve
already amounted to nothing. Significance
becomes a bore. You do things for the hell of it,
knowing it’s only a staying pattern until
you’re given permission to land in the cemetery.

Witching for water in hell isn’t
an ingenuous man trying to live
like a fire extinguisher mounted on a wall
while above him shine the green-eyed banshees
that go off as if somebody were trying
to steal his car and he wasn’t enough of a heretic
to burn at the stake and have it done with.
Hell, I mean. As if suffering were
the antecedent to everything that’s perishable
about life, the way you wear holes in your dream
pacing under the window, more to lose
than win as if sleepwalking weren’t part
of the delusion. And waking up
weren’t a breach birth of broken glass.

I had both hands on the prayer wheel
of birth and death once, at eleven and two,
navigating between the clashing rocks
so I didn’t get smashed between the opposites
like a bird with no wings and a sky that’s waiting
for it to fly. You can only touch as much
as you can imagine your senses are trying to tell you.

Witching for water in hell is like
a man with eyes that can see learning Braille
so he can track himself like hierogylph in the mail,
a triangular planet that passes like a kidney stone
through the urethra of the zodiac, the slime path
of a boneless morning snail adding
its ribbon of shining to the garden while
the sidewalks are still cool enough not to blister on.

I live in an air conditioned shell with running snot and water,
my body a bag with nine orifices like a sprinkler
on the lawn pretending it’s a galaxy, a sunflower,
the golden ratios of the conch shells of eternity
fossilized in the Burgess Shale, and all
the armies that they called, terracotta
in a lake of mercury that will make me live forever.
But witching for water in hell is like
an action figure with a sword of dry ice
that cries like a ghost of itself it’s dying to return
like a river to a forbidden watershed on the moon.

I loved you once and maybe I’ll love you again.
I’ll greet the snow in your hair as you stand
in the doorway as it adorns something warm
and incorrigibly human that looks at life
as more of a furnace than a fridge. Fire and ice.
The way the world is destroyed in the name
of a madness inspired by the fossils of the fountains
of love, witching for water in hell to amuse the insane.

Submitted: Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, October 23, 2013

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