Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
You're Just Messed Up Like New Moonlight
You’re just messed up like new moonlight
scattering its plumage on the waters like the wing
of a black swan, sweet one. Dry your eyes.
I know there’s a house well of sadness in every one
of your tears, but this is not an eclipse, not the headwaters
of the mascara that runs down your cheeks
like rivers of night. Less is not less. More is not more.
And the light’s not being cruel or trying to make a fool of you.
Love can be a constant in an Elizabethan sonnet,
but in my lean experience of separation and union
the heart’s never been true to time. It doesn’t reject,
it doesn’t defect, it pines for change like an evergreen
when the red-winged blackbirds return in the spring.
Love’s disciplined as water when it’s ice, conformable
as the eyes of the dead to any shape that contains it
like a fixed star that’s always on the graveyard shift
in somebody’s heart or other, a kind of permafrost
that thaws out in the spring like a long laneway of starmud,
or your tears as they are now, released, supple, free,
a turmoil of puddles like inkwells among a thousand lakes
that still wouldn’t be enough, I know, to fill
the eyeless, skyless, emptiness in your heart with words
like the abandoned nest of the abyss in a vacant aerodrome
that’s never going to fly again, songs in the dawn, echoes
in the dusk, and you in your boa of black feathers
billowing like smoke from a rubber tire you set afire
like your heart at a protest when things got real mean and rough.
I can’t say if you’re lover’s ever coming back.
My mystic guess is usually not, but possibly, but don’t
hold your nose like an amateur pearl diver plunging
into those depths when the moon is in the corals
and it’s a shipwreck with its hull ripped out on the reef
you mistook for an enchanted island where you
were the Circe of love, as you were, and it was,
though forever turned out to be epiphanously brief.
No good turning your tears into bathyspheres
when the seas are bottomless and your loveboats don’t float.
Every time you open your eyes another star’s encouraged to shine.
It’s clear you feel like you’re the one who’s blind,
but it’s not true, you know, if you turn the night around
and let the light look into you like the moon
through your bedroom window when there was
more rapture in dreaming awake than there was
in wasting it on sleeping, you’ll see the hidden radiance I see
deep within you brighten the light by deepening the darkness.
Forgive what you can. Forget the rest. Cherish what you must.
It’s not always an evil sign when things go dark. Even
the Queen of Cups must leak out of her heart like the moon
sometime. Mend it with gold. Or leave it open like a wound
you don’t want to get over because the pain has grown
so beautiful, and your longing so pure and poetic
it feels as if a dark angel pierced you through the heart
with a spear of fire that burns like dry ice. Finalities
and farewells numinous with supranormal significance
that can haunt you like an open gate no one’s ever
closed behind them even after stepping through it
lightyears ago. And later in life, you’ll see, you’ll
be amazed by the triviality of the mystic details
the eccentric heart remembers, little things
you never gave a thought to at the time, fireflies
that end up dwarfing the supernovas of self-annihilating emotion
that vaporized the oceans in your eyes and scattered your ashes
across the firmament like the Road of Ghosts poured
from the urn of a cement truck paving over the past
to make you forget that any path you take in life
is cobbled with the skulls of those who died to build it
like coolies on the C.P.R., or children making Nike runners.
You’re bipedal enough to know that one step forward
is one step back so where on this long, dark, waning
and waxing journey through life is there anywhere
for anyone to go except right here as we are now
dogpaddling in space as if we were firewalking on stars?
Between the first and last crescents of the parenthetical moon,
like the bay of your open arms, the systole, diastole of your heart,
the ebbing and neaping of tides, quantumly entangled photons
ten thousand times the speed of light, flaunting
the constants of life like chains we throw off
like a revolution we fought to keep things
as they always were, radically the same, clinging
like liberation and unity to the contradictory sum of our parts.
When these deserts of stars that scorch the heart grow hot enough
they go swimming in their own mirages like lovers
in each other’s eyes, trying to beat the heat
by sweating it out as if each were weather to the other,
a promise of rain, a spring in Jericho, the oasis
of Amun-Re in Egypt. Yes, your lover’s father was a god
and his mother a Pythian priestess with the grace of a snake,
and you feel you’re burning like Persepolis in the flames
of a drunken rage trying to upstage Asia Hellenistically,
but little Isis, you’re sleepwalking in the land of the lotus-eaters
as if you were following the starmap of a dream you drew
imagining what it would be like to be in love
like a secret garden in paradise you never grew tired of
waiting for him to step out of the moonlight
and embrace you under the blossoming persimmon trees
as if he were of the same heart as you and you weren’t a girl
with grass stains on your knees and your hair in hideous braids
you wanted to cut short like a reprieve from your mother’s sense
of gallow’s humour and what looked good on you
like a chain weighing anchor like the corpse of a caduceus
that couldn’t find a way to heal itself before it was too late.
It’s an injurious business losing your innocence like a lie
you told yourself as a young girl, and did everything you could
to make come true. Don’t flagellate yourself
for something that was missing in you or think
your life, his life, all life is meaningless because
even his absence isn’t big enough to contain
the emptiness that abounds in you like a darkness
you cherish like a hidden jewel in an underworld
where the Queen of Death is more ravishing
than apple bloom in the spring of life before
the prelude of love turns bitter and green for awhile
as counter intuitively, the golden windfalls of the sun
at dusk in autumn, and this can happen synchronistically
without a local habitation or a name at any time
regardless of your age or the despair of your era,
just fall in your lap like the sweetness of life
ripening the light retroactively on a survivable planet.
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