Patrick White

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

A Seance Of Sprites And Ghouls In The Cabals Of Emptiness - Poem by Patrick White

A seance of sprites and ghouls in the cabals of emptiness
as the train whistle mourns across town out of the darkness
looking for its lost child somewhere along the tracks
where last night's waning moon put its head
down on the rails as if it were swanning on the block
like an uninhabitable planet jumping orbits
to coyote into the Goldilocks zone like an illegal alien.

O let the midnight special shine its everlovin? light on me.
Not the first time I've been up with these novice ghosts
in the darkest hours of the early morning and felt
this relentless sense of incompletion aching in the air
like dry ice in the tears of frozen mirrors locked in grief.
I'm a halfway house for successful suicides and my abyss
is their abyss and that's about as close as they're ever
going to get to the flavourless taste of death again,
clinging like old gum to the underside of their vacant desks.

I let them terraform moonscapes out of my starmud
on the dark side of things as if they were sculpting
life-size glaciers of themselves hoping they might
thaw out like crocuses and early waterlilies in the spring,
but they're only irrigating their birth canals with glass
like Schiaparelli's Martian aberrations on the lens
of an extinct intelligence that left signs of itself
in the wastes of an occult catastrophe that has yet
to be determined like the history of a future
that happened only yesterday in an ice-age of desolation.

Even in the dead of winter, I keep a green bough
in the leafless tree of my voice should anyone remember
the lyrics of the nightbirds they were once a moment ago
when they longed for things they didn't know
how to ask for, or were refused, from the people who
were suppose to love them and did, or didn't
and still don't though it came as a shock to their indifference
how feeble and transitory the webs and mandalas that bind us
to one another are and how little it takes
for a squall of stars to sever them like
the Medusan wavelengths of Al Gol in Perseus,
or spinal cords and the coinage of new moons
and total eclipses holding their breath as death comes on
like a punchline to the perils of Pauline in parallel universes.

How much respect we accord the dead
than the little they received in their lives.
How easy it is to open our eyes like windows
balanced by lead coffins lowered into wishing wells
and take the executioner's hood off the bird cage,
the sky off its perch and let the spirit of life spread its wings
and fly with Cygnus and Aquila on a brilliant seeing night.

I crack the seal of the past like the plack of old paint
supergluing my eyelids shut with thick-skinned dreams
like a massive picture frame that squints like a postage stamp
through the keyhole of an astronomical view
of a shattered mindscape lightyears beyond the windows
I let the birds and the fireflies bearing the souls of the dead
whose bones are chalk dust on the moon come and go by
in a riot of spontaneous mayhem full of vital possibilities
acutely aware of the chaos that troubles their graves.

With every breath they try to take like a candle in a vacuum
that abhorred its nature enough to deny the moonrise
passage through the whitewater turmoil of their apple bloom
scattered by the cold-hearted gripe of bitter green winds,
I try to mingle a lost atmosphere or two of my own
hoping they can cling to that for awhile like shepherd moons
trying to reanimate the dragons in the ashes of their urns.

I let the dead dwell within me in the empty warehouses, silos
whiskey barrels, abandoned hives and aerodromes whose wings
have lost their flightfeathers like grounded maple keys,
so they can still taste a patina of the honey and firewater
that remains like an echo of the longing to live again
like the lyrics of the excruciating nightbirds
that destroyed their voices crying out for the unattainable
like a crosstown train keening like a hopeless wind
through an unmarked cemetery of palliative road kill.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013

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