Patrick White

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

A Thing Is Adapted To Its Fate - Poem by Patrick White

A thing is adapted to its fate. Not a hair's difference between it and what happens to it. No distinction. Not so us who have eyelids. No perfect equanimity in our stillness. My empty blue glass skull on the windowsill pities the oceans of commotion in my head. The way, when I ruminate, it's always as if I'm living out of a suitcase full of dead flowers. And now you come to me unasked with your platter of poetry, your feast for the dead, and even among spirits you enforce your evangelism about tobacco, and all I can see on the snow plains of your plate, is a few clear cut shrubs of parsley. What did Horace say, Terence, this is stupid stuff. Lettuce-soup. Holy water from the aquifer of the last blister you had a bad love affair with.

And I see you've gone and educated your indifference at a higher institution of learning. Did you get a nose bleed in the ivory tower? Did the capitalists poach it on the way to kill an elephant and saw through the tusks of the moon like a logging company? Did you gather around the death bed of distinguished shipwrecks and pluck the gold earrings from their lobes like heritage jewellery they wanted to be buried with? Was that a seance or an exorcism? More an exorcism I should think, because even the ghosts have been driven off by how antiseptic everything you write is. So many poets like that these days, they lay out their lines like scalpels, mirrors, mouthwash and toe-tags, all unwrapped from a Dead Sea Scroll of clean cotton, a page of twenty-pound number two book paper, as if they were about to perform an operation, but these surgeons can't stand the sight of blood, so nothing ever happens. No one ever gets cut, healed, mended, or pronounced dead. Or even a scar worth buying someone a drink for.

Were you writing a poem, or were you trying to splice a movie together out of the duct tape you wrap around your mouth when you're inspired? Were you consulting the prophetic skulls of star-nosed moles gnawing radically on the roots of things, or did you get another tinkling idea for a poem from the wind-chimes your cat on the windowsill was pawing? And is it true? There are still people who think they can come up to you and blow moral oatmeal in your face out of a communal sense of self-sanctity that oozes like bad yogurt, toothpaste, and the lack of a sexual life? I don't say a word I just enter their lives like a force of nature and pull the trigger of the moon on them. No regrets. Blackflies of the mind. I don't mind wolves packing, but I've got no time for people who swarm.

And this body part here, about your boyfriend, where you try to smile like a photo-op at a nasty wedding, was that spontaneous, or did you hold a gun to your head? And I love this bit here where you say the world would be a better place if more people made bisexual raspberry jam and then licked it off their fingers in a poem. What? You get an award for that? Embroider it on your pillowcase and pray for a decent nightmare. Cameras freed poets and painters from thinking photogenically in an emergency darkroom of ambulatory wavelengths, no more bankers, elks, and beavers on the coinage, the artist unchained like Prometheus from replication and aesthetic vulturism. But I swear, when I read this tripe, and it's everywhere, I'm looking for the shutter-speed on a camera with something in its eye, crying on cue like a consensus of sorrow. You've got an ingenuous heart like an old-fashioned jukebox that always thinks that Venus keeps her jeans on.

No rapture. No exstasis. No apocalypse. No apocrypha. No synteretic spark at the intersection of time and the timeless, just this miserable traffic light always on red. You ever had a feeling that wasn't a mythically inflated weather balloon that didn't pass out from lack of oxygen? And yes, I can sense here and there the earth throbbing with urgencies where you've stubbed your big toe on the rock of the world? Must have hurt like an Ethiopian? Must have stung like a mother who watched her child starve to death in a civilization based on agriculture? The relativity of horror. The world is on fire, and you add your little bit of flavoured spit to put it out. By God, it's a start. Let's celebrate the beginning of another feel-good distraction by tarring and feathering ourselves in honey and doves. Why is it all your highest ideals smell like soap?

If I were to ask you what you would die for, would you hand me, a menu? Would you bleed for the hors d'oeuvres? You want to create without destruction. You don't revile yourself enough to be trustworthy. You defang the moon so the kids can play with snakes without getting a booster shot. Of all the lustrous stones and stars and jewels of poetry, of all those nocturnal waterlilies that transformed the festering of all those enflamed waters, all that rottenness, circumstance and pain, the soggy duff of leaves and leeches, the broth of witchy history, the arcana of secret tears, the encyclopedic soup of eyes and worms and frogs and snails, three teeth from the jaw of a dead wolf, and a hair of the muskrat it trapped in the cattails, of all those orchards blooming among the stars, those towers of rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and diamonds, each the insight of a human creature suffering for nothing more than the freedom to scream beautifully, I read your poetry and that of your friends with no more preconceptions than a lens, and though I know you say you live in an amethyst village enlightened by violet sages, I've walked through blizzards of this stuff down your cold, short-winded avenues, and though I know you meant to shine for the best of intentions, all I can see is cement. Pancaking like parking lots.

And there are so many like you in this socially dalliant creative day-care. You start out writing like an ambulance and leave like a well-plumed hearse made out of second hand violins that have been repossessed. You're all starring like thumb tacks in a new literary life support system. Clever, trivial, irrelevant, echoed, doesn't occur to you. You've never gone slumming in your own mendacity. Your work, like your cosmology, is as immaculately clean as a papal confession. You're all living in emotional tents with the rest of the homeless, but you all come on like the cornerstones of literary events. Corrupted by the awards you confer on each other in turn, once you lose. Readings where everyone talks through you like an isolation cell of occult ventriloquists holding a seance in the Tower of Babel. Gibbering ghosts as boring as gibbous moons. I can remember when poetry readings were sacred asylums with mystical pools designed by Ummayads on the moon and eyes as big as telescopes where the mad got together third Friday of every month, and though everyone was a carnie off the nightshift of the circus, everyone greeted one another with compassion, and crippled or mad the same, articulated the daily content of their lives with such passion God may have been the burning bush in the Valley of Tuwa, but poetry was the flame.

And how do you expect me to plough myself under now that you've salted the moon? I marvel at the quickness of the silver fish in your shallows, but a raindropp running down a windowpane is not a northern river or a tide. Not even really a tear. Come on, now, do the right thing, grab a shovel, dig yourself up, and stop writing cemeteries of these relics in a bone-box. Nobody really cares, lady, if you shave your head or not and save the bucolated clippings as haikus. This is the Age of Desecration because everything catches on too fast to be sensitive. To let the wine sleep in if it wants. To drift with the river as if you were jamming together. To have a brace of dragons eating the hearts of your enemies out of your hands and the swords of their surrender hanging from your window like icicles. You see a damselfly sipping at a blue hyacinth. I'm thrashing through the enraged woods like a wounded bear. You canter a winged horse through a slum. I'm running my tongue along a piece of broken glass like a suicidal atlas just to blood the sabre of the moon in a toxic sunset. Spare me your alibis, the dead bird under the window doesn't sing like the live one in the tree. I've seen my name on poetry posters in large letters, but that didn't make as big an impression on me as my name on an arrest warrant. On books that have grown famous by being ignored, but, sweetness, put that up against your gravestone or a pair of Rebok runners tangled like a bola in a powerline, and what are these little dry flowers beside that?

Be the dead branch and blossom like a moonrise. Start a coven of expressionist chameleons and get over your habit of crocheting the Sistine Chapel Roof like a tea cosy. Drink paint and hemorrhage rainbows from your slashed eardrums. Cut a matador's ear off in a bullfight between the sun and the moon and throw it to your girlfriend up in the stands like a rodeo clown on painkillers. I want to see the blood soaking through the paper you write on like a bandage to keep the sunset from bleeding out like a poppy. Try to live in such a way that if you were to leave your diary out on the kitchen table, at least a few people outside your immediate family would want to read it. And don't try to pad the cosmic bras of your voodoo dolls with the folderol of Barbies. Cast your curse and walk on. Spread your blessing when occasion occurs and be gone, gone, gone, altogether gone beyond by the time they get around to making a constellation of your deleterious light. Shape space with your presence. Circumscribe time with more than a mere circle of Sumerian sexigesimals. And always know what hour of your heart it is that wanders off by itself like some solitudinous demon condemned to do some good in the world outside of the box, sitting by the river next to the wild irises, shedding its skin like a visionary calendar of new moons and enlightened eclipses, contemplating the absurdity of revealing eyeless lies that heal irremedially to the well-concealed.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, May 26, 2012

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