Patrick White

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

A Vision Of Grief In The World - Poem by Patrick White

A vision of grief in the world, so vast and varied,
so intimately specific, so peculiar to each one of us,
we stratify it in our brains like the fossil shapes
of wavelengths and membranes layered
like the flying carpets of the Burgess Shale
or the sediment of a mindstream slowing down
to deposit itself in the book of experience.
Things we couldn't understand at the time
and still don't, turmoils of stardust
that fogged our clarity up like a windshield
and taught the heart that feeling
cannot only be a chandelier but a chainsaw
in an old growth forest as well
no matter how many nails for the best of reasons
you drive into the messiah you're trying to save.

We're always pouring mirages into
the white gold goblets of the moon
and confusing our lunancy
with the hilarity of being drunk enough
to delude us into thinking we've escaped our sorrow
by covering our eyes to outrun the light.

Sometimes I can look at a housefly missing one wing,
rowing in circles on its back on a windowsill,
and my heart overwhelms me with a flashflood of tears
rising from an unknown watershed deep inside,
a subliminal empathy for everything that is lost,
broken, and alone, seriously alone, when
they turn the lights out in the labyrinth for the night,
and the wounded lab rats settle down
in the corners of their cages with their backs
up against the wall, until tommorow when
the lights go on again like a Pavlovian dawn,
and the savage humans come with their tormentive deaths
to kill the way they kill each other
with expedience and enlightened self interest
that whisper like contractors in the shadows
of pleonastic alibis for perpetual war against the world.

No less susceptible than I have been all along
to what is emerging like a dark harmony from my confusion,
my well-informed bafflement, this road I've been walking
like a revolution on crutches ever since we lost,
as if there were no other way but love and understanding
even when you're ready, six times a day
to concede defeat without giving your assent
to the way chaos turned out in retrospect. Time
sweetens the apple into an approximately habitable planet
even if it's not Eden, and peace beguiles the soul
like someone left alone too long to the intimacy of their solitude
but the sadness of a seasoned overview mingles
in the sugars of life as well, and the heart, the heart
hangs heavily in space with no sight of a planet
under its feet anymore, except the abyss of it all
with nothing to fall toward or away from anymore.
A black sheep shepherd moon with nowhere to pasture
in the starfields on the back slopes of the world mountain,
with nothing to graze on but the symbols
that swarm its breakthrough into the available dimensions
of a future that can't happen a while longer without it.

Human nature, an alloy of the highest and the lowest,
a three-edged sword, drawn like iron and blood out of the ore,
folded and hammered on the anvils of the stars
and tempered in the valleys of the fireflies
where cooler heads prevail, or the nib
of a silver plough farming the dark side of the moon
as if it were seeding sacred syllables in its wake
hoping they would spread like the hermetic lunacy
of tryng to make bread to share with those who hunger,
out of wildflowers. I was born with a bellyful of those
who try to make what people need seem as beautiful
as the gaping aviomantic fountainmouths they never feed.

Michelangelo at Sotheby's, Shakespeare at the Bodleian,
how many families could culture sustain
if it actually got as real as grain in their bloodstreams,
instead of auctioning off the windows
as if Galileo painted something as obscene
upon the corrective lenses of his Dutch telescope
as pockmarks on the moon and sunspots on perfections
as one cardinal suggested he did
instead of looking as far as any of these three
into what is well beyond any of us to comprehend and forgive
insomuch if it's done unto these,
it's done unto the rest of us as well?
We should worry about a lot more than just cholesterol
placking the heart at its tinkling soirees
suggestively pointing out the gestures
of meaningful insignificance that beset our labours.
We should check out, to maintain our own well being,
whether our art has a green thumb or not,
or we're just leaving
the crumbs of our dreams in the corners
of other people's eyes to nibble their way

out of a dark wood into the threshed gardens
and empty silos that ring as hollow as a carillon of bells
summoning a sad, sad seance to leave ghost food out for the dead.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, August 20, 2012

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