All The Good Reasons That Get In The Way Of Writing - Poem by Patrick White
All the good reasons that get in the way of writing,
baby needs new shoes, and you're conscientious and diligent,
will kill you faster than the bad ones
that brought you to the edge of your mindstream in the first place
to dip your skull like the cup of the moon
in the wellsprings of your own imagination
instead of always sipping spit from other men's mouths.
I'm not saying don't do what you must do
to be a decent human being, or as close as you can get,
but when you're creatively underwhelmed
by the rising Rockies of Circumstance
losing their footing like an avalanche of cornerstones
coming down on you like a barrage of asteroids,
you better find a mountain gear deep within yourself
to power you out of the way of your own collapsing mindscape.
Don't come to a reasonable truce with the ashen exigencies
of the underwhelming reality love married you to,
or pontificate like a hollow urn on the tragic absence
of even so much as an echo of yourself to make a comeback
or tell me you squandered it all like apple bloom
when everything I've read of what you haven't written
smells like smoke from a distant pyre on the wind.
Remember the fire. Even if you have to burn underground
through the occult roots of the cedars, or bury yourself
powdered in red ochre under the hearthstones
of your prophetic forebears erasing your picture-music
from the cave walls like graffiti under a bridge
between this world as it never is when you look too closely,
and the one that's working on you like spiritual water on limestone.
Remember the fire. Remember the discipline
of disobedience that tempted you to steal it in the first place
like a Spartan boy with a hot fox, as it
eats you from the outside in without you saying a word
lest you get caught ratting your deepest secret out in agony.
Or regenerative Prometheus chained to a rock like a salamander
born in the fire of his own afterbirth. Know this.
Lightning doesn't strike the roosters of fire
that crow like weathervanes pinned
like a medal from an old campaign to the axis of the wind
as if the dawn were some kind of triumph over the night.
Cradle that fire in your hands like a bird that's fallen to earth,
or a lamp of holy oil in a niche of unanswered longings,
a candle in a hurricane of boarded up windows,
the light of your own mind, casting shadows of time
like a sundial with a wilder imagination
than its usefulness might at first glance suggest.
Nor will it do to catch a falling star and put it in your pocket,
or pour gold down your throat like the Parthians did Crassus
and expect to shine like a lighthouse in a diamond mine
with the voice of an oracular canary in a cage.
You've got to live inexhaustibly
what you're going to write about first
if you want to burn down the Library of Alexandria
in a gamma ray burst of creative annihilation
because you can only master as much life
as you've surrendered to like a heretic at the stake
or a pine cone germinating the seeds of enlightenment
like a zen hermit in a forest fire. Don't take
all the beautiful green swords flaming like wild irises
whose beauty you fall upon like an honourable death
and abuse them like the palings of a gate or a fence around paradise.
Even if you've only got a firefly of talent
left in the caldera of an extinct volcano,
a spark in the firepit of a burnt out dragon,
a smouldering ember from last night's fire in the stove
on a cold morning when the windows are blazing with ice,
you must be crazy and wise enough oxymoronically
to be the benign tyrant of your own Golden Age
like Pericles of Athens, with a politically incorrect
lover for a muse you look upon like the Parthenon
as if she were a phase of the moon. Even if
you love the swaying silver of the wind
over the heavy-grained harvest breaking water
like a bell under a redundant blue moon,
don't shrink from threshing it if you want to
share it like bread with people as hungry as you are
to eat the heart of the king of the waxing year,
like Wodin made a sacrifice of himself to himself,
or life thrives on itself like a soccer team
that crashed landed on a mountaintop,
or the cosmic eggs of turtles feeds a manger of seagulls,
and the grass eats the grazer, and the grazer eats the grass.
Or if you're too sensitive to compassionately take life
in order to give it, sharpen the edge of your golden sickle
on the whetstone of the moon, and express your mercy
as Muhammad suggested, with a quick kill
you can hold love responsible for like a spiritual alibi
if you've got genius enough to heal it like a inspired liar.
You have to be part salmon. A battering ram
swimming upstream against the flow of circumstance
like the gate of a water castle you're besieging
to lay your blunted sword down in tribute
among the sacred pools of life that gave it to you
at the beginning of your song, like fire from their eyes
to wage a holy war of one on their behalf
you're doomed to lose like a conflict that progresses
from one defeat to the next against ever stronger adversaries,
angels in the way, shaitans obstructing the path for your own good,
who realize, too late, with every encounter,
you're growing stronger than the best reasons
could have anticipated strategically.
Be a good apple tree, lyrically seasoned and epically strong
as Lao Tzu and the Druid aptly described you
like the sacred syllable in the heartwood of the letter Q,
and express yourself completely without intending
the betterment of anything, though all do,
from wasps and birds to bears and humans
with the beauty of your blossoms, the wisdom of your leaves,
and the generosity of the sacrifice that laid you out
like a windfall of dice enshrining the eyes that can see
like seeds in the sibylline books of the apple
the risk they'll need to take tomorrow like a fire swallower
of the sun and the moon to keep their planets shining
from the inside out in the Goldilocks zone
of a light that's been sweetened immanentally
by a dangerously habitable life holding up
a lantern in the dark that disappointment, defeat and struggle
could no more put out than a volunteer fire brigade of waterclocks
for the best of reasons could put out the stars in an arsonist's heart.
Set the world afire like a flame that writes on the wind,
poppies flaring uncontrollably across your field of vision.
Burn like a two-eyed passion for everything
you can see and be on the earth that consumes you
in the equinoctial fires of your vernal immolations,
not a magnifying glass that intensifies the sun into
the capricious focus of an idle boy on a cruel afternoon
shepherding ants like prophetic semi-colons into a furnace.
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