Patrick White

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

Among The Skeletons Of The Sundials - Poem by Patrick White

Among the skeletons of the sundials
what deficits of time remain unlived, unfulfilled?
So much forfeited to what crowded it out.
And the more that was said, the more
fraudulent and incomplete what we wanted to sing.

Too many murmuring windows, too many
trashed doorways to the collusive shelters of the heart.
We saw the stars, and how few learned.
We went to war for reasons
that have forgotten us now
and though there were those
who sternly waited like iron gates
no one returned to their secret gardens
or the silence as they had left it.

I watched from an island as the sea flexed
into the muscle of my generation
to celebrate a dream that hasn't happened yet
and tear the veils off the multi-eyed spiders
and make them wince in a succession
of photo-op acid flashbacks
that stunted the weaving a moment or two.

It was what we could do, not what we did it for,
and the idealism of it all was merely
the afterthought of the alibi for the release
of so much sunamic energy that would sooner
walk on water in Jesus boots, than float
the way the usual bloated corpses did.

The earth shook and the bridges and cornerstones
sank into quicksand, and the black roses
of the La Brea tar pits swallowed their worms.
And then the profit margins of the corporations
went helical as a stairway to heaven
and heaven came down to earth, and money was made.
Love and understanding exploited
as natural human resources. Spiritual materialism.
Light My Fire became the enlightenment path to cars.

I was there. I still wear more scars than I do flowers.
And I can remember the day the sundials died
in aesthetic gardens of unconcern and though
I loved the colours and the creative efflorescence
of unconditioned minds here and there
who had avoided madness by an eyelash,
it was only our lack of years for a summer or two
that kept us from saying the word, pure, with filthy mouths.
Too early for the fountains to fester yet.
Too late to heed the omens of the sundials.

Alchemists of liberty, we had turned our iron cages
into golden ones and the doves shook against their bars
like philosophers who could still see the stars outside
that beckoned them to leave, the doors were open,
but stayed within the precincts of their lamps and candles,
like Luna moths and houseflies. And you
who see the tv sixties like the capstones
of ice bergs and pyramids, the all too human concerts
of the indefatigable music where the painted breasts
of the wild Pictish women from California
danced like the fruit of low hanging branches,
give some thought to the sweating horses of the past
and the number of flies that fell into the Milky Way.
So that purity doesn't appear like a ghost again
detached from the earth or swept clean of mirages
in a desert of stars that didn't keep our footprints very long.

You might have missed the greatest party on earth
but you didn't suffer the depressive hangover of the end
when the junkies sat up against the wall listening
to Jimi Hendrix kiss the sky for them all,
paralyzed in the shadows of their own gigantism
as the tragic heroes bemoaned how useless their deaths were
to those who were determined to live to the end of the play.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, May 20, 2012

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