Patrick White

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

And The Poems Sit There - Poem by Patrick White

And the poems sit there on the tracks,
on the shadows of serpentine ladders,
without engines, though moving, without diesels
to drive them, chain-letters to the world,
to a moment with nothing else to do,
to lonely abuses huddled by the flowering lamp
like fairies in boxes of shy plaster,
to broken windows who rage at the stars
for not accepting their jagged black holes,
to lovers who spend too long in the shower
pruning their gardens,
every ray of light in place
as they go out to pale their shining in the sun,
and the poppy girls with spider tongues
offering little green crowns to the bees, sit there
without moving, though moving,
pulling their hearts on long lifelines out of the void
that fuels their furnaces with crows,
that rescues drowned sailors from the rose of the sea,
that fangs the old lions with light
to pluck the one-stringed jugulars of radiant gazelles.
Two cobras dancing, the hold of our hands,
and the swans revealing their lizard roots,
and the rain a small violet in the rusty passions of the coffee-can
I don’t want to trade blood with the sour wine of the snails,
I’ve always had my own skull to drink from, and the water
of the dirty windows weeping in the morning,
and there are faces I can lap like mirrors for a taste of stars,
and bodies that unfold like single futons
patched with small maps of nocturnal sugar
that glow like prophetic ores from somewhere deeper in the mine.
Every morning I take my eyes out like contacts
and rinse them in the grave, wash off the residue
of yesterday’s visions, the smog and the dew and the soot,
the stagnant waters that cling to them like skies and skin
and the little rivers of blood that show you
an aerial perspective of the lightning, fireflies, stars, dreams
and the cinders of oil drum fires under all-night bridges
and the black commas of what’s left
of the butterflies in midnight webs. And there are cocoons of birth,
of transformations with wet wings emerging among the water hyacinths
and then there are the cocoons that hang like pendants
from the trophy lines of fat arachnids,
webs dripping under the weight of their hourglass stones
like torn suspension bridges and swaying spinal cords.
And it makes me so sad to see a door burn, a helical stairwell
straighten itself out to belong to a fire-truck,
and there are other things, sadder things,
ants with pruned antennae, dreams who think like used stamps,
the rainbow fingers of painted children
washed off under a cold tap,
and the breast of a pigeon undone like a pillow by a hawk,
the sad, abandoned look of heroic fire-hydrants
ready for action, that sigh like empty watering cans
as they pour their newly-enameled transplanted hearts out all over the street
like a wedding rehearsal that stood in for the bride
who’s burning in the walls of the groom like a flower of fire
in the lapel of a black tuxedo; so sad, so indefensibly stricken by grief
to know the paint rags are a better likeness of their sitters
than a face is, that there are tiny screams in the grass for mercy
that are only answered by a praying mantis,
and agonies of crushed centipedes that die like eyebrows
and the hides of mangy crosswalks thrown down on the street
like zebras; so unbearably sad in an avalanche of tortoise shells
excavated for their meat like raped bells with their tongues cut out,
my mouth turns into a wound,
and every word’s a galaxy of salt.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, January 25, 2012

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