Anything Goes At Three In The Morning - Poem by Patrick White
Anything goes at three in the morning.
I'm dogpaddling in the salvage of the day
after the sun went down like a shipwreck
with all hands on board. A train whistle
mourns its lonely mile and I've known
since I was twenty six, the night is not a reward.
And the heart not a starfish you can easily drown
to keep from shining as if it had
a sense of direction all of its own
even if its just a momentary flashback
of a life you'd forgotten on your way down.
The darkness bruises my solitude.
I bleed like deadly nightshade
and talk to myself and the stars, the lamp posts,
the glassy-eyed windows with smut in their eyes
like the rose of life with a wounded mouth.
Trying to express the silence through the afterlife
of my voice, as if I were the ghost in the machine
of a transfixed medium you could get your bearings by
like a candle at a seance that suddenly goes out.
Or maybe I'm just the smoke of an old demon
who feels more like an exorcism sent into exile
like a scapegoat for things I might have done
if they hadn't been done to me first by the sanctimonious
to purify a long winter of soot, incense, and snakeoil
like an oilslick contaminated by hypocritical rainbows.
But I mustn't grow bitter. It's moonrise
and the windows across the street, dirty
as these I'm looking through, seem sublimely elevated
to be used like a lake or a dropp of water
when it isn't raining, to reflect so much beauty
with a moondog for the iris of a third eye
that's always urging the mindstream
to take a look for itself to liberate its seeing
from a purple passage in a bad dream that doesn't end well.
The raccoons and feral cats are giving the dogs
something to bark about as they entangle their hind legs
like Houdini in a labyrinth of chains
to keep from running the deer to death at night.
Strange place, this earth. This starmud
that's an alloy of blood and passion and mind
trying to second-guess where its presence comes from
as if everything had to be derived from something else
to lay a claim to the mystic specificity of its cosmic origins
and to understand that originality's most unique feature
is that it shares its characteristics with everything else
so the more a human embodies what he perceives,
in his confusion, his horror, his bliss and sorrow,
that forms don't appear and disappear for him to believe in,
that their passage isn't a work of time, but the way
life shapeshifts from one dream figure into the next
without leaving the hands of anyone's who's ever
grabbed it by the throat and hasn't let go
like a snapping turtle that's just got hold of the moon,
its beak full of the flightfeathers of a waterlily
rising off the lakes of the windowpanes as unconcerned
as Cygnus flying over the tarpaper pigeon coups of the rooftops.
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