Patrick White

Aubade With Ambiguities

Everywhere I go
I am buckled by sorrows
weeping like executioners
in hooded doorways
for the harvest of doves
they’ve bloodied
with their smiles,
for the ruined roses
that stain the hospital gowns
of soft-spoken guillotines.

And when I ask
for the address
of a rumour of joy
that might risk
a cameo appearance in my heart,
I am caught in the traffic jam
of an outdoor movie
that is just another rerun
of misunderstood butterflies
draped in spider-webs.

And the restaurants are full
of lunar refugees
confessing the names of God
on a rosary of skulls
spooled from the mass graves
of irremedial exterminations;
and on the highways,
drug-soaked children,
famous among milk-cartons,
running from rescue
all the way to Calgary
with Eldorado serial killers
in cowboy hats.

I do not think I was born
to be happier
than any other man,
nor dance with rivers all my life
under the chandeliers
of waltzing willows,
I am content
to let the autumn stars
sugar the apples
and the wines of life
that have dreamed so long
of mystic bloodstreams
wake up from their coma
of midnight suns
to flirt with the morning curtains,
but everywhere I ask for water,
the odour of dogs
rotting in stairwells,
virulent mothers
blistering coke in baby spoons
and lonely adolescents
picking at the scabs
of their showcase labels
like empty whiskey bottles
cruising for flowers
on emergency fire-escapes.

And how could I ignore
the inconsolable clowns
in convulsions of grief,
and the reptilian angel-slayers
that rise from the depths
like snapping turtles
to unfeather the stupefied swans
as if they tore
the pages out of a book,
dragging the clouds down
into the hot mud
of ambiguous bottom feeders?
Everywhere the air
grows tumescent
on the yeasts of grief
and the planet groans
like a death-cart
full of starfish, full
of fractured wish-bones,
full of the severed hands
of TV amputees.

And I want to pay the late fees
on the lightning that struck
the horns of the snail
like a war-crime, I want
to green the emeralds again
that were bleached in a flash
by the physics of food, my heart
burns to proclaim to the tribunals
that reek of thick colognes
and pounds of atrocious innocence,
that humans were born
to see and be amazed,
that there are still plants
in the scalded jungles
that will come forward
like shy cures, and golden salamanders
that will give us back our legs and arms,
that we’re not just a necropolis
of flesh-eating bacteria,
that there are truths and beauties
and ethics of water
that aren’t just triumphal marches
under the arches of our vertebrae,
that there are gods at work
like tender waterlilies
transforming the swamp,
turning the shit back
into intimate constellations
that won’t dwarf the night
with staggering distances
or runt the wonder
of our brevity
with the unattainable radiance
of reversible wedding gowns.

I want to make it all better,
breeze the pain
with blue-eyed summers
from a cedar hope chest,
appease the hungry
with mountains of bread
ored from miraculous grains,
talk the bridges down
from their keystone suicides
by showing them what’s needed
to get to the other side;
do everything I can
to grant immunity
to the bloodbank
that cries constantly
under my window at night
for braver transfusions,
give up an eye if I must
to defray the cost
of blind justice,
do whatever it takes
to prune the hazardous stars
from the razorwire crowns
of our unexempted suffering.

But everywhere I go,
roadkill redirecting traffic,
arsonists in volunteer fire brigades
pissing on a field that’s burning,
closet terrorists in uniformed bomb squads,
defusing suspect shopping-malls,
computer-generated humans
mechanizing the rights of man,
soldiers safer in the army
than children in their beds,
leaders following the followers
in climacterics of lemmings,
the rich bitching the poor
are the reason they suffer,
deviants preaching deliverance
to delinquents on their knees,
free markets enslaving nations
to brand-names on demand,
banks robbing the wretched
to give to those with more,
genocide on probation
while murder goes to jail,
excellence cowed by fools
when ignorance runs in schools,
doctors despising health
as an obstacle to wealth.

Anyway, you get the picture.
When the fleas
train the tigers
to jump through fire
and the crows
coach the hawks
to look for silver,
or the avalanche
tells the mountain
where to stand
for a photo-op,
even if you feel,
even if the heart
bleeds like a blackberry
punctured by thorns,
and you’re up
to your neck
in a starless tarpit
darker than night,
and the bombs fall
like meteors like
the foundation stones
of crystal palaces,
is there a point
a pebble
an afterlife under
these quicksand pyramids,
these deserts in an hourglass,
this crack in the dawn
to build another world upon?

Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 5, 2012

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Comments about Aubade With Ambiguities by Patrick White

  • Oakley (1/27/2020 9:53:00 AM)

    Wow that was really good. Best poem I’ve read in a. While

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