Patrick White

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

Begin - Poem by Patrick White

Begin anywhere.
Topple fall jump stumble plunge
into the eyeless abyss
into the roadless homelessness
of not knowing where you're going
or who'll you'll be by the time you get there.
Slash your way through the stretched canvas
of a painted sky
like a rogue star
with the blood of Betelgeuse
dripping from your brush if you must
perform your own Caesarian
to get out of yourself like an egg
into the Big Abide Beyond
and stretch your wings from dusk till dawn.
Don't hover like a cloud over starmaps
trying to work out a flight plan
waiting for the weather to clear for take-off.
In an infinite universe such as this
wherever you are
in this spatial lost and found
you're always the center of everything.
How could you not know where you are
or who
when there's nowhere to go
and no one to be
that isn't centred in its own origin eternally?
But it helps to get a jump on your own light like a star
now and again
if you want to stay in the game
long enough to turn your farce into a legend
that isn't hard on the eyes.
So begin.
Like a surprise.
Like a leftover birthday you found in the attic
you were saving for a special day that never came.
Get it on.
Break the mirror.
Throw a rock through your own reflection.
There's no countdown
for a firefly or lightning bolt
no fuse on the Big Bang that became the universe
so let's just have ignition
spontaneously timeless and complete
go off
get out
get down
like the primordial atom
with your own expression of yourself
before the arising of signs
teaches the flowers
they mustn't colour
outside the lines of themselves.
Don't let the Lilliputians tie Gulliver down again.
Don't imperil Pauline
by tying her to the tracks
like a rehabilitated junkie
to wait for a train in vain
on the same old beaten path
your thoughts tread like cattle
back to the barn of your brain at dusk.
Or horses when it's burning.
Begin in your aftermath.
Shoulder the world that weighs
like a rock in your grave
meant to keep you from rising
and blow it off like dust.
Come down on yourself like a meteor
and begin a new species of life
among the bones of the dinosaurs.
Get lost in this desert of stars
like the Rosetta Stone
of a new language of scars
no one's ever spoken before
around a fire in the night
and be the first word of your own light
to give names to things in the garden.
The happy genius of your own beginnings.
How many nights must pass?
How many days?
How many full moons wane
and ice ages come and go
and trees turn into grasslands
and continents shatter like skulls
that grind their teeth in the night
before you finally let go
and begin.
Mercury had wings on his heels
when he took off on the wind
but look at you
standing there
at the edge of the world
with parachutes on your shoes
like a medium without a message.
Take them off.
Go barefoot over the stars of your firewalk like water.
Take off that used straitjacket
you bought at the Salvation Army
like the larva of a dragonfly
looking for a hand-me-down chrysalis on the cheap.
You can't read your fate like dna
in another man's fortune-cookie.
And there's already enough sky around us
for everyone to share
like a planetary cocoon
without anyone running out of room
for worms to turn into butterflies
wolves into whales
raptors into birds with feathers and scales.
Where things end is where they begin.
They're Siamese twins
you can't separate like a loveletter
into before and after
because they've only got
the one birth
the one breath
between them both
and the same is true of their death.
So if you're already over before you begin
why hesitate?
What have you got to lose
when there's nothing to choose
between lying in wait like yesterday
for what you think you know
will come along in its own good time
and what you can't anticipate
that comes up on you from behind
like eyes to the blind in a dream
and says it's later than it seems.
Where have you been?
You're on in the next scene
right after the death of the old queen.
Let the lines memorize you for a change.
Friends fall apart
when they stop being strangers to one another.
Babies stop turning solitude into single mothers.
You can gnaw on the bone of the known for years
to get down to the marrow of things
and still not be satisfied when you do
and then the hunger you never taught to hunt
begins to eat you.
So jump.
Like a fish in a still pond.
Like a frog from a lilypad.
Go mad.
Go ballistic.
Go beyond that place
where even to say you're lost in space
doesn't make any sense
and nothing's ever moved in a straight line
that wasn't a special form of a curve.
Why wait for the apocalypse
to come down on you like an old rafter
that breaks with every firecracker that goes off
when your own explosive potential
makes that look like a firefly with a wet fuse?
How long have you lepered your stars in the sun
or your constellation paled in the dawn
like a tattoo you had taken off your arm
like an old love affair that's over and gone?
Live on.
Jump from the top stair.
Slide down the bannister
in the opposite direction
like a double helix
in the southern hemisphere.
Do something
you can get away with
that stays true to your disobedience
like evolution.
Draw a line in the sand
then overstep the bounds
like a crosswind that wipes it out.
The measure of a human is a human
without a forwarding address
that can find its way back
like an abandoned cat
to the threshold and doorway
of our homelessness
where we left like a loveletter to the world
that returns unread
with nothing to say
that would have made any difference anyway.
A phoenix might be born in fire
but it doesn't nest in the flames.
You can't keep what you won't give away
so if you want to stay here
like a chameleon in front of a mirror
that likes to reflect things as they change
you have to do it like air
and grow wings.
You have to become a dragon.
Or a snake who knows
how to rise above things
like an eagle or a sea on the moon
that got caught like a fish out of water
in the first and last crescents of its own talons.
Don't let yourself be tossed around
like an overturned lifeboat
that set out to rescue you
from the undertow of reality
and got swept off its own feet
before they could turn into oars.
Don't be a shore-hugger
on the dunes of your own mindstream.
Go along with the flow
like the oxygen in your blood
that was conceived in a fire-womb
in the belly of a star
in outer space
and then took a meteor to this place
where it's bagged by your lungs
and rushed to your face
like a lip transplant for a kissing-stone.
Just as every question is the prelude of the answer
so every prayer for direction
is the direction of prayer.
The Kaaba waits like a pilgrim
for the first crescent of the moon
to circumambulate you
in all directions at once
and in all months of the year
like the sun through the zodiac
when it shines at midnight
and the sky is unusually clear.
The mystery of life
that seeks you out
like its best guess at everything
is just that
is just this
a mystery
not a secret waiting to be told
like a baby without a name
that's grown post-mature
and gummy in the womb
like matter in the matrix of being.
And when things let go of the green bough
like the singing bird in your heart
or a windfall of silver apples
shaken from a dead branch by the wind
when the moon goes down over the hills
and all that's left of the view
is two elbows on a worn-out windowsill
watching things return to themselves for the night
like stars and dust and dew
and love when it's over
tastes autumn on its breath
like long sad thoughts of last September
that always seem to end in death and sorrow
it helps to remember
the seeds in the green apples of spring
that are buried in their birth
as if there could never be a tomorrow
that wouldn't open their small sad eyes
like fireflies in the orchards of earth
that age like the truth
in a purple passage
on the second to last page
they burn through falling asleep
thinking of things to come
as if each were either a lighthouse
or the evening star in the morning
or a tiny Armageddon in a mason jar
as big and bright as the universe
that goes off without warning
everywhere all the time.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012

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