Cosmologist With Tweezers - Poem by Patrick White
Palace after palace of blood I feed my idiot heart
to the fish and the cannibal stars
from a barge of funeral swans sullen as books.
I told myself not to look for this death when I dropped it
the day I was born, to leave it lie in the violent grass,
a key to a door that doesn’t exist yet,
an insect crushed between the pages of the sky
that reads like the failing eyes of an ancient astronomer
compiling an expanded preface
to an encyclopedic suicide note. O I can say anything
when the mirror is having an affair
with the moon’s oceanic face.
I can put lipstick on the corpse of a rose
and die for the whole cemetery like a callous messiah
sick of being resurrected at the take-out window.
My love forsaken, a beggar reaching into a serpent’s nest
for an egg that longs to be turned
like the handle to a door
that might be a way out, I consult
the crazy wisdom of the crows,
and a sage of the black night
to find my way back to a grave
that has not forgotten the taste of the dream
that was blood and wine and light.
This is a shabby afterlife, an unworthy war of mistakes,
where the orchids are raped on their wedding nights
and a peace treaty is chalk on the sidewalk
around a murdered mailman.
It would be a lie to say I wasn’t wounded,
it would be a falsehood to say I was.
This pain is the blundering apprentice of a mystic knife.
This agony is stupid and futile and vain, this sorrow
a brothel of homesick nuns.
I give my tears the address
of a man I know in Boston, a bibliophile
who might take them in as a first edition
of a bride who was published posthumously.
I give my heart like a fire-alarm to two women
waiting by the bus.
My skull begs for campaign funds
to run as an alternative planet
to the one I’m walking on,
but the terrorist behind the door
with his redressals and reforms, his ancient future
strapped to his waist like a broken promise
has already ruined my vote
by killing off the candidate.
I confess to a puppet government
with the decrescent sickle of the moon at my jugular vein
that I have always been, even in eclipse,
an avid fan of significant absurdities.
They accuse me of consorting with swans
and I give up smoking
in front of a firing squad.
The sun comes up like an afterthought, an iron rose
or a bullet hole through the troubled forehead of dawn.
Is there no end to the wonders of God?
cries a highschool prophet on a diving board
while his seeing-eye dog runs off
with a shoeful of massacred dice.
And this is the meaning of life,
and this is the meaning of life,
chants the scorned heart
pulling stitches out of a scar,
a cosmologist with tweezers
who bleeds to death
every time he opens his mouth to heal.
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