Patrick White

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

Drifting Tonight, A Poem In The Corner Of My Eye - Poem by Patrick White

Drifting tonight, a poem in the corner of my eye,
maybe a crumb of sleep from last night's dream,
the willows have grown up a lot since I last came here
but the stars they fix like flowers in their hair
even the lake can't rinse out, haven't changed much.
I seek out this precarious granite ledge
shaped like half an anvil or a stone age bicycle seat
with its thatch of moss and yellow grass
and this little patch of dirt, struggling
to cling to the rock, I've come to trust empathically
as if many others sat here before me
and watched the moon belly dancing on the undulant waves.

Abandoned heron's nests in the boneyard
of marble trees, broken statuary in the moonlight
wading through the wild rice with their skirts
above their white, white knees. I come here
to listen to my solitude like a Tarot deck of constellations,
missing a couple of cards when it was stolen from the Sufis.
A nocturne of fate I'm being very cool about
I sing in dark harmony with the nightbirds
counterpointing the silence with sudden rills of longing
my heart resonates with like the hidden wavelength of sorrow
that it's almost autumn, getting too late for anyone to come,
except for one firefly shining behind her veils
like a diamond in eclipse, a tattoo on the eyelids
of a black velvet painting of bullfighting rose.

And something deeper, more dangerous, like pike
moving just under the surface like nuclear submarines
under the Arctic ice-caps of circumpolar cataracts,
while night creatures are out hunting each other's flesh
all around me as if the loss of life and the joy it took
in being a field mouse with a mouthful of seeds
were merely collateral damage in the owl's eyes
of remarkably no significance at all. Life smells
of carrion in the nest, though we all light incense
to deny it. And try to feel as convincingly as we can
life heals its own absence like a wound in water,
like a mouse squealing in midflight above
the waterlily starmaps that hide the snapping turtles.

Generations have sat here before me
with their heads on the flying buttresses of their knees
to relieve the stress of the dome of their prophetic skulls
on the walls of a cathedral wilderness
pioneered into the empty one-roomed
wooden churches around here where the flies cluster
like spiritual footnotes with no real faith in what they say.
And the pioneers have all been ploughed under
and then exhumed and placed in a less savage cemetery
than the earth without black iron fences and gates
trying to imitate the tree line of a militant event horizon
around the graveside of the black hole we all fall into
when we attribute a meaning to death it doesn't give to itself.

And life and love follow suit, knowing there's nothing to risk,
nothing to shed, nothing to reveal, nothing to explain or understand
that isn't whispered in your own voice into your own ear
so nature could imitate art by deepening the mystery
of the human spirit walking like the stars on its own waters
as if it weren't a miracle the whole sky
with all its legends of shining doesn't go out in our tears
and love turn into a black farce of suggestive preconceptions
dancing for our heads, as if we'll be eating
honey and locusts, dressed in the hides of wild jackasses,
or in this lunar wilderness of shadows and wraiths
wolfskins on despondent shamans with
two heads on their shoulders like snake-eyes
trying to howl like smouldering volcanoes at the moon
with one heart, one mind, igneously alloyed
to the heartache and longing that can suddenly
startle and blossom out of the darkness
like the blue fire of the Pleiades flaring through
the crowns of the trees as if love were a conversation
between two, like a star and the eye it's shining in,
it only takes one to sing.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, August 17, 2012

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