Patrick White

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

God, I Hurt Sometimes For Reasons I Can Only Guess - Poem by Patrick White

for Sally

God, I hurt sometimes for reasons I can only guess.
Don't know what it is, too much love, too little,
but it feels like I'm giving birth to fog,
or my heart is standing in the doorway
of an abandoned chrysalis asking if
we could do it all a little differently this time,
and ingather like the nebulae of the stars
instead of the circus tents of these gypsy moths
swarming the Dutch elms like fake starmaps
that don't know much about shining in the dark,
but eat mini blackholes through the leaves
that have known greener days of radiance,
and more creative things to do with the light.

I can see the stars even in daylight
from the bottom of this fathomless well
only the snakes and the frogs and the fireflies
descend into to drink from the dark watershed
of the mystery I'm swimming through
like an albino bioluminescent fish through black ink
trying to find the words to express this sorrow
that overtakes me from time to time
as if life's waterclock had confined itself
to one bucket for awhile. And time had stopped.

It's as if I could feel every wound in the world
pierce the hummingbird of my heart on the thorns
of a black rose, as if I could feel the secret grief
of the yellow star in the violet eye of the beautiful lady
who toxically weeps like the belladonna
under the chandeliers of the deadly nightshade
that cures what it kills in love
administering death like mercy to put her lover
out of his misery with an oceanic love potion
he can't help but thrive upon like nectar and ambrosia.

As if I were picking up the small body of a sparrow
in the cradle of my hands and seeing in it,
its random extinction in the face of the windowpane
that lied, the death of the sky. And it's strange
that I do, that my eyes should fill with unprompted tears
that I'm digging a hole with my bare hands
in the same bed of tiger lilies I buried my goldfish in
like the big June bugs lying on their backs
perfectly preserved out in the open on the cement sidewalk
where I stopped to bury them with a finger for a spade,
when no one was looking who might laugh at me,
and mark their graves with two blades of grass,
on my way back from rugby practise, on King's Street,
to make sure nobody stepped on them just for fun,
as if death itself weren't already enough of a desecration,
a seeming destruction, to satisfy them for awhile.

And it's silly, I know, to bury the dead
in the soil of my heart as if they were bulbs
I planted in the fall to bloom in the spring
like the bells of the blue hyacinth
and the white gold daffodils of a pagan Easter
emerging like the high priestesses of a mystery religion
that returns resurrection to the womb of a woman.

Amorphous pain, homogeneously dispersed,
like the afterbirth of the background universal hiss
that miscarried into the post-natal depression
of an emptiness that keeps reversing its spin
on the state of things like synchronous happenings
in the charged particle field of a duplicitous politician,
like a ghost in the rain, like a faraway train,
my heart's the red lantern of a Chinese box-kite
way down the line at the last stop
where no one gets off, and no one arrives,
and there are no starmaps like tourist brochures
to point out like cabbies, the hotspots
of what's shining down upon nothing tonight.

I can feel the inhuman solitude
of eighty thousand prisoners sentenced
to years of isolation in the third eye of the pen
chewing on their shadows like leg-hold traps,
and the contemplative vengeance of their keepers
walking the night rounds with socks on their feet
in the wee hours of the morning as if it were they
who had avoided capture and mastered failure
by defeating these uncaged in their sleep.
As Robert Louis Stevenson said, or was it Walter de la Mare,
tread lightly for you tread on my dreams,
some like mushrooms, some like landmines.

But it isn't the kind of pain you can factor
a cause into like fireflies into the Slough of Despond,
or the Valley of Death, after the storm has passed
like an electric chair that's just thrown the switch.
It's softer than that, inclusive, embrasive, almost
lunar in its compassion for the least of things
from flies with wings torn off like the pages
of a calendar, June bugs, to the orphanage of asteroids
that nobody wanted when the solar system
was first forming into myriad nuclear family ways.

Not the kind of sorrow that brings rain, but
pain like the condensation of hydrogen clouds
that have been lingering like ghosts of the stars
they used to be, waiting to break into light
like the constellation of a new myth of origin
to explain being exiled this far from home.
No grave in sight, but still I mourn
for all the wishing wells that
didn't get what they wanted
when they kissed the moon
like a coin they had blessed
and returned to river they had retrieved it from
only to discover the dark side of their luck
when it popped up again like a sacred syllable
under the forked tongue of a lottery ticket.

Pain without locus, pain without focus,
a blur, a smear, a smudge, an atmosphere, an aura,
cataracts in the eyes, flowers in the sky,
and everywhere I see the belongings of the Beloved,
her passion for lightning and fireflies,
scattered all over this unbegotten house of life
like battered flowers and shattered trees
and power-outages that make the stars flicker
and black out, for days at a time, like an ice-storm
in the middle of summer, passing over the distant hills,
like a glacier following its own melting
all the way to the dark night sea
as if water, as it is to a river a raindropp and a tear
whether it's painted on a clown's face or not,
or just trying to make the mascara of the poppies run,
were the only guide it could trust.

And these are the green swords of the gladiolas
and wild violet irises down by the river
where the waterlilies and the corpses flow by
like floats in a parade of burning flowers
that make the river's eyes run with grief and bliss,
hello, farewell, good-by, as if you just saw
the silouhette of a bird fly across the moon
with a few beats of its wings, a small pulse,
the brief thought moment of a passing wavelength,
like my own, a braille dot on the starmap of a blind star,
with the emotions and aspirations of a Cepheid variable
trying to keep pace with the measure of the death march
beating on the drum of my heart
like dollops of funereal rain on a tin roof.

And what do you learn when you die like this
for the things you lived in the name of too long
to bear the loss of the world mountain
on the turtle of your heart when the black swan
of the new moon has been snapped up from below
as if the only way you can come to the end of things
is to run out of beginnings, and that hasn't happened yet
since the universe first broke into stars and went prime time.

All opening nights. Everyone of them. And there are
scimitars of the moon at last crescent and poems and lovers
you can cut your wrists on like the brass moonrise
of a tuna fish can, if you don't really want to talk
to the ambulance about anything unreal as reality.
And you can be rushed to the emergency ward,
like a rose that's bleeding out, and there'll
you'll meet a nurse, not a nun, at the end
of a long tunnel of light that isn't estranged from death
but embodies the female principle of life
with a smile like a silver herb of the moon
and she'll inser the other fang of the snake that heals
into your vein like a boomslang of blood
hanging on the branch of a a chromium tree
with mandalic wheels that wobble like planets down the hall.

And there she'll teach you as you heal
that just as your lungs have learned to trust
the oxygen in the air that others are breathing along with you
like the Amazon jungle, fish in the sea, the flower
of the candle that blooms in fire, so your heart
that imbibes the skull cup of the moon down to its lees
to read the partial eclipses of your prophecies and dreams
like shipwrecks at the bottom of lunar seas
that have been drained of water,
drained of atmosphere and wine
looking for signs in dry creekbeds
like the lifelines on the palms of your hands,
must water the dust at your feet,
the stars above your head like the Milky Way,
the Road of Ghosts, your passage on earth,
with as many boodstreams in life
as it takes to float your lifeboat
on a bubble of the moon at high tide.

Such is life. Such is the flashflood of love
that makes the seven year long sleep of the frogs
up to their voices in starmud, sing
that their dream has finally come alive again,
and the voodoo doll of the cactus pierced with thorns,
flowers, and the serpent revels in the rain
that falls on its scales like the petals of a marigold
or the keys of a piano with its eighty-eights straight
and plays such music as it's never heard before
its scales turn into the feathers of a bird, or if
it's enlightened, the wings of a dragon of serpent fire
running up your spine like the sign of a healer
coiled around the axis of the earth like a caduceus
because even a single blade of grass here
is a strong enough medicine to give
the whole world vertigo like a Sufi
at a crossroads on the moon
dancing alone with dust devils
when things begin to overflow again
like a cup, like a heart with a crack and a broken handle,
like a watershed in a hourglass,
or a mirage in a desert of stars
because love, when it leaves home,
always forgets to turn the faucet off
like the four rivers flowing out of Eden
to water the root fires in the star gardens of paradise
when love jumps up stream like a salmon
coming home to the womb it will be buried in
like a loveletter from the sea to the moon.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, April 22, 2012

Poem Edited: Monday, April 23, 2012

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