Going Through A Dark Time - Poem by Patrick White
Going through a dark time. Antares, the red ant,
the bitter berry in the heart of Scorpio. Why not
blame it on the stars? How could they deny it?
Living penumbrally in the eclipse of a celestial body.
I want to paint my first old rusty bike that I found
languishing under the neighbour's stairs, its
deflated tires, spider looms and jinxed prayer wheels
that hadn't turned for years, want to paint it
with model airplane enamels again and run
a perfect red stripe down the middle of a black fender
gleaming like anthracite in the blue-yellow sun.
How many worlds away I am from that pure moment.
Dark in my heart, gnawing on the skulls of dragons
that have finally become like the moon
that's never known rain, a frozen watershed
in a locket of ice and no light bulb in the well.
I'm striding down the corridors of a well-polished hell
and I'm turning the portraits of my heroes toward the wall.
Why not? I've got no use for their eyes anymore.
I've drained the lies out of the samples of their deaths.
I've chewed the flavour out of what it was they had to teach.
I've trashed my best features in dangerous neighbourhoods.
I've broken my own brain like bread with them,
offered them my blood like a rose with teeth
and watched them evaporate like stars in the sun
as if they never really knew they had my devotion.
What I made of them to set my own potential an example.
Something unattainable to aspire to
so I would be sure to lose as they did
preferring a brilliant failure to a mediocre triumph.
I think the quality of a human is a direct function
of the depth of their suffering. And I loved the ones
who cried out so beautifully in their agony
the night birds didn't dare lift their tiny voices
up again for fear of being put to shame
for the pettiness of their desire. Or the wolves
ever howl at the moon again without being aware
of the absurdity of their longing for an old stone.
I have danced barefoot on the splinters
of the winter chandeliers that brought the trees down
like a palace of tears in a brutal ice storm.
I've heard the Pleiades crash like silverware
all over the ground of a botched burglary
and seen the junkies run like collapsed veins
to pick the spoons up like fences and crows.
Going through a dark time. The shamans
are dying in the treetops from the shock
of what they had to see and live to be
if they wanted to die thoroughly back into life again,
apprenticed to their own foreseeable pain like savage healers.
Winged serpents angered by the humiliation of the flesh
like a rose too beautiful not to be abused
by those who desecrate life out of their own self-hatred
that they are possessed by what they despise the most
and beauty will have nothing to do with their power
that isn't forced, or broken, or garbaged.
The mirrors of the spirit freak and flake away
from the ideals of their silver lining in horror.
Funny how you can come to look upon
even the most passionate of loveletters
with the eyes of a three hundred million year old reptile
as if life could not be borne any other way than as a thorn
through the heart of a voodoo doll
that cursed the good in life for the passing of it.
What have I not buried in this desert of stars
as if one night I would be able to come back to it
and ask it what it dreamed of in my absence?
To see if the afterlife of a mirage tasted
like water, blood, or wine, or more real than death,
the tears of someone who had aged into understanding
when the windows that looked out on life
like a valence of silicon dioxide slow down
like glaciers of glass, and the mirrors speed up
as if they were running out of time for reflection.
Ask a man what he misses the most and listen to the echo
of how long it takes to reach his ears and if
there's an ocean in his eyes he drowns in
and I'll reintroduce you to someone you already know
talking to themselves in the dark to keep from going mad.
Who toys with the smiles of their approaching assassins
like the slash of a snake's mouth breaking into blossom?
Life is the puncture wound of the staple
that was meant to mend it like a bridge
that sat cross-legged on a lotus in meditation.
And it's easy enough to look at the fireflies after a storm
and the stars so out of touch with the world as it is
you long for the innocence of the childhood distances
you traversed every night you crawled out of your sleep
to approach the mystery of your own solitude
like an estranged familiar calling you to come alone
to the furthest extremes of the night and beyond.
Going through a dark time. Too many gates.
Too many doors. Too many worn thresholds
Too many threadbare carpets under the one-sided window.
Too many dead birds killed by a lack of transparency.
And still, I refuse the blindfold when I'm standing
in front of a firing squad of stars
armed with the latest telescopes.
I've always been one of those who prided myself
upon my strength to see it coming from afar off
and stare at my own death in the third eye of it.
And what monument could you possibly raise
befitting someone who made exile and rebellion
the two monolithic cornerstones of their life
if not a rogue planet beyond the reach of gravity
looking for a star they could thrive in the light of
without the slightest shadow of ulterior spontaneity?
Going through a dark time. I will not put my eyes out
by turning up the light on what befalls me,
as if there were something I could save myself from.
I will eat every detail of the pain and not waste
one unmarrowed bone of it. I will consume it whole
like a prophet in the belly of the whale, make the message
flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, and then
I'll spit it out like a bullet I pulled out of my heart
with my teeth, my soul, the elegance of my desolation.
I'll make key chains for the blind out of spite
and striate the rocks of this cold prison with the runes
of the horned ones who linger here with me.
I'll be a mile-high corrective lens of ice
and putting one hand over my third eye
I'll read the writing on the wall from memory
and renounce every sacred syllable of it like heretic
that thrives on fire, that scatters his ashes in triumph
and feathers the wind like a gnostic phoenix
with gospels of my own where there's not one imperative.
Pain demands my obedience, threatens to break me.
I smash myself on the rocks like an empty wine goblet
and say, you can break what remains. You can grind
me down to dust, if you like, you can step over me
like Spinoza lying down in the threshold of the synagogue
to atone for what he opened the world's eyes up to,
but my vision of life, though a squall of stars, remains my own
and the seeing isn't in my eyes, and the one who suffers
isn't in chains, nor the door locked on my heart
for fear of the night, for fear of turning to stone
when I look the snake pit in the eye with a microscope,
and observe the minutiae of the heart's addictive attention to detail.
Though every word be a thorn through my tongue,
Yet will I sing of the agony of lemons and roses
bleeding on the razorwire in No Man's Land for mercy,
and those compelled by the whips of circumstance
to dance themselves to death because it amuses the cripples,
and the little, amoebic man who never amounted to anything
and his wife who has aged like salt in a conquered city
still thinking she's a garden ornament, I will sing
in the name of what even the worst must endure,
just to set this methane moon afire in the darkness
like a furnace in an abandoned school of unregenerate clowns.
Going through a dark time. A rite of ordeals,
the brutal pit of the mystery you can break your teeth on
like a koan or an iron-nickel tektite in Antarctica
to get at the life inside your own panspermic mind.
I should happily break my flesh like bread upon the waters
for the fish and the birds, and save the life
of an unworthy man from drowning
like bad meat in a well, or lose
my own precarious foothold on the precipice of an abyss
that humbles me to the point of no return. I should do this
for the thought-trains of the birds that shall come after me
high and late at night through the bars of my longing,
yearning to return to my ancestral homelessness
like a wandering planet that doesn't give off any light of its own
but shines with life, despite the odds, shines
tenaciously with life through all these transformations
I take on like a river in its own running,
pouring myself out of one life wholly into another
like an igneous fireclock on the nightshift
that keeps adding more carbon to my steel.
Going through a dark time, I will not suffer
this passage passively like smoke, I will not plead
to abstract my senses from reality to deaden the pain
or thin my blood with holy water from a dirty fountain.
This dark child of my life shall not be an orphan.
I will not disown the pain, I will not drive
myself out into the wilderness like a scapegoat
to wash the soot off the temple I cry in
though they were my doves that were stained
in their own blood in the name of a useless sacrifice
to a unity that includes as much of separation
as of love that welds a stronger bond
that doesn't scar the spirit, or dull the eyes,
or deaden the tongue to the taste of the stars
on the lips of the people who pass through our lives
like thresholds on their way to somewhere else
than this palatial homelessness we dwell in alone
throwing boundary stones like asteroids through the mirrors
just to keep things abundantly clear and open between us.
Going through a dark time. Swimming through a tar pit.
Another doorway without an exit or an entrance.
Another keel-hauling on the hull of the moon
trying to maintain discipline aboard a shipwreck.
And the unbearable sadness that crushes your heart
like a pop can in the depths of an unrevealing ocean.
Your face is a skin graft on a burn victim.
People reach out for you, but only with their hands
when there's nothing at all, nothing at all to grasp
of what has already come and gone for good or bad,
who can tell? I'm centered like rain in my falling.
And there's something vaguely radioactive about the way
I glow in the dark, though there are dozens of dead fireflies
on my windowsill that dropped like exhausted stars.
I move into the available dimension of a future
that hasn't won my confidence, and the past
is the burnt foundation of a crack house in the zodiac
cooking rocks like a meteor shower with its radiant
in the eyes of everyone I meet who's trying to shoot the stars out.
Going through a dark time. A bardo state. Nirvanic doubt.
The new moon no brighter than the last eclipse.
I hear the disembodied thunder of my amplified heart
making its way toward me like an enlightened storm front.
I've always chosen the hardest teachers to ignore
and where the road divides, I've gone both ways at once
just to give my earthbound guides a chance of a wishbone
to find their way back on their own by following
the choices they made to get here like an avalanche.
I'm as effortless about my despair as I am about bliss.
I treat them both as if they were none of my business.
The birds and apples come to this rootless tree
of their own accord and the tree does not protest
the unleaving of an earthly excellence
that blossomed awhile in the human heart and was gone.
A windfall of loss. The dead flower frosted with winter stars
in a dream where the waterclocks are frozen in time
and this is perfect and that is perfect and if you take
perfect from perfect, it's still as perfect as it was then
and as it is now and shall be tomorrow.
I watch the moonrise without breathless aspirations.
I observe the sunset without lingering disappointments.
What I have received in joy, I will not deceive in sorrow.
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