Patrick White

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

I'Ll Wear This Robe - Poem by Patrick White

I'll wear this robe like a desert;
and release the hinges on the gate
that is closing like a rib cage
on the heart of the nightbird
that returns to the silence
like water taken from a river.
I'll pour the moon out of its stone cup
and let this vine of eyes,
this bone of light
wander where it will
in search of a face in the darkness
sweeter than the blood-vows of wine.
These flowers aren't the rags
of the legends of radiance
and a dragon doesn't waste eclipses
on the blind.
The wind opens its hand
and I disappear like a gust of crows
in the startled night groves.
I will drag this empty robe of blood along the ground
like a wounded sky,
a desolate poppy
broken like a kite
on the power lines of its dreams.
I don't know what hurt me;
so long, so long ago I was a child,
and now I am a man, and aging
and the water snarls
and bares its fangs of frost,
and impales my heart
inflamed with grief for so much that has passed
without understanding
on the horns of the moon.
My ignorance has been
deeply authorized by life
and more and more often now
my blood coagulates into roses
and seals my mouth with wax
like a regal mandate
to succeed myself in silence
and let my throne
avalanche down the mountain
like just another rockslide,
another round of asteroids,
another fallen temple
freaked with mystic ore that never made it to the surface.
You ask me where I've been
like a road you befriended along the way,
but I'd have to know where I was going
to tell you that
and I've come to the end of myself
like starlight in a loaf of bread,
a candle that burnt like a voice in the night
to obviate the emptiness,
to warm the abyss momentarily
with the glow of our human divinity,
to say we were here once
like the flower in the field,
the star over the hill,
the face in the window
that watches as we pass
like the shadow of a bird
cast by the flames of a hidden fire,
a pulse of the moon,
the eyelid of a wave
that imagined the sea beneath it
before it broke like a vision
on this shore of flesh
where everything must be abandoned.
I want to be with you
like your eyes are
if you'll let me be.
I want to silver my breath
in the longest night
of your loneliest fountain.
And many have sworn,
and many along the way
have perished like echoes and flowers
at the insistence of a rootless word.
And there have been nights,
eras of darkness and sorrow
drawn from a stranger's well
that have bent the path I took,
and scattered my footprints
like refugees and colonists
that turned native
like an exhausted emotion
when their loneliness went wild and crazy
in a solitude even the moon couldn't fill.
And I have stared
long and deeply into the abyss of the night
and felt the stars stub themselves out
in the sandy hourglass of my ashtray heart.
How desperately
I have rummaged through
this encyclopedia of lives
to find one that wasn't a prelude to tears,
my heart a lost boot,
laced with a snapped spinal cord,
its mouth
muzzled like a junkyard dog
with an elastic band
to keep body and soul together,
only to proofread sky after sky,
page after page of stars
pricked out in braille,
fingering my name
carved in funereal kells and runes
on another boundary stone.
Nothing binds me.
No one wants my heart enough
to consult it like a map
to where I'm buried like gold
under the tongue of a dangerous angel
who wants to wake up beside you
like a spear of fire
I will fall upon like life, like a lover,
to wound my way back into paradise.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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