Patrick White

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

I Remember The Bees - Poem by Patrick White

I remember the bees
moving like heavy slow notes
among the sunflower microphones
two octaves lower than the fireflies
on late August afternoons
perishing in the light.
And the irrelevant felicity of being me
with nothing to do but time.
Many roads and years away now
and this is another life
another town
and I'm staring out of a window
that's been forgotten by the eyes
that used to look through it
at the bleak winter rain
trying to distinguish the oases
from the mirages
in this glass-blowing desert of pain.
I remember white sweet clover along the dusty roadside
overwhelming the still hot air with its sweetness
and how it grew so high and thick
in the drainage ditches
it folded it wings over the road like a swan.
I remember watching the moon
lower its hook into the lake
hoping to catch something.
And now I'm trying to get it out of my mouth
like a question I can't answer.
I'm envious of the happiness I used to know
as if it had all happened to someone else
I could never be again
because even a river
can't step into itself twice
and the same is true of a bloodstream.
So do we all wash ourselves clean of ourselves in the running.
It's the mind's way of not staining its own clarity.
You don't need to see to shine.
There are quantum events of the mind.
There are insights and thoughts
auroral premonitions
and solar prophecies
that flare like the Medusa's hair on fire.
There are shadows of the unforeseeable
that cast their eclipses and sunspots
like exponentially tiny black holes
that steal the seeing from the light
and make space and time gape at their own measure
in the darkness of the heart of a human.
And in the next era of a moment
terrify them with the wonder of breaking into stars.
And most strange and astonishing of all
elaborated out of a chaos of photons
emerging out of the random
like wind on water
like Penelope weaving and undoing the moon on the lake
membranous worlds in hyperspace
blowing bubbles at each other
as if the light in their eyes
were life itself
shaping the multiverse playfully
into mystic glains swallowed by cosmic serpents
and fireflies caught in the drapes
by the open window
like jewels in the net of Indra,
like primordial atoms going off spontaneously
for the sheer thrill of it.
Mark one world and they're all marked.
And there's no end of the accounting.
That's why the most gracious of numbers is zero
and in any world I find myself possible in
I am the spacious friend of its infinite variety.
Even in Perth on a Sunday
among the flagging ambitions of leafless backyard trees
that have given up
dreaming of the doors and arrows
the coffins and lifeboats
they could have become in the hands of a mastercraftsman
and content themselves by staying out of the way of the powerlines.
Worlds within worlds within worlds being born
under my skin
at the tip of my nose
the end of my fingertips my tongue
pouring from the precipice of my lips
like lemmings and words not afraid to take a chance
the wind might feather their falling.
If compassion is worth the weight
of one single tear
of what life suffers here
then all things must be falling toward paradise.
Even the willows with their yellow-tinged hair trapped in ice.
Even the mailman who was convicted of taking his own advice.
Even the young beauty queen whose mouth overflows with saliva
as she dreams her makeup has turned into a pillow
that's trying to smother her like a serial killer
trying to get her attention on the news.
Do you see?
When you get right down to the point
there is no point.
Ask Heisenberg.
There's only you and I
and what we are
embodied in this memory
is merely the shadow cast
by what we are becoming.
Ask any star.
Keep the light behind you
like a ufo file with a due date.
Make a photonic leap into space.
Jump orbitals.
Release your infinitesimal quantum of energy
into the mind-bending unforeseeable gateless expanses of space
and instead of depending
on the fossils of cyanobacteria in Martian meteors
to improve on being alone
create worlds of your own
where space isn't time flatlining
but a field of imagination
where the absurd lets its muse run free as an enzyme.
Why do you keep coming home empty-handed
like Ponce de Leon searching
for the disabled fountains of youth
when you must know by now
it's the questions that are the watersheds of the truth?
It's the questions that keep you alive and searching.
It's the looking and not knowing
that keeps the fires of life
moving and growing
one step ahead of their ashs.
It's not the questions.
It's the answers that are killing you.
You might seek like a phoenix
but all your lanterns are ghosts.
Your eyes might be faster than light
but you're still blind if you can't see
that the world is
merely the shadow of an insight
you cast behind you
like the stars
like the candles
like the fireflies in your skull.
And it's good to know them all.
It's good to trace the lifelines
on the palm of your hand
and follow them back to the source of the Nile.
It's good to know the imaginary animals
that talk like your fingers
held up to the lamp
like constellations on a starmap
like zodiacs and arks
like a dog that barks
in the voice of a human.
It's good to see your own face
in the shadowplay
of subatomic particles
and take small intimacies with the profound
as if you'd just opened your eyes
like God's umbrella
in the spirit's lost and found.
It's good to stand in your own light
under the nightskies
and add your lustre to the stars.
It's good to abide in clarity and law.
But enlightenment is a darkness that shines
beyond the reach of your eyes
and just as space is bent
by the mass of Mars
so time is as supple as water and silk
and yesterday
is just as much the future of tomorrow
as the perennial brevity of this moment now
flowing down the lifelines of the mindstream
like a wavelength of night and time
that can't be measured in lightyears.
I reflect on everything I'm missing
and my grief turns to wine,
my tears to honey.
I resonate with the forked harmonies of time
like the tremulous skin of serpentine cosines
it sheds as it moves up my spine
like a waterclock of snakefire
pouring into the watershed of my mind.
And all the threads and rivulets
of my string theory thought
and the membranous theses
that are spun from them
are gathered up
and woven into whole cloth
over the black hole
of an acoustic guitar
the shape of a universe
as if it were a loom of music.
Time is music.
Space is music.
Life is music.
And death isn't where the music stops.
When you listen to it
not just with your ears
but with your eyes your heart your mind your blood your skin.
When you let it come empty-handed
and go empty-handed
without trying to grasp it like a thing
you realize that everything is singing
about what it is to be a human.
And you must be a human to hear it as such
because you can never understand
more than what you are
out to and beyond the youngest stars
that are the oldest of your insights
into the birth of the universe.
Time is music
and neither time nor music
leave anything behind.
Here once
here for good.
Though time has a past and future
a coming and going
a lament and a longing fulfilled
reflected like opposites on the watermirrors of the mind
it's still the same waterbird
cosmic note
first word
from the void in the mouth of now
waking itself up from a dark dream
with the sound of our voices
arriving in joy
and crying with relief when we leave.
I can hear the locust tree in spring
even with snow on the ground
and this hopeless duty
of a bleak window before me
singing in my ear
like the slow whisper,
the murmurous humming
of an intimate voice full of bees.
Time is music.
Life is music.
Death is music.
All the syllables colours notes thoughts feelings images and symbols
all the doubts and half-lives of the certainties
all the ardency of our holiest guesses
and starless inspirations
all the brutal black lightning insights
and firefly epiphanies
that have ever expressed the hearts and minds of humans
all the homeless clarities
and godless vagrancies
of what we're doing in the world
feeling lost in the doorways of our own thresholds
where every step we take is arrival and departure.
They're all the picture-music of us
and we're as indelible
as the moon dropping her petals and feathers
her hooks and thorns
her horns and claws and surgical fangs
like white swans and peonies on the river
like the eyelids of a mask she takes off
a drowned nurse
to remember whose face she's looking at.
And you can't remove a quaver of it.
Not the slightest detail.
Not one black swan.
Not the swerve of a single photon
with an identity crisis
striking the lightning rod of a nerve
that runs it to ground
and roots it in the body
until the mind opens
like the eye of a flower
a New England aster
that can see from the inside out
that life is a phoenix
in the ashs of a blue guitar
with the wingspan
of a locust tree in the spring
and the afterlife of a star.
Light flows through the roots
of my dendritic lifelines
like a zodiac of fireflies
streaming through space
for a place in the sun
and I can remember the bees
before the arising of signs.
I can hear them with my eyes.
I can see them with my tongue.
And I might not know
all the words to the song
or even what the lyrics
are all about
but that's never kept me
from singing my heart out.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 14, 2012

Poem Edited: Saturday, April 14, 2012

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