If I Were To Give You A Black Shawl Of Woven Rivers - Poem by Patrick White
If I were to give you a black lace shawl of woven rivers
would you wear it over the moonlit hills
of your bare shoulders like a spell I cast
to keep you as warm as a firefly on a cold night?
Or would you mistake it for a bird net or a spider web
or think I'm fishing in the depths for the black pearl
of a new moon to hold in an old moon's arms?
Or milk your last crescent as an antidote to your charms?
If I were to show you a back road out of hell
as Orpheus did Eurydice, would you look back again
at the long path that came to this and think
you'd rather drink black cool aid in Jonestown
than follow a goated footed sherpa up
into the mountains of the moon that cast their spells
like the shadows of sundials in a flowerless garden?
Would the stars that are flowing between us
suddenly harden into diamonds, would an ice-age
come of a spring thaw, or would you neglect it all
like global warming, or just another butterfly
in the mouth of a dragon that doesn't know when
to keep his shut. Should Merlin fall on the sword
he embedded in rock like iron ore when iron
was still a magical metal, or should he fire up the forge
recast his sword, and crown himself the king of metallurgy?
I'm not rich, but if I were to stand on a streetcorner for you
and play the songs I wrote for you the night before
on a blue guitar I managed to save from the housefire
of a weeping violin that couldn't put it out for love or money,
would you still love me for who I am and was,
or look for a just cause to hand me a suitcase full of ashes
and show me the door like a snowflake
to the furnace of your Fukushima heart
like a crumpled loveletter you read like junkmail
meant to suck you in to a romantic scam for life
without any heavy water to speak of to cool your eyes?
Or would you let me risk my luck up against yours
between the wishbone of your thighs and give me a break?
Tine the tongue of the snake like a tuning fork
that can taste the lightning to come in every chimney spark?
Or if I were to lose, still cherish me for my own sake,
and give me a rain cheque until my lifeboat comes in
like providence on the last high tide of the moon
to sail the skull and crossbones among the angel fleets
like a cheap thrill off the coasts of Atlantis?
Or would you treat me as just another seagull
looking for scraps in the waning wake of moonset
unweaving by night what it wove by day
like Penelope among a hovering flock of unwanted suitors?
I could teach you how to fletch the arrows of love
like hawks that never missed their targets,
or the flightfeathers of skylarks and mourning doves
should you prefer them to the quills of the peacocks
that never fly any higher than the lowest rung of the tree,
a hundred eyes open like hand mirrors on a vanity
but none that can see you as I can like an ageing man
who can find nothing to compare you to yesterday
but a few rogue stars that whispered between the lines
of their unnamed constellations, things that I want
to say to you today out loud as if I had wings
on my heels and a secret crane-bag around my my neck
with an hermetic alphabet that could talk
to your body in tongues like a morning snail
riding its own smear of love like a skyful of mirrors
flowing like unholy rivers through a sacred garden of starmud.
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