If You Had Any Compassion For Yourself - Poem by Patrick White
If you had any compassion for yourself,
others wouldn't have to suffer for you
and the world wouldn't show you
such a sad, woeful, wounded face.
You wouldn't see the withering leaves
and petals of the rose in autumn
as merely the scar tissue of its thorns.
In winter, mend your severance.
In spring, attend to your joys.
Like fishing nets and snow fences.
Like delphiniums in a garden bed
that's beginning to bloom like a starmap.
And you know that stranger inside
that's always witnessing everything we do
like a perfectly clear mirror, even in dreams?
Take another look, you might be surprised
at whose face you see at a meeting of eyes.
It's important not to pass judgement on yourself
for fear of condemning the world.
Show me a mirage that isn't a friend to water
or a wishing-well that resents a rainbow
for the pot of gold at the end, though
no one ever knows which end at the time.
Be kind to your delusive paradigms of life,
as you would an old skin you shed like the moon
when your serpent-fire could no longer contain itself
and broke out of its sacred chrysalis like a dragonfly
that had made itself a house of life out of matchsticks
and went up in flames like a snake with wings.
If you could see your life for what it is,
a teaching device for mentoring your own enlightenment
you might read the books of all the sages
rooted and flowering in you like the wisdom of a seed,
or the star in the ore of a panspermic universe
that was planted in you like the garden you've been from birth.
You might think that the wildflowers
are looking up at the stars to understand themselves
but, in truth, they're looking up at their roots
like rain reveres the lightning that engenders it.
You don't need to convince the wind of your freedom,
you've just got to ride it out to the end,
a friend to yourself, a worthy companion,
the intimate familiar of a cloud with a clear blue sky
or a subliminal lover of the darkness
love mushrooms up in like a moonrise.
If you knew how to nurture yourself
by breaking bread with the spirit of life within you
there wouldn't be millions of children
all over the world who will go hungry tonight.
They'd be licking the spoon with stealthy laughter
like cookie-batter out of the begging bowl of your heart.
Enlightenment isn't going to add one ray of light
or a single star to the night you're already shining in,
and whatever wavelength you're on, regardless
of the mystic polarities your potential flows between,
like dark matter and light, whether the journey you're on
is orange or infrared or the blue white violet of the Pleiades,
absorption or emission spectrum alike, no wave
of thought or mind, light, heart or water
is discontinuous with the oceanic consciousness
they rise upon, so why turn back to the source
like a solar flare to ask for directions from a starmap
that sent you out like a bubble in the multiverse to look for land.
You know, if you were more of an explorer
without a preconceived destination, more
of a space probe leaving the solar system periodically,
the rest of us wouldn't feel so lost or out of place at your table.
And even if you've made a vehicle
of the wheel of birth and death
and think you have a firm grasp on things
with your arm out the window in the driver's seat,
enjoying the passing view with the wind in your hair
without clinging to anything along the way
it still might be a good idea to learn how
to come down off your throne like a pauper
and change a flat tire now and again.
Your life is not an untimely interruption of eternity.
The eternal sky does not inhibit the flight of the white clouds,
and it even bends down sometimes toward the earth
to pick up Venus like a lost earring in the sunset.
It's your point of view that turns your back on yourself
like the retrograde motion of Mars, not
the planet itself playing rope tricks with your spinal cord.
Why go looking for your mind
like a lighthouse with a flashlight,
a flame for the source of the fire
or a star for the constellation it belongs to,
or the homeless for a home when everyone's
the foundation stone of their own habitation
wherever they are at the moment.
If you chase the wind, it will be you
that loses its breath like the atmosphere of the moon.
And when you run out of air, breathe light, breathe space,
and don't try to fix an expanding universe
to your nostrils like a bicycle pump
to get you back on the road again.
Or you'll find you're swimming out of your depths
to run to the rescue of an empty lifeboat
that's already unloaded its contents ashore.
If you don't want to go blind as a starless night
it's prescient to eclipse your blazing from time to time,
turn the lights down low, snuff the candle,
and learn to see in the dark there's just as much reflected
in the depths of the dark abundance
of a black mirror, though it takes time to focus,
than there is in the expansiveness
of the bright vacancy of the white
that takes things in at a glance.
The seed of a every glimpse of insight contains
the whole of the vision in advance,
and at the core of the apple of the issue
is a green star with dark auburn eyes
on the nightshift of the maternity wards of spring.
And o come on now, how long can you hang on
to being this box kite on a string
watching another phoenix ride your thermals
like inspiration on the wing, without feeling
like the premature ghost of yourself at the onset of spring,
all smoke, and no fire, your flightfeathers smouldering
like a pyre of wet maple leaves who haven't got the courage
to break into flames and flap their wings and rise above it all.
Better to be a weather balloon losing altitude like Icarus
or even a candling parachute taking the fall for all of us,
as daring said feathers and falling took flight,
than not risk falling through the black holes of life to paradise?
And what if I were to tell you're they're just the pupils
the light enters through like your eyes into your imagination
to be transformed from a visual into a vision,
the visible form into the invisible shining of the spirit
that raises everything in the known and unknown multiverse,
and the trees and the stars, the rocks and the clouds
are all counting on you to do this for them,
because this is what you're here for,
if you've ever wondered,
to raise them up to eye-level
with a human who knows the names of things
like parents know the names of their own children
running toward them down the street. It's how
we were meant to meet and greet the universe.
So if once, just once, for my sake, your sake, the sake
of the forsaken with their elbows on the windows of the world tonight
watching it all go by like stars on the firewalks beneath their noses,
that are not embedded in cement like a mausoleum
of movie-stars that refused to become fossils
before their shining was spent,
you took a chance, and that's all it would take,
one step forward with no return address,
to risk falling down at the dance,
and seven times down, eight times up,
such is life, get up on your own two good feet again
and discover you've got wings and spurs on your heels
the rest of us wouldn't feel so lame
when we came over to your place
like a riot of erratic fireflies to celebrate
the lightning moves of the rain that's dancing on our graves
where the dead lie down like the corpses of candles
knowing they'll be reincarnated
as wildflowers and Luna moths
because nothing that's ever given its life up
to this business of shining on everything alike
from a first magnitude star, to the night light in the hall
that shoos the ghosts away from their portraits on the wall
so the whole world can bloom in the tears of your eyes,
the fire in your heart, and in the human divinity
of the spirit of your imagination, can ever be put out
because every shadow of doubt
leads back the light that cast it
in love and sorrow, time and space
like the life and death mask of your own face.
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