Patrick White

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

If You Were To Ask Me - Poem by Patrick White

If you were to ask me to sweeten your suffering
for a night or two. I could do that. If you
just wanted to pass galactically through my mind
drawing off stars in your train as you passed
as if you were picking wildflowers in waist high grass,
believe me, darkness, I could do that,
and I don’t say this lightly, given how much danger
your beauty adds to the night, but that would be ok too.

I don’t know if it’s a function of the resonance between us,
but the dust on the blue guitar in the corner
is beginning to glow like the nebula in Orion’s belt,
and strings that were boiled once too often
to renew the vibrancy of their flatlining are humming
something funky and upbeat they want me to put the lyrics to.
Been awhile since the moon flowered on these autumn boughs.
And to tell you the truth, starling, you scare me a bit
stepping out of the shadows of the power you embody
to dispel the myth of the eclipse I’ve been living by.

If you were to ask what I see in you I wouldn’t try
to seduce you with the truth because the truth
is just another kind of looking glass that reflects
whatever lies we’re trying to pull over our eyes
to keep most of us from looking at who we truly are.
Mascara and stars. Lampblack on the chandeliers.
Scars from the roses that bled us out like the kisses
we risked that close to the lips of a hot branding iron
and never forgot how fiercely they continued to burn
long after we we turned out to graze free range again.

And if you were to ask me not to ask anything of you
but a few mirages here and there, and I’m not, the desert
wouldn’t be any stranger to me than this sidereal quicksand
in an hourglass I’ve been swimming around and around in
like a sundial in an aquarium most of my life. My starmud
cracked like a cosmic egg and made its way to the sea
nocturnally, a candle of dragon fire in a relay race
against the odds of surviving death as an innate instinct
you either mastered on the run, or were dropped from a height
you couldn’t quite fathom by marine eagles trying
to teach the serpent in its claws how to fly and take a fall
like an uppercut of the earth to your chin, that’s it, that’s all.
The rest of your life spent trying to compensate
for your shabby entrance by making up for it with a grand exit.
All this before the tenderness of mammals began to show up
in a compassionate attempt to feather my scales. Ever wondered
what kind of lizard a peacock was that it has to molt its eyes
every year like the expanding starmap of a snake shedding its skin?

I don’t expect you to be more honest than you are creative
but you’d bore me if you told me lies I’m better at telling
than you. No story of myself to stick to anymore,
God’s Own Zero, my absence amplifies things. Add one nothing to one,
if I dispense with this shadow I wear like the lifemask of a persona
to pass identifiably without making a fuss, by a factor of ten
your solitude’s enhanced like a binary dancing solo
with the sun in an eclipse darker than the shadows
the fireflies cast like wired lightbulbs of insight
into the interrogation rooms of your nervous imagination
when I tell you, if you were to ask, without ratting anyone out,
I could talk about anything with you, without going overboard,
as if I were pearl diving in the dawn for new moons,
knowing the stowaways like to hide their hidden treasures
in the holds and the hearts of the deepest shipwrecks
and they’d be as safe with me as if I had gone down with you.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, June 9, 2013

Poem Edited: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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