In Certain Moods I Think Like An Ice Age - Poem by Patrick White
In certain moods I think like an ice age,
relentless, every insight, the glacier
of a window on the move that cuts like a diamond.
I'm not sentimental about baby mammoths
falling into cryonic crevasses for twelve thousand years.
I could gouge out the eyes of lakes, bully the mountains
like a mile high waterclock with its pedal frozen to the metal of time.
Something brittle and cold as broken glass in my seeing.
A clarity that burns like dry ice born without a personality.
I can still stand in the bottom of a snakepit
and see the stars like the fang marks of so many strikes
at the scared rabbit of my heart beating like a strawberry,
palpitating like the sump pump of a toxin
trying to drain the sweetest of watersheds
like quicksilver from the mirrors of my brain.
Sometimes I feel I've been harbouring
the skull and crossbones in the piratical bay
of a subliminal childhood that washed me up
out of a fire storm onto a more ferocious shore
of civilized savages that take their time eating each other.
I can see as supraobjectively as a reptile from the late Triassic
the asteroid that's heading this way
to shatter the window of opportunity
like an atmosphere that doesn't encourage
growth in a greenhouse, but doesn't mind
genetically tampering with cell tissue
as if agriculture had given birth, not only to war,
but to a mutated child that would redesign her.
Too many nuances are left out of lizards and lenses
for me to look at the world through their eyes
too long. My third eye begins to crystallize like a jewel
instead of a black pearl of a new moon
on the tongues of the waterlilies walking on the water
like the pale flames of the constellations burning their starmaps
like passports to anywhere they're not as homelessly here
as they are now. And there are strange viruses
that can be transmitted from telescopes in port
like heresy through the gullible angel fleets.
People begin to see that the crystal slipper
fits the darkness better than the light
the way a star fits the winged heels of the night
like the Great Square of Pegasus, or Albireo in the Swan,
Al Tair in the Eagle, or Vega in the Lyre,
as if one size for a shapeshifting universe fits all.
Time eventually sands the hardest edges down
like a dentist drill trying to put new crown on the pyramids,
triangular sun dials get rounded out into circular clocks,
and the conceptual sabres of exactitude, learn
to hesitate like humans as their mainsprings go slack
and the tension wears off at trying to insulate themselves
like referees from the vicissitudes and uncertainties of the game
by being more severely disciplined than perfection.
A saving grace I received from my mother
who would send me down to the Fountain Lunch
to buy her a True Detective magazine late at night,
I remember the elaborate ferns of frost on the window,
and spend the rest on candy, though she was down
to her last buck, like a tree with one leaf left,
she taught me how to protest impoverishment
with a flare and generosity that flew counterintuitively
into the brutal impersonality of its defeated face.
And the air full of gleeful butterflies torn up
like an eviction notice issued with a mythically deflated smile
on the deathmask of one of the nabobs among slumlords
sipping empire with their tea like the East India Company
that had a manifest destiny for themselves,
and the obscurity of obscene circumstances for everyone else.
Not a comet falling out of its black halo into the sun,
but a post-demonic clarity beyond symbols
like a fledging learning to fly
by transcending its own wingspan
into an abyss a universe shy of shining,
absurdly sublime and intensely insignificant
as a childhood is, when it's bruised
by one too many atrocities early in the game
to really care whether it's disappointing its despair
with a little hope, or putting a nightmare to shame
by pointing out even the clearest windows
have been known to paint themselves
the world they want to see when they look outside
instead of trying to see it as it is without turning to stone
when it isn't interpreted like sign language,
unless, by some malicious stroke of luck
some delinquent eluding the neighbourhood watch
puts his fist through it
to enlighten his tantrum as the stars
come pouring into the vacuum
like a sea of tears in reverse
where the tide of affairs is always
worse for the wear of coming in
than it is in the ease of going out.
Providence makes a grand entrance
then heads for the exit refused and humbled
by this sinking feeling the stars get
even when they're rising, though fire
doesn't burn its fingers on itself
that doesn't mean it isn't being consumed.
Or if even so little as a single firefly
of inspired rage is glowing somewhere
across the hard-hearted tundra, that's the end
of your eyes being scalded by an ice age
that's been freezing and thawing them out since childhood
until your heart aches like a raw strawberry
as feeling begins to circulate in it again.
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