Patrick White

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

In The Eye Of The Hurricane Rose - Poem by Patrick White

In the eye of the hurricane rose
all is as calm as a bee
as my world is shed around me
like eyelids.
The racket of Canada geese
holding a political rally
high over everybody's heads
a thousand feet straight up
as the economy returns like spring.
I know what it is
to be a phoenix of a tree
and lose your leaves
like a fire that goes out in the night.
I used to be a snowman
and purified myself
with my own disappearance
when things warmed up.
Now I'm a scarecrow
with nothing to chase away
except the farmer.
It wasn't me
that held a grudge against the birds.
Everything's wrong
but it's all right,
the chaos is vividly illustrated
with picture music
and I'm wearing my eye in my ear
and there's a keyboard and an easel near
like a skeleton with a forced grin.
A painting a day.
Van Gogh on steroids.
But I can't afford to eat my cadmium yellow
and they're not handing out food for thought
at the back of the think-tank anymore.
I don't know what to say
about all those people
who set out to be artists
and wound up being stores.
People eat.
People pay the rent.
Baby needs new shoes.
Benign reason can smother an artist
faster than the demands of a serial killer
in the hands of the pillow she dreams upon
and the tigers of wrath
who are wiser than the horses of instruction
who took so easily to the cart
as Blake said in his sayings from hell
soon learn that heroism isn't smart
if you don't want to be hunted into extinction
by judas-goats in the jungle
for your private parts.
And then if you get through the blackwater of all that
like a battered waterlily after a storm
that doesn't have any respect for nuns
comes a swarm of dabblers and nibblers
like one of the plagues of Egypt
the blackflies the maggots the tapeworms
that pose like paper butterflies
on the lips of origami flowers
for Japanese tourists
into unenlightened North American haikus
about cherry blossoms
that never fall on dogshit.
The eternal sky
doesn't inhibit the flight of the white clouds
and you can see that
as clearly in a dirty puddle in a parking lot
as you can through the eyes of the Buddha.
Life is a bubble.
A firefly.
A distant star.
A lightning bolt.
You don't need to transplant
a plastic cornea
into the pineal gland of your third eye
in order to see like the Hubble.
You just need to gain some elevation.
You just need to break
the surly bonds of earth
and get into orbit awhile
if you're looking for an overview
that isn't just another footnote
in a Restoration play
trying to refine Shakespeare
by turning real diamonds
into zircon costume jewellery
that makes the light taste like junkfood.
I approach life
by putting the pedal to the metal
like an absolute constant
as if it were already behind me
like the light of a star in all ten directions
that stays ahead of itself
so that time cannot encompass it
like a fletcher turning freebirds into arrows.
There are no zeniths and nadirs in the void.
Don't try to live like a curve ball on the straight and narrow.
Space isn't mutable
once you've achieved ultimate volume and mass
and stand eye to eye with the universe
you don't want to meet
until you can both sit down
on equal ground
and come to some kind of mutual understanding.
Don't use a lie
to go divining for the truth
when the truth isn't water
it's a weathervane.
All things change when we do.
The first word ah blossoms into all others
and they're all true
said some master I've forgot.
If it hasn't got a womb
don't listen to its myth of origin.
If it isn't a lifeboat
don't get in
or better yet
learn to swim on your own.
Writing poetry is like pearl-diving for the moon
at the bottom of your tears.
If you want to go deep
you can't bottle an emergency atmosphere
like a backup breath
to keep Atlantis from drowning
when the fish are already swimming
through your windows
like new insights
into your fathomless past.
But if you don't have the depth
to be a shipwreck
don't keep an albatross on deck
a spider on watch
in the ropes of your mast
or mistake a siren
for the cutting edge
of a figurehead
and fix her to your bow
and expect to avoid the rocks.
It's the loneliness of the moon
that makes the loon sing
on the lake
not a parrot that talks.
Poetry isn't just a matter
of picking up the flattest stones
that wash up from your oceanic emotions
about what it was like
to go skinny-dipping with Medusa on the moon
to make them scan
skipping out over a sea of tranquil shadows.
Words are waterbirds.
Not flightplans.
They know where all the best mirrors are
to make a good landing
and which are blind and dangerous
but poetry isn't about keeping the lights on at night
along your runways and starmaps
or tracking fireflies on a radar screen in a lighthouse
as the circling muse runs low on fuel
trying to get her wheels down.
You can't grind inspiration out
and expect to be ambushed by a muse
as if she were a clown in a musical jack-in-a-box
and not the serpent at the well
when you go for water.
Where are the elixirs
where are the toxins in your voice
where are the fangmarks that punctuate your pulse?
Where is the lamia that shed your lunar skin
with a spiritual knife
just before she cut your heart out
at the top of a pyramid of prophetic skulls
without an afterlife to speak of?
If you're still around to assess
what you've sacrificed
to the dead ends of poetry
you haven't died enough
to make it live.
You're still a highway not a river.
Roadkill in a crosswalk
not a mindstream that can talk to stars
with intensity
about the return of the great blue herons
to the prodigal begging bowls of last year's nests.
Puppets dance to the strings of laughing liars.
Make kindling of them.
Make fires
and throw Pinocchio in
if you want to sit with heretics
that tell the truth
as if every word of it
were a death wish
the genies hear in silence
as the lamps
turn themselves down low
to maintain their decorum
as they bite their tongues like flames.
Words are to names
as visuals are to visions
and images are to symbols.
The first mean precisely what they say.
Accurate simulacra.
Clear as day.
A photograph not a painting.
But it's the lens that mimics the eye
not the other way around
and when the telescope's
brought down to earth
like seed is to tree
like light is to life
they're both wide-eyed flowers
gaping at their own interpretation.
The mind is an artist.
The mind is a scientist.
The mind is a poet a postman
a baglady sorting through her own garbage.
The mind can paint the worlds
as the Flower Ornament Scripture said.
You can paint them yellow blue black or red.
Reality's an atomic pointillist.
Reality's the negative space
around an impressionist lifeboat
full of light
as the waves give chase to the children.
Reality's a crazed expressionist.
Reality's a forty thousand year old cave painting.
A fresco in a womb full of correspondences
simulated in the flesh of the great mother
who keeps giving birth to the animals
late at night
after everyone's gone home
and the gallery's closed.
Back to Blake.
What is first imagined is later proved.
You live in the world you paint
you write you carve you think you feel
you play like your father's guitar.
You can paint it with windows with mirrors
with ion microscopes.
You can make a painting of a painting
and call it a work in progress
that improves upon the original
like a host is enhanced by a guest
or a ghost in a different dress.
Or you can minimalize the picture plane like space
and despise perspective
and hold it up to your face
like a mugshot to a detective
to see if you can recognize anyone
by the pattern of the blood spatter.
Tired of working with the light in Monet's garden.
Cross the Japanese bridge above the waterlilies
over to the other side of the equation
and work with matter
as if you were ploughing paint
to plant potatoes.
But whatever you express
worlds within worlds within worlds
whatever your medium
be it stars or Mars black
heaven or hell
or the triune identity of earth
water land and sky
remember they all find their equivalence
in your creative energy
acting on its own potential
as if the abyss spontaneously
took matters into its own hands
and out of nothing
out of its own emergence
out of its own bright vacancy
and dark abundance
out of the synergic emptiness
of its own unidentifiable likeness
to everything that exists
in your imagination and beyond
made this.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 14, 2012

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