Patrick White

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

It' A Gesture Of The Heart - Poem by Patrick White

It's a gesture of the heart
that no one can explain
that lays its words down like cool herbs
gathered on the moon
to silver someone else's pain.
We lie down in the same wound
like two stones in the same river
that might make it to the other side
without drowning in the stream
and I speak to you of shores you can reach if you try
and you add yourself like a dropp of water to a shoreless sea, and cry.

And for a moment you are the devastated solitude
of a runaway in the rain
who can't abide the stranger she's become
as a lipstick butterfly emerges
from the shell-casing chrysalis of your rage
and you put your lips on like wings.
You're a princess with a white flag
approaching the ashes of a dragon
who sleeps in his own fires
to wake him up from his dream of water
and negotiate a rescue now
if only I'll concede to show you how.

You want me to respect you because you're dangerous.
You want to ensnare me
in the white voodoo you're practising
on the dark side of the moon,
you believe in my eyes
and want me to see something
you've never shown anyone before
because a window's as good as a door to a thief
and you know we have neither in this homelessness
that shelters our grief like dark matter in space
or the far side of a face
we refuse to acknowledge is ours.

I can feel your powers
chafing their scales in the snakepit
like straitjackets they're urgently trying to slough off
like the old skins of a hand-me-down moon
that don't quite fit the new one right.
One fang, stars; the other, a starless night,
you know how to open things with a smile
and strike like a gate
should anyone walk between your crescents
like a terrorist with carry-on luggage
who doesn't dream he's been detected
as you recoil like a theme to make your point.

It would be easier to tinker with the genes
of the ancient ancestors of a life before sin
than not to want to sleep with you
like a thorn under the skin of your rose,
than not to want to be your bay for the night
and tell you everything's going to be all right
and mean it and drown the world like a torch or a dragon
in the intimacy of our most urgent delusions.

And even if I didn't put a match to the candles
they would still ignite
and a black sun would rise at midnight
and let the stars and flowers decide for themselves
whether they wanted to open in its light or not,
and for awhile, deep underground,
there'd be laughter in a coffin
as we posted dirty notes on our headstones
like shocking love poems
that just rolled off the tip of our tongues
like drops of water charged with stars and snakefire
humming down our spines
like the deathbed hymns of the hydro lines
when they break the news to God.

Comments about It' A Gesture Of The Heart by Patrick White

  • (4/8/2012 11:47:00 PM)

    Patrick White, As usual this poem is fantastic! the stones, lip stick butterflies, hand me down something and the love song..really nice... (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, April 8, 2012

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