Patrick White

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

It Isn'T That I'M Looking - Poem by Patrick White

It isn't that I'm looking for eagles in a barnyard
or a phoenix in a match-head
when I observe
by the number of wrecks on the rocks
how few lighthouses there are these days
among so many flashlights.

What can the hair say about the horn
or the feather teach the wind
or quicksand preach
for the edification of the cornerstone?

And must I put a healthy leg
at the service of a broken crutch
to limp along with the mob
at the end of a dying culture
that insists that all roads end
in a cult of cripples?

If I'm walking alone to the stars
on a pilgrimage of one
finding my way in the going,
my heart aligned like the needle of a compass
to a darkness brighter than the light,
and the only map the clarity of my eyes,
why should those
who weep in their ashes like rain,
trying to put glasses on a fly,
who have never dipped
the thorn of the moon
in the night of their blood
and written a love poem
to a skull in a desert,
care if I want to roam
in the hills and valleys of myself
like some homeless shepherd of the wind
taking the stone of the earth for a pillow to dream on
in the high grasslands
where the stars walk
whispering eternal intimacies like black swans
barging the ores of a vacant throne
through my bloodstream,
as all along the shores of my flowing
ancient flowers wake mysteriously
like candles in an eclipse?

If I take the sky for the walls of my house
and leave the rest
like an autumn of junkmail
looking for a door and a last known address,
if I choose not to contrive a world
to accommodate my absence
in the available dimension of the future,
wiping my shadows and ghosts
like mirrors off at the threshold,
even letting go of the door
to enter empty-handed
as the applause
for an understudy of the dawn
that never got over its stage-fright
in the abyss of an abandoned theater,
happy to let the river pan itself for gold,
not laying a claim to anything,
making sure the gate-latch
clamps down like a dog on a bone
when I close it up
like a straitjacket in its own thoughts,
not stringing my spinal court to a wishbone
or the warped neck
of an obvious guitar,
but taking my voice with me
like a wounded bird in my hands,
a star struck from a stone,
moonlight in an empty boat,
the taste of silence
in the mouth of a mask,
my name a rainmark
on the eyelid of a dusty bell
I've left to the dream it keeps returning to;
why should it matter to anyone
who lies to the bleeding door
that is wounded by their entrance
everytime they say it's just me
as if a pillar answered?

I can't find anything
less than everything to call a self
and there are no mirrors
in an abyss more naked than the sky
to consult like the oracular flights of words
that litter the windowsill of this seeing
like flies that spent themselves,
flints on an empty lighter,
wicks on a glass candle,
consuming the ferocity
of their lives against the illusion of the world outside
they brain themselves against again and again
like small meteors
doused like torches in the eye
of the upper atmosphere
just above the open window.

When everything is absurd as this,
and even the tuning forks of the rain
are an era off in their pitch,
and music is merely
the coming and going of ants
in an abandoned syrinx,
and the drum of the heart alone
isn't enough to start a band,
and the only melody
is a road the wind blew away
like a hair off the shoulder of the night,
and everyone's trying
to unmarrow the moon like a fortune-cookie,
and every snowflake in the furnace
of this dark fire
thinks it dies like a galaxy
when it's only an inflection of tears,
am I not free to walk in harmony
with the savage senselessness of it all,
without hanging a bell of advice over my head
like the only corpse
on an island full of gravediggers
who can't get out of the holes they've dug
to bury me in?

I don't want to live waiting for yesterday
like the light of a star
that's already gone,
or dream like a seed of constellations to come
like a roll of the dice,
or watch the surplus of your smile
rotting on the docks of a famine.

And don't think these harvests I leave you
like a trail of breadcrumbs and dead flies
out of this wilderness of thought
are any more than stars
caught in the throat of the labyrinth
that follows itself like a snake with its tail in its mouth,
trying to find a way out of itself
by eating its own head.

And by some chance
if you ever make it out this far,
I've mailed back
the same map of fireflies
with its legend of smoke,
three lifetimes a lightyear,
you once handed me to find you
and marked every place I'm not
with a black hole.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 24, 2012

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