Patrick White

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

It's Good To Know - Poem by Patrick White

It's good to know you're there;
though the world is a diatribe
of waltzing trains and threshing razors,

it's good to know
a door burns for me somewhere in the darkness,
a bell waits like a nipple of silence
and your blood waits like a language,
a rose of rain in a starfield,
that my mouth alone can say to the night
in a shudder of light that only the blind can hear,
sipping from a chalice of water
spiked with diamond nails.

My heart flashes across the sky
and buries itself like a meteor
at the cornerstone of a sightless temple
pillared by faithless candles
that flirt with the shadows
of the fire in their eyes,
and I'm bridges beyond any way back the way I came,
my wake the scar of a vapour trail
in yesterday's cherry sunset,
and I still catch myself at my worst
whenever I'm good;
there's always a thread of blood on the water,
and a half-finished suicide note on the mirror
scrawled in manic lipstick,
and a gravestone
I carry around on my shoulders like a skull
that feels like the weight of the world,
and a child leftover from an ancient crib-death
that is often afraid of me,
and a ferocity of freedom
that thaws my deepest thoughts like chains,
and bleaches every feeling like a wound
in the antiseptic of the sun
that bites like a mystic arrow
that was feathered with a message
before I was born to find me;

but it's good to know
your fury and your gentleness,
the glow and heat of your chimneys and fireflies,
your altars of wind and smoke
spuming across the vastness of the solitude
like blood and chalk
and lines written after school
on the blackboard shale of my river skin
still trying to reform its way to the sea;

it's good to look at the moon
through your passionate windows
and taste the fragrant honey of your darkness
attuning the tines of my tongue
to a fork in the road of your body,
to the delta of an unknown civilization,
to the mystery of rivers entwined like serpents.

And the vines of the words
that have sought me out
like blood vessels and burning bushes
and the blossoming fingers of someone
kneading a face
out of the huge volume,
the pure space of my unattainability:

o you have said things to me
in ink and water and brandy and fire,
in night and moonlight and poppies and tears
that have made the hardest rocks
on the highest slopes
of my mountains and cloudy ladders bleed
to be opened like a harvest of love-letters in a bomb-shelter
by the tenderness of your knives again and again,
urgent with beauty and joy
to be overthrown
by the whisper of your voice in the valley
triggering this skyborn avalanche
of nocturnal thrones.

And the bells turn into vases
and the vases into urns
and the urns back into the wombs
of a thousand terminal exiles
tolling like a heartbeat
with a passport and a threshold,
and though I am no longer
the leaf of hope
that aspired to rudder
the firestream of these volcanic transformations,

it's good to drift awhile
in the dreamtime of this endless night
like recoverable salvage
among the lanterns of your searching lifeboats
and the reaping eyes
of your eloquent islands of light.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, May 24, 2012

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