Patrick White

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

It's Not Enough - Poem by Patrick White

It's not enough to hinge a new door to your heart
when the house is built on flowerless quicksand
and the chimneys have acquired a taste for books;
poems are the birthmarks of stairwells climbing themselves,
of hawks and serpents boring into the corks of wine
to get at the heart, the passions, the dreams, the rage
of the vine that set out like a road that got carried away
and fell in love with the intimate strangers who took it home
and danced all night among the swords as if they were thresholds.

Born in the shadows of unbearable bells, early I found
they were bound to the cord of my spine, like the moon
among the kelp that oils its tides with the black sperms of creation,
and I learned to pull on their iron parachutes to ease
my harsh, hot descents into wingless, mute oblivions;
I discovered there was a voice beyond mine
that could gather and disperse, celebrate and divine
the secret weddings and deaths of the bridal ghosts that came
like castaway bouquets to the refugee altars of their torn veils.

And there's an indelible secret as old as the eyes of the wind
that can whisper sand into pyramids, that won't receive
the vows of the petty and clever who traffic in the shadows
of the great, wild dead who wore their battered crowns like fire.
Let them crib their poems on the back of another man's eyelids,
real constellations don't shine like this and the wells are mute
whose waters taste of fireflies; and there isn't a river on the moon
that knows how to plead with the sea for a widow that mourns,
that knows whose prodigy of blood unravels on autumn's horns,
or how the waterlily in the mouth of the dragon
is more dangerous than a shrine full of blind snakes.

Behind every name, behind every door with a brass threshold
is a man who was forgotten by his own violated treaties
with the indentured mirrors he consulted to cheat the lakes,
who comes up over his horizons like the solemnities of the moon,
looking for the pillar of his lost reflection in chunks of coal,
in the underfed crematoria of his sacrificial backyard fire-pits
in the lifelines of the empty hands he misread like maps of smoke.

Poetry isn't an orphanage or asylum for the disenchanted,
though there is a deranged abyss under its relentless solitude;
not a showcase Colosseum for famished lions at a petting zoo,
though mauled minds and bodies litter the unwitnessed field;
there are no paths through its unanswerable distances
strewn with petals or thorns, no bridges or waystations,
no branches of hospitable trees to perch in for the night,
no dawns that can erase what's been written on your forehead,
nothing that can blind you to what you were born to see,
no rain that can douse the squandered fire of the poppy,
though the messenger is smashed like a bottle between
the tide and the rock; the star, the candle, the nightflower
snuffed by the morning, the last breath of the deathless moon.

And you must die enough to not be there
when the world picks up a pen like an axis
to spin in the direction of its wounded inclinations,
you must not walk into the house wearing a face,
your breath on the glacial windows of the furious stars
full of secret fingerprints, love-notes, names,
you must be more conversant than a ghost on a bridge
or a rose, or an empty mailbox, or a road that followed you
to where the river turns, with shapeshifting,
with pearling a body around a syllable of sand,
with showing a galaxy its shadow in eyelids and eclipses,
with standing like a scarecrow in the cornfield
that shucked the cob of a smile to batter you with birds,
with lying beside the dead like a lantern in a morgue
as if your blood crossed the threshold for them,
with waiting in the earth a long time, a root
that conceals orchards in the furrows of its dirty hands,
a buried boat that unfurls the blossoms of its sails,
the starcharts of the blind moles that shine underground,
like a voyage in search of the rudder of your tongue
to pilot it safely out of the ports of the moon,
a flame, a breath, a feather you've cradled for years,
the small measures of belief in an oceanic grave
that enrobes the flowing in the wake of severed waves.

Be stone, or be space; the emptiness is the same,
silver ore, or the motherlode of a black hole,
let your heart pan the long rivers of the night
for what the stars value, jewels of life in the light
that can be grown like a menagerie of blood and tears,
the eyes of the blackberries, eyes of the radiant bee
on the flutes of the wind that plays for a handful of seeds.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 20, 2012

Poem Edited: Saturday, April 21, 2012

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