Just Before The Air Went Radioactive Again - Poem by Patrick White
for Rebekah Genevieve Dolorese Garland
Just before the air went radioactive again, it turned into glass, hot, viscous tears in a blast furnace. And you were in it, over your head in amber. Drysophila. Fruit fly. Speedy genes. Be fruitful and multiply. You were. I know because I've been there. The tiniest grain of pollen, under thousands of years of an ice-age that wasn't waiting for spring as you were. What persistence! What a way to hang onto a dream as it turned to an old religion! Paragon of hope. But all the bees were out of date. Still no reason to give up. There's always a lab somewhere trying to tell what the Druidic sacrifices ate before they were garotted like criminals in the name of a water sylph. Terrified honey and trembling corn, afraid they were dying in the name of nothing. No one to nourish anymore. Gone. Just like that. Can you believe it? A lover for all seasons. And after all those scenic calendars you saved like Stonehenge to understand his moodswings, his deaths and germinations? What a rip. Sometimes the womb dies before the baby's born. That happens, too, when you take a gamma ray hourglass for a lover and raise your own assassin as if the Koran wasn't meant to be delivered to you by the angel of light making a house-call in the middle of the night from seventh heaven. And it was real. I don't doubt that. Cogito ergo sum. Only a fool who'd lost his Cartesian co-ordinates in a game of dice with God would base his life upon a lottery of thought. Go way, way, way beyond that until you run out of directions to point anyone in, and there's nothing to win or lose, if you really want to see how o.k. everything is as it is, even when it severs your spinal cord like a valley through a mountain. I say that. But it isn't the same as giving a sunbeam the finger like a positivist with no gear for reverse.
Of course, love. Of course, peace. But most people go looking for happiness as a placebo for inspiration and after a long search, come home to their own shoes, empty-handed and unlucky in love, only to find a misfit in their bed that's stranger than they are. What to do with a bit of dirt? Turn it in the light like a jewel until your eyes have pearled it into a moonrise you can believe in for awhile. Plant a mountainside of sapling crutches in a clear cut old growth forest, and watch them leaf into trees but leave the fruit where it lies like pine-cones waiting for fire to open their eyes. Delusion runs with the in-crowd, but enlightenment's a loner. Better to be an arsonist in a volunteer fire-brigade, than a terrorist trying to fuse a bomb to a waterclock that never goes off on time, or worse, a fraud. A Martin Mars water-bomber losing altitude without a parachute. When the whole is frayed like a shoelace too weak to hang itself, what's that, but the strong rope of an ocean unwound into a million rivers, each a way of life trying not to embarrass their own fanaticism about the right way for a weathervane to flow like a rudder through it? Everybody makes the sea these days like a hybrid mutant of the rivers of Eden, Styx, Lethe, Phlegathon, and the Via Cloaca of the Romans. Acid rain in their tears and fire-retardants in their blood. Wildflowers with rusty flames like Indian paintbrush or hawkweed.
Pain. O most unavoidable queen of eclipses, just because it's dark, doesn't mean you need corrective lenses. Had an old rugby coach once who looked at my broken nose and said it doesn't count until it hurts. It hurt a lot. We won the game. Funny how childhood elaborates itself into cosmic fractals out of homely thorns of misguided advice repeated over and over and over again when you don't even know what to say to yourself when you score in your own end zone by accident. In the crusade between yourself and the world that keeps moving the goalposts like a running gazelle, the tines of a wishbone that couldn't tell the difference, a tuning fork on the same wavelength as a snake, struggle like a warrior that knows she's foredoomed to lose, just for the pure hell of it, no truce, no quarter, no elegy. No retreat from the gates of heat. I can tell by the way you grieve, you've got it in you, to love someone better than they deserve, as if you were doing God a favour or something to make her accept your alibi in lieu of a vow.
Alone. Cherish your solitude like the rarity of an albino eclipse. Be a new moon. You're dark enough for stars, though that doesn't mean you have to put your eyes out to see beyond the glaring midways of You Tube, what shining is without a sales pitch. Or start pleading with a thief to get him to buy it. Or listen to those self-appointed fools who say by acclamation, be yourself, as if you'd forgotten what caste system you were from. Who was the priest. Who was the sudra. And who among waterlilies in the frog pond of the court was the princess everybody wanted to dance with the most under the chandeliers of the Pleiades. Just because you've turned to stone, doesn't mean you're Algol, the Medusa' head in the hand of Perseus who hid behind his own reflection after he kicked stars in her eyes like the cinders of black dwarfs he conned the last bit of light out of without even being a sacred clown. If you ever let anyone put a saddle on your heart as if it were a white-winged horse that sprang from the blood of Medusa, just remember, sooner or later they're going to think it's o.k. to use spurs on your eyes like a starmap trying to get them to glow in the dark.
Rejection. Exclusion. That dirty syringe that hooks your lifelines to the stars that gave you a myth of origin you could fly like a kite in a hurricane. And it was a better story by the time you got to the end than it promised to be in the beginning. Always is. What does the green apple have to teach the red? What does the house-dog have to teach the tigress about being dangerous? And it's good you can feel the lack of a body in your bed like the absence of a habitable planet in intimate detail, the seal of a smile, those eyes that used to watch you move through the room as if it were flipping the pages of a magazine they were thinking of subscribing to. Half collector's first edition comic book, half Encyclopedia Britannica gone digital. And your psyche like a starchart and your body like a small candle at a black mass where you'd just sacrificed everything for the dove under the eaves of your heart you spared the knife and asked forgiveness of the gods for keeping it to yourself like a no name loveletter that began: To Whom It May Concern. Who's strewing the rose-petals? Who's strewing the thorns?
O if always and only we could stay at the beginning of our hormones and not project an ending on them because we were expecting one. If only our epic meteoritic descents didn't turn into the kissing stones of a desert religion. If we didn't circumambulate the mystery like telescopes and shepherd moons. If we could be incinerated upon re-entry if we were to get too close to a dominant species that ruled our hearts like thermophilic bacteria seven kilometers down in a diamond mine. If we could shine and shine through everything like fireflies who always know where they are because they make up their own constellations on the go, and time and space renewed their virginity like a mirror no one's ever looked into. And the bird that built in the willows behind their veils like Isis trying on trees for concealment, patching a heart together out of spiderwebs like hummingbirds, didn't always end up holding it out like the begging bowl of a street-corner troubadour with the voice of a pleading muse.
O if, o if, o if, so much didn't depend upon nothing. How you ploughed your eyebrows. Bucolated the comets of hairy stars into more stylish wavelengths. Dipilated the folding legs of telescopic tripods. Three days rain in a row. The scarlet letter of your oleaginous lipstick that put traffic lights and fire hydrants to shame, falling like a spent cartridge in front of the mirror in the green room with stagefright you might use it on yourself. And then the abyss. Yes. The abyss. Too empty even for space to get a foothold. Nowhere to plant a flag. No one to claim it in the name of and you the pauper princess thinking of stepping down from the throne. And the mirrors pick on you for things they can't reflect, and there isn't a window in the house that's going to stand up for you and change their point of view. And it's beyond me what we fear in here because there's no sign anywhere that says, No Trespassing. Trespassers will be shot. Because the abyss is merciless. No end of it anywhere. Crueller than a black hole eating a universe. Yet everything intense. Amplified a thousandfold by the thunder of distant zeroes trampling your heart to death like a stampede of white buffalo mothers running from the endangered species list. Look through this window with eyes of stone and the delinquent in you can break it. Throw the moon through it. And isn't it uncanny how the least of details in this space, the jewels that got swept up in the corner of your eye like dream crumbs you'd pick up when you found the dust pan, suddenly leap out at you like black lightning that rips you like heartwood from the roots up, a whole cosmology in the smell of a t-shirt left behind like a flag of surrender you didn't ask for. I first saw it like lipstick on a piece of kleenex in the kitchen beside a shaving mirror, after my Spanish-Apache lover left me holding the medicine bag of what was left of my life for the moment, like a sac full of rattlesnakes sprouting eyes in an Irish potato famine. Something so small, so trivial, so untoward, like an arrow that broke off in my heart and me trying to look for all the reasons I could possibly deserve it, right down to the kind of flightfeathers she used and the birds she took them from, and me thinking maybe I shouldn't have done that ghost dance on the reservation when the agent said all I was allowed to listen to was rhythm and blues. Or in case of an emergency, the Day Glo Abortions. Ain't easy being a switchblade samurai in the world with the romantic sensibilities of West Side Story. Me? I became the warrior minstrel of the forlorn hope and blooded my blade on roses whose thorns knew what I was up to like a prayerwheel of spurs. And I introduced Pacific cowboy Zen like a seahorse to the samurai to take the edge off the soft weapons of the Japanese plum blossoms falling all around me in self defence. And they haven't hurt me since.
And I know it's not easy being a lighthouse on the moon beside a graveyard of shipwrecks that never learned how to listen on your wavelength about the red shift of farewell. So I send you one of my favourite star maps with cigarette holes burned in it that will let you see clearly all the way to the other side of the effervescent multiverse that's blowing thornproof bubbles into the abyss like eyes that don't need a house to know what they're the sign of when there's lightyears in your tears. And I send you a white heal-all for a nurse, in case you get seasick in this moonboat of a poem, and o yes, a spliff with the tendrils of a hookah octopus when things begin to get nebular enough to shine like the chandelier of the Pleiades when you go dancing with your eyes.
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