Patrick White

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

Lykoeia - Poem by Patrick White

The howling of wolves.
Venting the agony in the wasteland
of nightclubs, bars, jails, parking lots
in the grubby all night greasy spoons
with the pizza oven in the window
and a heavy snow falling outside
at three in the morning
when the ghouls like us were out
like afterhours carnies from the Ex
the hooker in the corner
the pervert in another
the dealer in a booth in the middle
and hot camera for sale
by a drunk in another
who isn’t ever sure of where or who he is.
And the Mexican restaurants where we were banned
permanently for life twice
because no body drank as much as us
and our outrageous bullshit was good for business.
And everybody knew how difficult it was
to be an alcoholic artist those days
and get some really good work done
that never pays much
until after your dead
and everybody puts your picture up on the wall
and thinks of it as a signal honour
you got arrested first in their restaurant.
You didn’t live in the big homey
awkward cheap rent run-down houses of the Glebe
before it was gentrified back then
by the real estate agents who crashed our parties
to entice our women away,
property for property,
you encamped, tribally.
Parties ran from house to house
like waterclocks of booze
and every fourth bucket of a house
had a porch and a beached whale of a couch
you could sit out on in the dark with a candle all night
and listen to the music coming from the back of the house
and three doors up the street
with a toke, and a girl
who thought
as you let the story of your life in art
drift off into the cool night air thematically
like smoke from the end of the spliff in your hand
you were a wickedly dangerous genius
who could only be saved from himself
if he took her beauty and her pain
and her body to bed for a muse.
The howling of wolves
like a displaced tribe of Sioux among the Seminoles
lamenting the only holy war path left to them
was the longest way home,
venting their agony
in a self-abusive wilderness
of longing, madness, and aspiration.
Ferocious false starts to damaged careers
as a litmus test of who was sincere or not
as we ran our tongues along the razor’s edge
of the things that we would say
and the things that we would not
and the things we would do
that we were willing to bleed for
to prove we were crazy enough
to be who we said we were
even in absentia.
Singers, poets, painters, mimes
and the wannabe agents
and mythically inflated producers,
the editors, publishers, girlfriends
trying to con a candle into a constellation
so they could be as important and controlling
as a contract with a bad ear.
And I still very much doubt
if there’s any more murder
in a terrorist cell
than there is in a room
that’s just given birth to a new poetry mag
and all the editors claiming paternity
are arguing among themselves
for equal visiting rights to the baby
even before it’s out of the incubator.
Nightfall over the city
and the stars no brighter over the capital
than they were over Toronto and Montreal
but something colonial and sinister
about the way the ass-kissing
quislings and collaborators
thought they were dimmer somehow
and wheeled Toronto into their poetic agendas
like the Trojan horse through the gates of Ottawa.
So many sleepwalking through the snow
talking to themselves
as if they had a pillow over their mouths
they could scream through
or dream
as it dawned on them in the streetlights
outside a negligent poetry reading
things are often as true as they seem
and how hard it is,
what a lonely brutal discipline it is
to try and convince the moon you’re wounded
when you’re only bleeding for poetic effect
to howl with the wolves
so crazed by the lunacy of what they longed for
and knew was so utterly unattainable
even the echo of what they asked for
wouldn’t be given back
when they broke off the engagement
to the coyote pack that practised
mimicking their derangement
as if to feel that way
were creatively stimulating
and not self-destructively real.
Snarling backwards thirty years later,
raising an ear,
baring a fang to the past
as if it were a crucial snake pit
in my formative years,
trying to weave the downed powerlines
in an ice storm of broken chandeliers
into paradigmatic creatively visual
magical mystery tour flying carpets
bejewelled with my tears
that so many now are as threadbare as crosswalks
at the corner of Bank and Fifth
laid like welcome mats
for the public to wipe their feet on
before the revolving doors of aesthetic perception.
But it’s as hard to turn
the memory of a bad acid trip
it took years to come down from
into a flying carpet
that’s going to sell as well
as a genie’s latest line of touch lamps
where you only have to clap once
when you enter a room
like the light coming out of the darkness
and your reputation’s
made in the shade for a lifetime
until it gets real dark
and the full moon breaks out above the city
and the wolves begin to howl
and all up and down the Valley
from Ottawa to Kingston you can hear
the dogs, the cowed dogs, begin to whine
like a Japanese two stroke
compared to the big-hearted snarl of a bad Harley
with a throttle for a throat
with all the bridges it’s ever crossed
burning in a quarter ounce aluminum rear view mirror
with a big heart-shaped gas tank
metal-flaked in cherry red
full of fire and freedom and tears
that would rather wipe out honestly
on the newly gravelled dirt road ahead
than the black ice
of the treacherous highway behind it
that’s been unravelling like a snake with its head cut off
for light years.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poem Edited: Friday, January 27, 2012

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