More And More I Realize I'Ve Never Been - Poem by Patrick White
More and more I realize I’ve never been
who I thought I was when I was nineteen
to sixty-five, but to believe I did was
a useful delusion to get things going until now.
It’s a mask to rub the mask off your face
and say you’ve improved the complexion
of the moon. You have to include your wrong
in your right, your ugliness in your beauty,
to be holistically accurate about being
nobody you’d care to meet as well
as somebody you can’t tear yourself away from.
Isn’t it so? Would you want to have a coffee
with you? Or would you make an excuse
and forgo the encounter? Or maybe
you’ve been dying to meet yourself for years?
Would you ask yourself for your own autograph?
Give somebody a crystal skull and a Nazca terraglyph
and they’ll come up with a meaning of life
that’s as good as anybody else’s good guess
except they heard it from an alien they were
listening in on like the NSA to a cellphone.
I was always a diamond in the rough
education, art, poetry, women and teachers
who marvelled at my anomaly, were
going to cut and polish every facet of
as if I were having crowns put on my fangs
like the first and last crescents of the moon,
and I don’t say they weren’t motivated by love,
for the most part, but enough was enough.
If you want diamonds that flash like the moon
on water, you’re going to have to put up
with the darkness of the ore they’re derived from.
Everybody’s the collapsed parachute
of how high they’ve fallen to ground, shooting star,
withered daylily in the autumn, dandelion
or milkweed seed trying to land on good soil,
some do, some don’t, but it once was
very different before they paved the starfields
and the comets had to root in the minds of humans
like comas and commas, rat tail combs
sticking out a back pocket, like a sign
of what could have been, with a precautionary warning
you can’t exorcise all the ghosts and still
have someone to live for. You can’t
white-wash a wanted poster over and somehow
pretend you’re in the clear. Sooner or later
you’ll catch up to yourself and shoot first
and ask questions later. You’ll hang with horse thieves
though you were only along for the ride.
There’s a force driving me like a spy satellite
around a shepherd moon to greener pastures
where I’ll graze among the stars like the first time
a man goes down on a woman to give her
as much pleasure as he’s possessed by
as the crumpled surf of the bedsheets
have to open at the same time for a safe descent.
Skydiving is an erotic experience. Time and again.
You see two snakes copulating and modesty
makes you go prophetically blind as a planet in transit
across the sun that shines at midnight, while the moon
opens flowers like loveletters on the sly.
It’s nice to be admired for the things you hope
you do well, but you’re never admired, except
by maybe one or two, for who you are if
somebody out of your mind not theirs were to ask you
about your masterpiece. The colours of
the Jurassic waterlilies don’t fade for
three hundred and fifty million lightyears,
but the grey on your head has gone to seed
with the Scotch thistles who once stood armed
and violet. The bones in your starmud
are scattered like a wetland of dead trees,
yarrow sticks of a moonrise in
the Book of Changes. Nine in the fifth place
will never be a nightclub where women
fight over you again. And you got to meet
the Byrds just as they found Jesus and the music
was never the same again. Here’s
to the tinny guitars of the sixties lest we forget.
Anybody remember what that was all about?
There was a boom of ghost towns we called ideals.
Revolution became a hot commodity on Wall Street
and it was a lot easier to sleep around like Leonard Cohen.
I didn’t believe all the flowers I saw
in everybody’s hair just as I don’t place
much faith in the flamethrowers that are the rage
of today. Eventually it all goes up in smoke.
It flares and dies away like a supernova.
Flowers grey, hair grey, and the dragons mere
warm breath on cold air. They ran out of natural gas.
Smoke, smoke, smoke, a chimney spark,
a firefly, a flash of lightning and then we
go into the dark like a poppy or a matchbook.
The savage rose is dry blood on the snow.
So what lasts? The colours of the lilies perhaps.
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