Patrick White

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

Obvious Crowns - Poem by Patrick White

Alone with my obvious crowns
dishevelled as blackberries, each of their black tines
a thorn trying to write a love-letter in tiny eyes of blood,
I despise the masks that whisper in the ashes
like bus tickets to other stations of being,
passage to other lives I might have been,
and the lies I would have told
to seal them in a fraudulent imprimatur of red wax,
living just beyond the range of the fire
where I tip the lean phoenix of my arrows in flames
to let the rain know what a fan I am of her ripples
and to keep from pooling all over myself in tears.
The vicarious distances that blue the swarming hills
and the frenzied circumstances
rattling their pagodas like a snake or a shaman
over the equanimity of my bones, the future
that grows slowly with the elegant swallows
in the clear-cut shadow of a ruined temple,
enthrone my hopes in quicksand, the King of Fools
for a day that lays its whip of dawn
across the landscape of my back
until curtains of blood run down the windows like rain,
and I am purified by the serpent fire of my ancient agony,
dismembered like the jester I kept to amuse my pain.
And the stars are expanding like random moles
on the cheek of a balloon the wind is huffing up,
and the bridges are drawn out like molten toffee,
and the miles are longer eyelashes today
than they were yesterday, applying black comets
thick with midnight, Hitler's mustache
to the stalled invasion fleets of morphological astrologers.
I remember being a wizard in downtown Detroit,
and all my life I've tried to alert the turtles
scrambling for the next lucky wave to survive,
to the beauty of their predators, to poetry,
to a wolf-path around the avalanche of their habitable stones.
What meaning could you give a life like this
where you wait from day to day for the refugees
that were spilled from your heart like bridal rice
to return to their shorelines like immortal butterflies
and the dead-bearing boats of the Canada geese;
would it not be simpler to replace my heart with a bell
that only the drowning can hear,
and end this interminable prelude
of sad trains wired to discontinued migrations?
I play solitaire with mirrors that haven't much to say
to the skull-faced dealer who shuffles my blood like a lie
he knows is going to come true, whether
I want to hear it or not,
even though there are stitches in my lips
I've sworn for years were crosswalks
to let the amputee in the wheelchair of the silence pass.
Even if he's right, let him tell it to himself
in his own irrelevant shadows
on the bumper-car ouija board of the well-traveled walls,
my assent, withheld or given like a sword,
has never been an element of my destiny
and neither the surrenders or the victories concern me anymore,
the dead bulls not much different from the gored matadors
and the victories more like celebrity defeats
that dictate the doves of peace to the baffled winners,
the horseshoe roses yoked to the necks of the winners,
than the water-keys to anything enduring.
But I have one light that I keep moving blindly toward
that I will not be distracted from, kept from,
even by the downed trestles of my own skeleton,
or the collapsed tunnels and mudslides
that keep trying to bury me prematurely in my best efforts
to escape the brutal sunflower of the prison watchtower.
She's the lantern up ahead on the tracks
flagging me down like a star in a silver apple,
pendulous fruit on the bough of a spacious tree
that fills the silo of my furnace heart again with harvest birds,
and boards me with a rush of lightbound passengers,
all the leaves and blossoms of her orchard
stamped like tickets to ride the wind in any direction
she can trade the metal sundials of my polished wheels for wings.
In the flesh, she is the last eyelid of a seeing
that opens above me like the clarified wine
of a sky that's been ripening for years
to array the delicate filaments of its water-walking stars
in all the drunken radiance of their auroral wardrobes,
the synteretic sparks that gap the clefts of washed-out neurons
like messianic fireflies advancing over
the empty storm-spoons of my fish-riddled seas. In the spirit
that hovers over her blood like the moon
over the scattered feathers that chronicle her rising,
white peonies shedding over an asphalt driveway,
she is the final stairwell in the rose
of the fire within the fire I will ever bathe in like gold
to cleanse the lampblack of the eclipse
stuck in the throat of my chimney
like the exhausted voice of the world,
and give it a clear goblet of space to receive
the flame of the fire-leaf that dances on the tip of my tongue
as if every plinth and syllable of her nimble language were yes,
as if the mirrors were suddenly filled
with a night they were pleased to reflect, as if
the hovels of the heart were the sacred islands
of a vast house in the west
where the vines of the moist stars
were not the weeping tars of a blind almagest,
but the black honey of the wounded roads of the blessed,
and only the wind, only the nightwind off the sea
that arrays its thresholds wave by wave in front of me
only the nightwind were the last known address
of the homeless waterstar that found felicity
as the boundless guest of her ubiquitous yes.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, April 8, 2012

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