Patrick White

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

Poetry - Poem by Patrick White

Poetry isn’t a talking fly
on a one way street in a lightning storm; isn’t the orchid
that issued from the sword in the snakepit
that penned whatever it saw in stone. What does this mean?
Forty-one years of trying to push
the singularity of the universe
through the eye of a needle as large as the reasons why
without twisting the thread of the original theme,
without shrinking the sky to an umbrella
in a glass skull freaked with insistent translucencies.
Poetry isn’t breast-fed by a doting Medusa
who will excuse your wailing with a pat on the back
as you try to configure your verbal relations; it’s not until
the lantern’s overturned and all the stars and fireflies go out
and your mouth is stitched shut like a wound
that will never heal, and the flowers latch their honey-gates
in a surprise eclipse, and even the worm is a lonely comet
in the eye of the rose that called for your annihilation,
that the wonder of having nothing to say for no reason
begins to gather like light in the wishbone of a harp
and sings to amuse the silence
with the posthumous profundities of its own retraction
like a dropp of water crying down a mirror
that didn’t know it cared. Free yourself
of what you think you have to say about anything
to hear the urgent fountain-mouths of eyeless dawns
that write with the beaks of frenzied birds
that have absorbed the night like ink. Live
on the underside of the leaves that never fall
from the unpruned tree on the moon
if you want to know the nightmare of the spider
webbed to the morning like a poem
between two blades of stargrass.
There’s a storm with a candle in it
that isn’t a leftover star, more powerful
than the black-outs of the lightning
that seizes the heart like a hawk
and slashs it open,
a love-letter to the world with a knife,
to see what’s truly phrases your blood to the moon.
Do you understand, do you truly understand;
there’s a firefly in the grave,
a soft, shy light like the glow of a distant city
pearled on a blind horizon, a black mirror
that absorbs the faces it reflects like death,
so much brighter than the white hole
of all that you’ve been saying
that even the stars are maggots of light,
commas in the wake of summer swans,
compared to the oceanic radiance of that shining.
Drown your paper lifeboats in that,
add your grief like a river to the nightsea
you’ve been walking on like a messiah with a map,
and let go of yourself like an apple from a bough.
Do you see the blossoms of the orchard
swept up in the gutters of the busy world
working hard at its own extinction; those
are the withered eyelids of poems,
the useless sails of spineless foolscap
lined with blue horizons
that asked you where you were going
and because you answered like a compass
left you breathless at the equator, junk-mail
on the doorstep. The world has been discovered,
the metal capitals starred like jewels;
the real estate offices crammed with valleys and lakes.
Sink like a continent that can’t be colonized
and show me the thresholds you’ve sloughed like skin,
the footprints of your transformations
where you jumped from the tree
that swung you like a bell
and walked away deranged
by the solitude of your dangerous humanity.
Look for a door with a broken hinge and enter.
Stop carving your name on your bones
like the prows of old shipwrecks, dismiss that harem
of painted figurines you’ve bound
to the mast of your bow like a pen
and learn what it really means
to be destroyed by a living muse,
to hear the sirens singing you to death.
There’s a ram and an altar on the world mountain
waiting for you to drag yourself up there
like an avalanche of dead meteors
and plunge the last crescent of the blood-crazed moon
through your heart like a sacrifice
in the name of nothing at all
if you want to true the wind
to the womb of your ghostly poems
with embryonic whispers of “I am. I am. I am.”

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, January 26, 2012

Poem Edited: Friday, January 27, 2012

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