Patrick White

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

Promethean Contentions - Poem by Patrick White

My life the wardrobe of a shabby star; here,
take this carnelian pomegranate
that has hardened into a heart
and appease what blood you can, take my tongue
that turned yellow with arsenic in the fall
and was torn down like the flag of an ancient catastrophe
by the denuding expletives of the wind.
I'm tired of the ashes and the cemetery wine
that pollutes them; I'm weary of the view,
this worm-eaten map to nowhere
and the lies it must live to fulfill.
I've exhausted the patience
of the bookish rain,
waiting for my shoes to stop talking
about journeys they'll never take,
so that I can tell them I was a man
with a tarnished direction
that led me off the known roads
to taste the wild blackberries
that ripened in brambles of razorwire.
Here, take the petrified paperweights,
the mephitic moons of my eyes, still stained
by the dead seas that wept themselves empty
to the end of seeing; I once mistook them
for summer sapphires in a mountain crown
but things have been rubbled since then,
and my sidereal aspirations have toppled
to graze on the mannered portion
of the crumbs of light
that survived the avalanche
at a foodbank for wheelchairs and thrones. My mind,
gum under a desk
in an abandoned schoolhouse
and my voice, the graveside elegy
of an extinct species
that couldn't attune its maverick genes
to the suggested forks in the path of an eloquent serpent,
I am unspooled by my own undoing
as frame by frame
I marred my life with perversions of salt and light
to contaminate my bruised confessions
in asylums of lipless inquisitors.
I am still the ore of the sword in the rock
they couldn't extort from my ambiguous impurities,
even after the stake and the fire
that moiled the gold of my bones. Blighted by the truth
of a heresy of wounded water,
I was true to the rain
in a holocaust of cabbalistic arsonists
and even here in this fetid ditch of time,
the scattered orchard, the pageant of my blood
is not a danse macabre
or transformative contrition
of flagellant lilies. I am innocent as night
of the stars they impute to me, the lies and legends
of the man who once lived me,
a ventriloquist of physics.
Here take my face and skin, my mouth, my hair, my ears,
and if you still need
a gesture of confession
to glut the cannibal of a creed, here,
take my faith in the expired frequencies
of the universal hiss, or the charred guitars
of my carboniferous impieties. I fumbled the song
you asked me to sing
and limped from the stage
an infamous king of jesters and fools
who overthrew me for a laugh
when the minister of mirrors went insane.
Now I am a smear of sky
on a broken windowpane,
a rumour of hesitant lightning
in a choir of tone-deaf fireflies,
the fraudulent tear
of a leftover saint
who weeps sewers for the poor
to wash the planet off their faces.
I rummage through the garbage
of the aftermath, the decrescent beak of a vulture
reaping the urgent organs of tumescent roadkill
that once cast the dice of their own infraction
to steal their genius back from the gods,
to cool the fire of their solitude on the other side,
to lift the veil
from the star-worn face of the apple
and look into eyes that no one's ever see
before the worm interrogates the vision
at a carnival of undertakers. Here, take this old taboo, this curse,
the thorns and horns of these dragon teeth
that sowed the forbidden ground of the secret
with armies of fanatical commas
in the service of a virgin period
deported like a holy relic
to the erection of a foreign capital
adorned by the marbles of carnage.
Here take this future from me,
the accident, the crisis and the shock,
the randomness, the tyranny, the sneer
of the heart-crushing boot, the rational madness
of political lovers raised for annihilation, and take this ruse
of happy endings, the chrome and glass
cosmetic face-lifts of a flagging science,
and the indecipherable grammars of the generals
who speak like triggers and the hurricane corporations
who lobby to own the rain
and want to market oxygen as an inert gas,
a logo on every gene. You can have my eyes,
you can bottle my tears
and send them off on the tide, a message and a warning
not to risk a rescue,
and leave me the sole custodian
of my own isolation like a bird in a furnace.
You can plant spies in my semen
and colonize my chromosomes with zoos;
you can introduce me like the skull and crossbones
of a designer virus
and hack into my horde
of piratical ideas to clear the coasts of consciousness
of superfluous corsairs. You can administer
last rites in rosaries of chalk
on ghetto sidewalks and doctor the autopsy
with the platitudinous gangrenes of moral turpitude,
the nemetic karma that plays muse
to your inspired amputations. Bring on the surgeon,
bring on the laughing pathologist
back from a late vacation, unhand me
with the ostrakon, the passport of pariahs,
and distinguish me with a fence, a wall, a camp,
the unmarked grave of a dismembered terrorist
who had no evidence to add
to the celebrity histories of acknowledged slaughter.
Make a token of my head, my prophetic skull
on the platter of a flat earth
to sweeten the sins of your adulterous daughter,
or let me fall upon the sacrificial blade
of the waning moon that lies before me like a sinister eyelid,
I will undo the ribbon of my blood
on a gift that arrived like a stranger
you couldn't trust. I will endure the abuse
of a premature grave
or enter the vehement emptiness
of a third-world cupboard in a fever of hope
that proves critical, but no demon of your will,
no whim of your capricious brutality,
no reflex of your hatred of love and life, no
acidic austerity of your organized indifference,
no starless wound of any sky
that dawns like bleach in the roots of the rose
that withers like junkmail heaped
before a bolted door on a condemned threshold,
will make me renounce
for the soft immunity of a prosperous lie,
one era, one god, one vulture
of this mountain range
where the apex and the alley are the same,
one adamant link,
one feather of fire or locket of thought
on the planetary chain
of my liberated disobedience,
the enlightened insanity of this sacred malfeasance.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 7, 2012

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