Patrick White

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

Putting A Little Finesse In My Solitude - Poem by Patrick White

Putting a little finesse in my solitude
I befriended a river as the intimate familiar
of my mindstream flowing under three bridges
of my vertebrae where I can stop where I'm going
once and awhile and look down, just look down,
look down a long time into the rippling
reflection of the sky's third eye looking up at me
as if we shared the same tears in common.

The swallows nest in heritage stone along the canal.
And the moon, the willows, the lime-green water tower
trying to look colossally spaced out among the trees
plunge their images into consciousness like a telescope
without an inverting mirror to reorient them.
As above so below. Twenty stars at the most
due to light pollution, I walk past a Brink's truck
emptying the vaults of the bank, looking
suspiciously unsuspicious as I step into a crossfire
of overenthusiastic hellos from the flaps unbottoned
on their guns trying to pass for one of the locals.

Back door out of town, upstream half a mile
where things aren't quite as dangerously trivial
and the stars aren't cosmetically occluded by make-up
and I can hear the river walking on its own waters
like moonlight writing wave functions in chalk on a blackboard.
Everything feels closer to eternity out here
in plain view of what there is to cherish, perishing
as I remember a woman I've remembered for so long
without ever stepping into the same recollection twice
like the eye of a jeweller swimming through star sapphires
as if the patina of time hadn't found a way
to dull their shining yet, cling to their translucency
like a snakepit of oil, breathe on their clarity
like a milky cataract mistaking a window for a crystal skull.

Here, I can say she was beautiful and it doesn't
echo across the waters like the night call
of a distant bird always saying farewell to the music
of some hidden tree the wind's been playing
like a flute for the last twenty years. It's crucial
to give your past a future to look forward to
so it can go on growing in your absence
like the painting of a garden you planted and abandoned
like a constellation of crocuses breaking through the snow
to get the rest of the way there according
to their own starmaps. Follow their own shining
wherever it leads, as mine keeps leading me here
where I can tend the beauty of the wound she left me
without listening to all kinds of scar tissue
offer me well-meaning worldly unasked-for advice
like scalpels of the moon that wanted to cut
my heart out of my chest like an ice-age arrowhead
congealed out of my blood like flint-knapped rose petals
long before the rock doves discovered
the invention of the bow like the shadow
of the wingspan of a ferruginous hawk.

Even if you were to uproot all your sorrows
like weeds from your solitude, what have you done
but exhume the lightning from your own grave,
defang the crescents of the moon from the serpent fire
at the base of your spine? Shame your passion
with a fire escape, burn out like the root-fire
of a candle into an echo of smoke that smudges
the bats from the house of the zodiac you were born under
like sage and smouldering cedar boughs that never
break into flame? No. She was beautiful
and as much as it hurts to remember that
clear-eyed as winter water worthy of the moon,
because she's gone like the fork of a river
that's moved on like the other half of a wishbone
from this our secret meeting place,
and the sadness and the beauty of the fireflies
that are missing among the paradigms of the stars
that once echoed their earth bound radiance
sometimes leave an abyss in my heart
a thousand deaths wide I'll never be able to fill,

still, like the ghost of a phoenix unfeathered
like the staghorn sumac in the fall by the wind,
though space burn as hard and cold as glass,
I will spread my wings and rise like a fire
equal to the moment in passing that shines
through my tears like the arcing flightpath
of an arrow of light dipped in the waters of life.
I will celebrate my wounds as a measure
of how deeply I was seized
by what was irrevocable about her eyes.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013

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