Sad To See How We Bait Our Mind-Hold Traps With Our Hearts - Poem by Patrick White
Sad to see how we bait our mind-hold traps with our hearts,
put all we are on the line, just for a little love, a kiss, a touch
an embrace that doesn't snap shut like the jaws of a great white
we put our trust in not to draw blood at the first bite.
I take people's faces off the shelves as they pass by
like second hand bookstores, and casually browse
their life stories only to find whole chapters ripped out
and sometimes the eyes, so you can see clear through
to the other side of what there was in the way of a view
to look back at you, that someone despised, and cut out
like a number two, twenty pound, book paper death mask,
black holes like the eye sockets of a skull,
slowly eating what was left of a face that yesterday
was the peer of the stars, the great seal of the sun,
the imprimatur of moonlight on the waters of the lake.
And I know those who love love for love's sake
more than they ever have the topsoil of an erosive human,
or the bedrock and watershed of their darker depths
where the fish, like ghosts, or fireflies and stars
have to shine by their own light if they want to walk
swim or fly the rest of the way whistling in the dark on their own.
Or just want to stand there like lighthouses
unaware of the danger they pose to themselves
when they don't take the advice of the seagulls in a storm
and just stand there, upright and brittle as the eternal names
on an obelisk in an earthquake, or a candle
whose spine was broken before it had a chance to burn.
Trashed, rejected, betrayed, played and abandoned,
the spring equinox makes its precessional wobbling way
through ordeals worthy of an Apache warrior
daring his adolescence into maturity
like a flagellant whipped through the stations of the cross,
or the slums of the black-hearted houses of a zodiac of anti-matter
dreaming of Shangri Las of light where totem animals and taboos
are tasted like forbidden fruit with ritualistic immunity.
Bitterly estranged by the excruciating transformations of love
I've seen people befriend and sword dance with each other
like alarm clocks in a snakepit with what they hate the most
to see which of two assassins is going to wake up first
from the coma they've put each other in like a direct hit
in public in broad daylight, or more discretely,
slumped against a lamp post like a garbage bag.
Love can empower a hero in a hardware store,
but once someone walks under a ladder,
love sours into an infernal power base
that depends on the opinion of its inferiors
to sustain its paranoid grasp of supremacy.
Love cuts the power lines to the embassy
like a coup d'etat as it shreds
its correspondence in leaving
for a covert afterlife without extradition.
And fair to say, love's the white blossom of the moon
on a dead branch that breaks into leaf again.
Love's the pain-eater, the bliss-giver,
the sacred whore outside the Iseum,
the vestal virgin that keeps the hearth flame
alive for the lifespan of a vow of thirty years,
or be buried up to her headful of honeyed tresses
in red army ants that burn like stinging nettles.
Love's the lonely career of a bank cashier
that talks through a hole in a bullet proof window
wishing there were no time locks on her heart
to keep the bad guys out of the hope chest of the vaults
or the morgue of safety deposit boxes
where she keeps her feelings to herself.
I've been in love and know that when you're in love
there's no outside anywhere. I've felt the fire
run its fingers through my hair and ignite
the fuses of my cedar roots burning underground
to flare up five miles down the valley,
a week after I thought I'd put it out. I've
touched the mystery of life embodied in a woman
and drank the wine of the shipwrecked hareem
of amphorae on the bottom, and been slain
by the beauty of the death that was offered me
by the black muse of a waterlily into witchcraft
and been feted like an Ainu bearcub at the New Year
before she sacrificed me like a message to the gods.
Though less immediately appealing to the Luna Moths
who want to be immolated in the candle flame
that's driving them tantrically mad with mystic lust,
I've loved women who were kinder than most sunsets
and bloodbanks, gardens like nurses
in intensive care units on the nightshift
whose tears could keep you alive intravenously,
whose smiles were bouquets with something illicit
smuggled inside, to motivate a full recovery.
And the way a stone feels the sun seeping into it
in the morning, until it's saturated with light
like the fruits of the earth, I came to love them
the way a rock with any understanding of life
comes to love its lichens, moss and columbine
even though, a moment ago, it was a nickel-iron meteor
about to put its fist through the mirror like an change of species.
Nymph, wife, and crone. Birth, life, and death.
The triune identity of the moon that gives you breath
and then takes it away like a gift you would be
better off without. A black widow spider
playing a violin as if she were rocking a baby in her arms,
and you couldn't help but be brought to tears,
and in the blink of a third eye,
the bloodthirsty eclipse of a detached retina
wrecking the rainbow of a promise that wasn't kept
as if the cockpit just blew out of the space shuttle.
O and then the cooling loaves of the flesh
she makes of her occult body and breaks with you
like a wishbone she makes of her hips
from the throat of a black swan in the chimney
of an amorous anaconda with the eyes of a running doe.
And I know that death is love, is passage,
extinction and renewal, is growth that leaves you
feeling like a stranger on your own doorstep,
or it was your house but there was no one left
to answer you when you showed up again
like a loveletter feeling like junk mail.
Walk away, walk away, walk away,
on your own two feet, not your hands and your knees
and on your way out, see if you can remember
all the names of the stars in the Pleiades,
beginning with Alcyone, even as space turns to glass,
and ruminate on the beauty in the vastness of things
that come together, mingle, and separate
like restless sacred rivers out for a fling
that ended up crying alone before themselves or God
as if their eyes were jewels, and their hearts
the mystic watersheds of flowers smiling through their tears.
Walk away like an actor turned audience
walks out on his own play on closing night.
Not always, but often, separation is a veil of tears
that gives its eyes up to the beauty of the light
that comes shining through them like a smeared insight
into how easily the simple radiance of being alive
to discover in compassion the sweetness and wisdom of life
how easily the afterlife of love can thaw
the diamond snake-eyes, the lunar fangs
of the most intransigent horrors at zenith or nadir
and liberate all the stars like the pollen of fallen flowers
from the glacier the Milky Way turned into
to bloom again like starmaps gone mad
and green the Sahara into a sea of mammals and grass
with ten degrees of warmth and affection
at the end of a long ice age weeping into its hands
for how creatively beautiful, sad, freaked
with motherlodes of wisdom in its darkest ores,
inspired visions in fires that put the constellations to shame
when love goes supernova and can be seen a galaxy away.
And the metaphors that proliferate like new forms of life
as if the Pre-Cambrian were merely the blueprint
for masterpieces to come, and yes, even when love
plays the delta blues with its face against the wall
like Robert Johnson, and the abyss breathes in your face
as if you were about to be swallowed like a cosmic egg
by a dragon of dark transformative energy
unhinging its jaws to consume you without pity
like a black hole that turns you
like the key to another universe
where snakes can fly and you're not denied
some of what you weren't granted in this one.
And looking back at what you thought had ended
you're amazed at the dark harmonies of picture-music
that kept on playing while Atlantis sank,
like deep undercurrents of love
in the watershed of your housewell,
and the eclipses that no one heeded in time
or mistook for sunspots, shed themselves
like the petals of a black rose
emanating the fragrance of a new moon
tempting the martyrs of moonlight
to the danger of her thorns
and the elixir of her tears
we sip from our own skulls
like hummingbirds at the lips of holy grails.
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