Patrick White

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

So Lifetime After Lifetime - Poem by Patrick White

So lifetime after lifetime, sorceress of shadows and dreams
you step out of the dark wood of yourself,
a shy doe, a mournful lighthouse and a warning off the coast
of your infinite solitude, you, the singing bird
on the green bough of your flute pouring yourself
like sorrow over the eye of the sea, your tears,
the ancient wells of an eternal longing unanswered by the secret stars
that have entrusted their radiance to you, fireflies
drowning their light in your black candles,
the blind music of your lonely flowing. Is your flute, a bone, then,
and this rose I bring you, this heart, this blood
that has turned into a goblet of luminous wine,
drunk on the wonder and the missing in your phantom music,
is this rose nothing but a wound, a coffin-flower,
the unmarked grave of a mystic embryo?

Do you fear the tenderness, the meeting? Does the moon
strike at her own reflection in the mirror of her midnight waters
to wander like an orphan along her lifeless shores?
Boy and man, you murder me on the steps of your serpent shrine,
your eyes, cold glass, eclipses of crystal, your spirit
that once drew in the light like breath,
now a slow glacier, an age of ice
pushing your heart before it like a boulder,
like a temple-stone that one night flew out of the abyss
and buried itself like a meteor, a charred jewel, the demon seed
of a religion without saviours, your implacable creed
scriptures of blood in a mouthless book
that only love can open. Once there were swallows in the tree of life,
asylums of celebrants greeting the morning in their madness,
in the garden, in Eden, hurled through that first dawn
like a young girl's heart trembling like a dropp of light on a blade of grass.
Now your voice is a gypsy-crow on a dead branch,
your music, confession without atonement, your flute
without leaves, without orchards, an eyeless spring,
buried in its manger-cloth for years, nothing
but a crib-death, a broken wand, a phoenix
that has lost its faith in fire under the weight of its own ashes.

Beloved, again and again you kill me
in this dance of slayer and slain, tear out
this page of love like a like a child's tongue, like a mute heresy
you are doomed to rewrite forever
in the indelible inks of your seeing.

Do you dip your pen like a water-bird drinking
from its own image, putting out your eyes
to deepen the darkness, the scars of your sin
the lightless letters of a hidden language
pricked out on your skin, black stars and braille tattoos?
The pages and the years may turn like wings and hinges,
and a thousand deaths, all your own,
tome the field with gravestones,
breathless flutes and hollow bones, ancient futures;
and you the only mistress of those solitary realms; still,
your legend will remain moonless and sunless,
the story of a night sky, the eyelid of a black rose,
that couldn't break into light. Until
love stands beside the heartwell of another
as if it were its own sacred fountain,
one blood, one wind-mingled music
playing the waves like plectra, and raises the rim
of the single goblet to its lips and tastes,
only silence answers the terrible vastness,
only death graces the obscenity of these loveless wastes.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2012



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