Patrick White

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

Someone To Rejoice In - Poem by Patrick White

Someone to rejoice in. Foolish thought.
Epiphanous absurdity. My interminable longing
for a treasure, a happiness, a companion
I'm not even sure I deserve, is agitating
oceans of emotion again,
and wants to run before the wind,
wants to raise up apple blossoms
like sails with the skull and crossbones on them
and skirt the rocky coasts of extinct volcanoes
that once served as lighthouses in the distance
when I was island-hopping
like an infidel among the angel fleets.

The dragon's howl in the dead skull.
Moments when my heart shrieks with life
like a red-tailed hawk falling upon a snake.
I am a ravenous man who wants to eat the light.
The night flows into my bloodstream
like an atlas of arteries.
As time has passed, the pain in me
has shifted wavelengths from the ultra violet
to the infra-red of a less lethal frequency.
I'm at the wide-eyed end of the hourglass,
but I can still bare my fangs
like the moon when I need to.
I can still come down off the mountain
like a hashashim and run the shadow of my knife
like an eclipse across the dreamscape of anyone
who takes too much for granted in their sleep.

So why is it after refueling and buying
a well-upholstered cheesey sandwhich in plastic skin
at the all night Kingston Esso just before you cross the 401
at one thirty in the morning, and begin to enter
the long, dark way home up the old Perth road to Westport,
did I begin to miss you
as if you had sat beside me my whole life?
And I pondered your absence like a hitch hiker
I had just picked up for the first time
and the impact of the encounter
left an indelible impression on my emptiness
as if someone had written something
so eloquent and intriguing as a ribbon of blood
letting its hair down in the water
I couldn't help but feel like a flying carpet
that was unravelling mile by mile of asphalt
like a glacier that couldn't wait to get back to you,
thawing time into rivers to speed things up?

And the night sang as I hadn't heard it in a while.
And the stars flew in through the window like fireflies.
And I rode the road like a rat snake past Devil's Lake
where we agreed to paint en plain air
when the waterlilies were in bloom
like huge starmaps laid upon the water.
Are you the tuning fork that tames the lightning?
Are you the power of silence that shames the word?
Are you the thread of blood on the sword that blesses it?

And I wanted to kiss you good night.
I wanted to embrace you like a nebula
of blue-hearted hydrogen and the dust of dead stars
just to see if I could make you shine or not,
but I thought it was too early in the year,
too premature for the Pleiades to break into light
and I might scare you with the intensity
of what was ingathering out of
the immensities of the last million light-years
of crossing these homeless thresholds
without a star to go by, alone and unconvinced
I hadn't missed the turn several lifetimes back.

Now I sit upright in my bones at my desk
like dice with their eyes fully opened like blackholes
wondering if I should chide my skeleton for cowardice
or alea iacta, risked my luck, and crossed the Rubicon
like an event horizon that's never known a compass or a guide.
And I'm looking under every leaf and stone
and heart I've ever worn upon my sleeve
like a fresh strawberry in a field of burning scarecrows
that started out as potential messiahs
but ended up being immolated as faithful heretics
true to the fire that consumed them from within.
And you, their felix culpa, their happy sin.
The one forbidden thing you must risk your life for to live.

I'm dogpaddling in space and time like a shipwreck.
I'm holding my breath like a lungful of stars
trying to stay afloat long enough
not to see my life flash before my eyes
like a lantern whose last remaining firefly's gone out
like the solar flare of an s.o.s. that bloomed to no effect,
until your lifeboat returns like the moon for survivors.

A swallow again lost in a hurricane of volcanic ashes?
A simian in a cage with a piece of coloured glass
that transfixes it with vulnerable awe and wonder?
The aura of a woman who doesn't know yet
quite how beautiful she is, lingering in the air
like the smell of wild roses when you're out
painting alone in the fields of abandoned farms
and you can feel the uncanny chill of another person
walk right through you like the moon through a summer window.

And o to worry about so many little things again
the world pivots on moment by moment
as if it were a privilege and an honour to cherish them
like signs of love in a Druidic tree alphabet
that whispered coniferous prophecies to the moon
but held a few sacred syllables back under its tongue
that were just meant for one alone to hear
like a secret message between a butterfly and a star.
Or this woman who's just summoned me
like a nightbird to the moonrise of her smile
as if I'd never flown to the end of my longing before
without finding a noose to hang myself with.

But as I do, I do again with less fear than before
and though the shadows in the valley of death
are just as intense, the warmth of a sprightly optimism
that keeps this firefly of insight alive in my heart
to want to see this all the way through
as if it were a rite of passage
that proved the comets true
or the rush of a wild northern river
with a rudder and a sail and a hull
going over a waterfall like the Milky Way,
or a moonboat panning for gold in the mountains.

The rustic pauper prince of Perth, I hadn't
realized what an undernourished bush wolf I had become
after all these years of living in the wilderness
until I understood someone had baited the trapline
with kindness I had forgotten the taste of in my exile.
And though I don't travel with a begging bowl,
by god, I'll hold my skull out to her next time
if I have to, just to taste a sheaf of light
from that harvest again, as if the dark side of the moon
had just broken its long vow of silence and darkness
and she were lingering in space like the aura
of an atmosphere I had lived too long without.

As if a dakini, an elixir of light, had appeared
like the planet Venus in the dusk again
and I could feel an updraft of stars
wheeling under my wings
like a winding stairwell of serpent fire
threading through all nine open chakras
and eleven dimensions of a sky wide third eye
in an easy rapture of something unearthly, ascending
to sterling altitudes of blissful vertigo
that whirl me in a wind of fire at the crossroads
of everywhere and here
like the ashes of a mad Sufi
ghost dancing on his funeral pyre for rain
as the first few drops wash his fate from his forehead
like the sheet music of an old song
perched like aging birds on a downed powerline
returning its energy like lightning to the earth
she walks upon in the flowing raiment of fireflies
and the hydrogen negligees of the blue star clusters
embroidered with the harvest gold of the sun
seasoning the grain with the bright vacancy
and dark abundance of the light
still warm in the lunar locket of her heart
as if she'd just put a loaf of bread
out on the windowsill to cool for a moment or two.

And how can I, this famine in an hourglass
beside this silo of the plenum void full of manna
resist whatever befalls me in this desert of stars
whether it be vipers or wheat fields
along the way to the unpromised land of milk and honey,
barefoot on thorns, or walking on soft petals
like the dunes and waves of the ocean in the rose?

Flammable poet, sacred clown of the holy mirage,
mad monk alone in your hermitage, dragon seed
of island pirates wearing the night like an eye-patch
to navigate the stars like a canning jar of fireflies
burning on the inside of their eyelids like starmaps
to the cherished singularities I buried
at the bottom of the fathomless blackholes
firing up the galaxies all over again like the wellsprings
of a muse renewing her wings like starfish and birds
in the fountainmouth of the mountain at a loss for words.
Or as the poet said, what's madness
but nobility of soul at odds with circumstance?

And did you not say, I heard you as if my life
depended on it, you were attracted to crazy people,
and did I not ask, if crazy wisdom were close enough,
and you replied, yes, and my heart freefell
a thousand feet without a parachute
when space bent like a longbow into flight.
And I shuddered like a witching wand in ecstasy
over the watershed that swelled under me
when I divined what that could mean to a sailor
lost at sea on the moon as far from shore
as any lunatic has ever been out of his asylum
his heart his mind his body soul and spirit
without dying like a message for the sake of the medium
it was delivered in like longing in the song of a nightbird.
Love in the sound of a word.

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poem Edited: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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