Patrick White

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

The Birth Of Rain - Poem by Patrick White

Drifting on a drab Sunday in Perth among the ashtrays and leftover sublimities of the church bells. My studio window above the rooftops a smear of willow and wet pine undulating gently in the stillness that followed the rain. Wolves on the easel, waiting to pay the rent. May of the fifth year into the twenty-first century, fifty-six, I sit in a blizzard of tobacco crumbs because I'm too poor to buy tailor-mades, coughing at the computer, wiping small drops of water like pygmy tears from the Cyclopean eye of the screen that glows with the same effulgence as the dirty sheet of the sky. The main migrations are over, but maybe these words are rosaries of late-returning birds. Two anthracite, boat-tailed grackles on a branch just beyond the grimy glass and a gust of sparrows chirrup like squeaky alternator-belts, manically elated in the wake of the storm that has just passed. My freedoms are more sober, my resurgencies probably less profound than the gray roses I give birth to here at my desk, waiting for one of these terminal urgencies of insight to sway me like a bell.

Maybe Louise later today with her Cola and cassettes, and her rough, voluptuous, laughing humanity scorning the random acids of the vulgar world that schools her, a muse who doesn't take requests, a generous longing that's been through a lot. So I sublimate the root-fires of my leafless batons into an auto-de-fe of white canes tired of trying to tap their way through a maze of sexual creeds, blind. The result? A novel and dozens of poems apples above the worms. And I keep her cats, Morgan and Rain, mother and kitten almost fully grown. There are no humans Louise loves more.

The kitten was born beside me on the couch at one-thirty in the morning while Louise was in the hospital and I read La Mettrie, d'Holbach, Diderot, d'Alembert, Voltaire, Rousseau and Helvetius, eighteenth century French les philosophes. Two days ago, remembering, she asked me to write a poem to celebrate the birth. And it's two hundred and fifteen years since the French revolution went into convulsions and mothered daggers out of its wounds, and we are neither free, nor equal, nor brothers, and the birth of Rain, by association, is only the smallest of iota subscripts below the voluminous pretext of that slaughter, hardly, if at all, a mote that matters; but in a way she was born while the peasants stormed the Bastille, and time sent corpses and ideas floating facedown on one of its more famous rivers of blood all the way to the embryonic comma of this tender, contrary event. And there was honour in being a witness when Morgan jumped up beside me

and lay her head upon my right arm as a pillow, the great red text
with ivory pages open to the public like the Vatican before me
as the soft, gray satchel of her body shuddered with the natal lightning
of a different storm, the quickening eruptions of a different riddle
than the one that dropped its answer like a blade
on the necks of the cropped carnations as I kept on reading, thinking
to run for a towel before deciding not to disturb her,
that a little blood on the couch wouldn't hurt anything
compared to the streams of gore that caked the pages of my book.

And there was a humility in the act of watching, and a trust,
as if a great secret were demanding something of her
she was willing to go through hell to give. And my heart
laboured with her like a sympathetic strawberry, convinced of a miracle,
and even the colder lizards of my mind were awed
by the conception of the material immortality achieved
by the platitudinous genius of replicating genomes,
and who among temples and havens and research labs
could hold a candle to that, and what have I written, or felt, or thought,
that even comes close? And there wasn't a manger,
but the whole of the vast, star trailing night
crowded in behind the adoration of the angel-winged lamps to observe
genesis in the portent of its light
as Morgan rose like a violent squall
and squatting let slip with a howl of wounded passage
a black, sleek pickle of life wrapped in pink ribbons
tied to the tongue-sized kite of a pink placenta
with nothing left to say
while the French Revolution lay open on the table,
crazed with vertical caesarians. Two minutes more
and the afterbirth was eaten, Rain, because she's rippled, blind
because her eyes were queered by the living room light,
groomed and heading for the tit the way
a baby turtle waddles out of its cosmic egg with the world on its back to the sea,
her three-toed paws not yet the heavy seals of tigers,
and stumped by the impasse of continental plates
between the cushions, her first obstruction, tried, but insurmountable, I
appointed myself a force of nature as good as any
and gave her a boost to the bottle, Morgan,
a cat that seldom purrs, purring like dough
at having the cleat of her nipple kneaded into milk.

Two and a half hours I walked and waited to see if she would live;
window to window, through doors and back again, two and a half hours
to ascertain if the uncertain droplet of her heart
that reflected the hidden glory of the living
pulsed to a martial strain or the beat of a funeral drum,
or better yet, fell like music from the eaves. Everything
was given, as black cherries are given
and fingertips and stars and saffron orchids under eel-skin leaves
and drunken voices in the street proclaiming imperious ecstasies
and names and gods and dragonflies
or the silence coiled in the throats of overgrown wells
like the psalms of sleeping serpents older than the rocks is given.

And what could I do as life divined the outcome, the wyrd
of a beginning innocent as whiskers, but live the history of everything
in the mystery of the moment and wait with the wind and the trees
as others had waited for me to pull the ore from the stone
and crown my own existence? And I thought of the children
of the French nobility, I thought of Lavoisier and Buffon
who loved animals and plants and oxygen,
and fifty thousand pikes forged for the Paris militia, and Goethe
who affirmed the auspicious aspects of the sixteenth Louis' reign,
and the train of death carts that creaked toward the guillotine
with their saloneries of elegant women shaved for death,
and of all those who had been bled for centuries by the lies
of the mitre, the robe, the sword and the crowns of luckier stars,
wasps who laid their eggs upon a living host constrained to entertain
their vicious myth of origins, and it seemed to me in passing
that this simple birth of a common kitten
in the smalltown hours of a bird-freaked morning on the verge of dawn
washed out the blood of millions in their indistinguishable graves
at the first sign of this feline gesture of primogenitive rain.

And born a Leo, flame in the tinder enough, equal to her claws, a gift,
she lived and suckled and slept in the bay of her cloudy mother
as I went off to bed, my nightwatch ended, more enhanced
by a single birthstain on the couch, her watermark,
than the thousand pages of bloodshed that drenched my weary head:
And I dreamed, a marvelous dream, a crazy blue dream
as if Bast, the Egyptian goddess of cats slept at my feet commingling
her visions with mine, images and symbols and the strange arcana
of things released from time and sequence and history
to dance freely with the dead who lived again emphatically
beyond the clamour of their chains and violated thresholds,
and it seemed to me their eyes, their incredible gold-flecked eyes
were slashed by black crescent moons that waxed and waned
like cups and flowers, like tides and the improvised hours of childhood
as if each were the pearl and the lens and the seeing
of a vast ocean of a living liquid light that fed
the umbilical rivers and womb-waters of all it called back from the night
like the words of a wounded song. And slowly as my mind
adjusted to the subtlety of the nurturing glow, I realized
this fathomless reservoir, deeper than any idea, wider
than any feeling, was the watershed of my own frail knowing,
the nacreous mother of all, older than beginnings, creatrix of all,
whole and unbounded in every atom, star, leaf, cell, skull, tear and firefly,
the fountain-mouth of form and time, nights and mornings,
everything the issue of the bell of her being, storms, bones, dreams,
suns and their planets, starfish and leopards, heroes and snails,
the thief in the window, and the burnt salts
of the excruciating murderers who cut out their own tongues
everytime they kill, spiders, fish, wheat and poppies,
and the blackholes that are the engines of other universes,
all the language and the lyric of her substance, the birth of time
in every heartbeat, chaos and cosmos in every pulse that shakes the void,
space, her skin, intelligence, her eyes,
and the wavelengths of her wild hair, the fragrance of ancient nights
that ripened like apricots, everywhere curled into galaxies,
and all, forever, without exception,
the auroral transformation of her vital radiance, and she,
without dimension, the broad canvas and inspiratrix of life.

And in an instant I saw the shadows of the generations,
billions of men, women, and children, maligned and celebrated alike,
the cursed and the blessed, the beautiful, the wise, the athletes
and the cripples, the criminals, the tyrants and the saints,
moving like the sloppy surf of autumn leaves through the darkness,
dry, used-up things, heavier than the sorrows of coal, tears of coal
and the torn pages of banished books
ushered by a wind that seemed the breathing of time itself
toward her lavish shores to drink from their own reflections
and be restored, not saved, because nothing can be lost,
like flowers to the luminous wines of life
that poured into their desiccated creekbeds like rain, like roots,
like trees and the dendritic boughs of space, like bloodstreams
in the hazardous course of tumultuous histories, each, like anyone,
like me, like you, like Louise, Morgan, Rain and Voltaire,
because the whole of the sky, the moon, the stars
are mirrored in every eye, shine in every eye like being itself,
and from every tear, every droplet at the tip of the stargrass,
from every berry of blood that stains its own seeing,
from the tiniest womb of water that falls into life through the night,
Egypt and the Nile, France, kittens, dreams, insight.

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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 28, 2012

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