Patrick White

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

The Black Angel - Poem by Patrick White

The black angel in my blood tells me it's time to die, go, disappear
from myself into the next loveless oblivion
like rainwater down a snake's hole. The black angel
in my heart laughs and reminds me how worthless I am
to any of these who keep dying like rivers in a desert
everytime I look to see if there's anything real to drink
behind the mirage of their smiles. Look how they all salt their own gardens,
killing anything green that had a chance to grow
with their incessant no no no to anything
that isn't a straitjacket they ripped off one of their mental dolls. My heart
says die, my heart, too hurt to cry on any more fires, says die
and be done with all these shifting sands and lies
that look like life but turn out to be nothing more than nothing more,
black match heads trying to bloom in the dark, extinct flowers
cut off at the root of being by their own refusal to open.

No is their own rejection; no is the mirror returning their own reflection
like a passport at a border to a face that isn't enough
to be admitted in, to cross the threshold, to enter, flowing,
the sea. And yet they all say they want to know, want to be
more than the adolescent outside the dollar-store, peering
penniless through the window, over
the monkey-bars of a baby buggy. My God, how they cheep in their shells
at the chance of any real sky outside the cramped confines
of their postered walls. But show up like a crack,
show up looking anything like liberation and growth,
and everyone chickens back into the coop, wingless and terrified
in the shadow of the hawk high overhead
riding the wind for the joy of it. Frauds and imposters,
day-old dainties in a bakery-window singing lead
in a choir of flies. And the demons within me scoff,
and the black angel comes forward out of the miscarried dream,
carrying the dead child that gave its life to believe in them
and asks me if I've had enough of their toxic ordinariness,
their insistent tainting of the secret wells it took so long
to divine on the moon with a broken water-wand. Idiot children
peering out of the shattered windows of an abandoned orphanage
like tiny eyeless idols waiting the return of a huge blind god
that can't see to sign their creation. And it isn't judgment, it isn't
any lack of compassion or understanding
that wants to thaw their glass tears and heal
the home-made tattoos that puncture their hearts
with dirty needles of ink, it isn't feeling above or beyond them
that turns the life-boat into a floating hearse crammed with moaning ghosts;
it's watching them look for salvation among the sharks
that devour them one by one
in a frenzied graveyard of fins. Tonight, so alone, so dispirited, so
uselessly empty, a suicidal clown in a tentful of humorless junkies,
I weep into my own hands like a man
trying to wash off his own face in the acids of a private hell so complete
death is the only rumour of a messiah
these black winds whisper in the ashes
of everything I wanted to be. What's the use of love, what's
the good that comes of wasting a lifetime learning to care,
learning to give and killing yourself off to give more,
giving away your eyes, your heart, soul, hands, blood, time, talent,
until exhausted and immaculately impoverished
you don't know what you've got left to give
when everyone's smearing lipstick on their rectums
and sewing their mouths shut
so nothing real or true gets said
when they tell you how much they appreciate
the generosity of your death
and ask for more before you're buried in their bull.

And I listen and I listen and I listen with my ears and mind and heart
until their small doomed stars are splinters of glass in my own eyes,
their pain mine, their healing mine, their fate my own
until the dagger's buried in the wound of my own being so deeply
I alone am left to the business of dying over and over again
in this solitude of regenerative hell
where to ask for a dropp of blood in return, a touch, a smile, a last embrace,
one word of genuine love
to ease the fear of the passing
is to be refused with honey and cunning, is to learn, bitterly
that all you gave as a gift
is taken in theft
and fenced in the seedy pawnshops of their pedestrian greed.
Look, there's my heart in a greasy window, over-priced, almost
the cost of a new one with a guarantee, and there
by the chipped plaster of a mantlepiece wolf
howling at a nicotine moon, the soul
I squandered like a sudden flashflood
on a dry creekbed that said it was going nowhere.


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, August 29, 2012



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