Patrick White

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

The Brighter The Light, The Deeper The Shadow - Poem by Patrick White

for Rebekah Garland

The brighter the light, the deeper the shadow.
Shine. And anyone who can see will follow.
Just make sure the stars are real and not tinfoil.
You don't need to know where you're going
to be a good guide when you yourself are the path you're on.
Shine. You're the blue orchid in the Pleiades.
You're the firefly in the skull that kicked in
like a bioluminescent emergency light
when the dead woke up to discover they had no eyes.
You're the last candle dancing to the pulse of the dragon's heart.
You have suffered and lost. Suffered and won.
Suffered and healed like wounded water on the moon.
Shine like a fountainmouth. Shine like a watershed
that can feel the galaxies swimming through it like starfish
whirling like Sufis at the crossroads of a black hole
like the navel of the wheeling world with the singularity
of a hidden jewel in it like the third eye of a lump of coal
shining out like a diamond of the first magnitude.

You can do cartwheels across the sky
as if your legs and arms were spokes.
You can listen for a voice in the abyss of time and silence
until your ears turn into radio telescopes
turning like calla lilies on a jinxed prayer wheel
looking for signs of extraterrestrial rural life
like pendulous Zen pagodas hanging like bird feeders
on the errant limb of a locust tree, waiting for birds.
Shine like a sword of fire outside the gates of your re-entry
from a long return journey of the smokey dove
that wasn't sacrificed, but volunteered
to go see what happened to the crow that was sent out first
to witch for land with an olive branch of lightning in its beak
as a sign of the truce we seek with the rain,
we seek through our tears, we seek like the new moon
wholly reflected in every plinth of our shattered mirrors
of what appeared to be real, until, like hungry ghosts
we tried to grasp it and it slipped through our fingers
like an hourglass full of stars, a rosary of Canada geese,
a slaver's neckchain made of gold like a Celtic torgue.

Shine. I know there's a genie of blue hydrogen in your lamp
and you don't need a nightwatchman to ignite it every night,
though I expect you'd meet up later at a seance,
like the creative medium of a spiritual adept at sensual silence.
But when you do, you fire up hell like a school furnace
as easily as you illuminate paradise with a poppy and a sunflower.
Shine. This is your hour. When it's darkest and it matters the most.
Be a lighthouse off your own shipwrecked coast.
Be the many-petalled matchbook of a flower that blooms in fire
once every seven thousand years, and when the wind
doesn't feed it anything but the milk and bread of ghosts,
I know you've got the ferocious courage
not to blow it out just because you can. Shine
like a wavelength ploughing the dead seas of the moon
like a garden it intends to plant in its wake
that will keep on expanding like the growing edge
of tree rings emanating like cambium from the heartwood
of a cosmic tree that never stops bearing fruit
even when it feels like a Pre-Cambrian tree in a petrified forest
under the Arctic ice of a new polarized ice age.

Don't hide in the weeds and the shadows
of the star you were meant to be at this zenith
of your ascendency whether you're peaking or at nadir.
Shine. And let me see if I can recognize by one star alone
what constellation you're shapeshifting into
like a starmap with flightpaths and insights of her own
through the eye of the hurricane
in the crowns of the black walnut trees
where the nightbirds are waiting as autumn's coming on
for you to show them how to make their own way home.
Be a lamp in the arms of your own journey.
Just as the moon that's apprenticed like a sorceress
to all the phases of your beautiful, crazy wisdom is.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, August 19, 2012

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