Patrick White

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

The Catastrophic Insight - Poem by Patrick White

The catastrophic insight. The black hour
on the widow's back, spirit of ice-picks,
and my blood, my nerves, split ends
of red lightning freaking my flesh
with burning rivers of fire that clings
like tar and creosote to the shrieking skin
as if sound could be cold, silence so mad
peace is a high pitched truce between wars
coiled like the mainspring of a chromosome
in a wind-up alarm clock mistaken for the heart.

Moments of aggressive impersonality,
angry houseflies electrocuting the window
with black power surges in their downed powerlines
as they die on the windowsill, the exhausted words
of some black dwarf of a world that imploded
on itself, baffled and betrayed by the sky
that one day out of the blue, just said no to the light,
no to the houseflies, no to the broken neck of the wren
against a brittle mirage of motiveless clouds
that wrote their names on a black list
that denied them their alienable rites of passage.

Vicious carbon of martyred scarecrows
who insisted they were the favourites of God,
after walking in the brilliant starfields
among the resurgent lyrics of the wildflowers,
I can sense the emergence of mini blackholes
sinking my solar system like eight balls
in a pocket too deep to be retrieved from.
I gnash at nothing as if there were an immaculate intent
behind the brutal venality of random circumstance.
I'm restrained by a straitjacket of killer bees
like a gamma ray burst of toxic thought-waves
that don't mean anything more than the usual extinction
but reek like the post mortem effects of a curse.

Even an abandoned house that's burnt to the ground
can give shelter to the sacred syllables
of the song birds that used to sing
from its green rafters like the boughs of my bones
before my mouth was stuffed with ashes like the urn
of the asmatographer I was last week before
I was scalded in this acid bath of a dream fever
that revels without joy in the perverse glee
of disillusioning my will to fight for life
by whispering to me like the chorus line of a snakepit,
you may be strong, you may be immunological fit,
but there's a limit to how many times you can be bit
and not succumb to the delirious radiation of the melt down.

When your dream of amelioration turns on you
like a pet python in your sleep and presses itself
like a pillow full of fledgling flightfeathers into your face
and says the more you try to believe you can fly
the more I'll swallow you whole in a single gulp
like that vast sky and all those stars you keep lit
like a nightwatchman of lighthouses and fireflies
along the shipwrecked coasts of your consciousness
deluded by the radiance of their rescue and warning,
the beauty of life and light stepping out of the dark
as if mind were the happy exception to the undeniable
and not the rule as perilous hope wilts like a flower
of crazy wisdom in the eyes of an ailing fool.

And I shall reply, as I do now in this poem
from the deepest watersheds of my volcanic solitude
because I've been alienated from the surface
all my life, let despair do what it must. I'm sick
of cringing like a bubble in the shadow of its thorns.
I'll fly like a cinder of a dragon in the eye of a hurricane.
I shall enlist an army of heretics and lead them
in a holy war against recalcitrant hypocrites
who haven't got the imagination to stand up
for their wardrobes and personas when depression
pulls the plug on the applause of their pollsters.

Being true has got nothing to do with being right.
Though the road I'm on be trampled
into a bog of starmud and snapping turtles
pull my wild constellations down like swans and eagles
I'll remain shining as sidereally
as a blade of mystically surrealistic stargrass.
I'll make a faith of my spite, a religion
of all the most cherished mistakes I've made
believing in life as the most inspired child of the light.

Though spurs of razorwire cut the tendons of my winged heels
I'll morph into a clubfoot dancing with fireflies
in the condemned ball room of a homeless starmap
and I won't think twice about the worth of the sacrifice.

Even when death holds its dress sabre
up to my jugular like the last crescent of the moon,
I'll remain the unkempt buffoon of my upbeat futility
and smile like an eclipse in face paint as if
I knew something absurdly wise about being alive it didn't.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013



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