The River An Old Waltz On The Dance Card Of The Stars - Poem by Patrick White
The river an old waltz on the dance-card of the stars,
at the navel of time, at the crossroads of the unborn world,
I take the hand of the waterclock that pumps like my heart
and escort it to the centre of the floor and in a strophic wind
of wheeling turns and counterturns, lyrically reverse my spin
like the weathervane of a Sufi trying to annihilate
my sense of direction in the vertiginous bliss
of not knowing where I'm going on the journey ahead
and as ever, still as clueless, whether it really matters
if I arrive or not, on time or late, mad or enlightened,
weeping like an atmosphere that's soaked up
too much from the occult arcana of the air
or laughing like a trickster crow shaman as innocent
as a black sense of humour blowing the candles out
like shallow insights into enlightenment to see better in the dark
what truly shines in my third eye, and what does not.
Should I mend the cracks around my eyes with gold
like a broken Japanese teacup, or are those the roots of the lotus
that anchor me like axons of black matter to the lower depths
of my starmud like a radiant alloy of Orion and dirt,
all my neurons wired in series like galactic sea stars?
I don't take notes on the fires of life in short-hand
and I'm alert to the false dawns of inspiration
that urge me to draft my first impressions of night
in flourishing scripts of cursive smoke uncoiling
like the vapour trails of dragons in the quantum sunsets
of a mystic singularity behind the veils of a black hole.
If it isn't written in the scarlet vowels of my blood,
koans of unbreakable consonants, seventeen sacred syllables
of the total eclipse of a haiku in nirvana, it's
only an experiment in the loss of identity of an old science,
not an experience of the crazy wisdom of the new
realizing the shape of the universe is the shape of the mind
that observes it, and knows like an intimate of emptiness
it's inconceivably alive and intelligent as space.
And I celebrate it now like an ageing man
looks at his hands and immediately understands
why the last flowers of autumn are always the most beautiful.
I have sown like a star what others will harvest
of my light after me like the eyes of a man who spent
a long time dreaming in the watersheds and wine cellars
of the art of learning how to break into song
like a graverobber into the heartwood of his youth,
how to carve guitars out of coffins without cutting
your own throat like tightly bound vocal cords
badly attuned to your jugular vein like the low E string
of a Tibetan mantra with nothing but an empty begging bowl
for a microphone. And the forked tongue of a lightning bolt
witching for serpent fire in the mouth of a dragon sage
that triggers the moon into releasing the mercy of rain
on the scorched earth path of a volcanic grailquest
that might give the lost something to look forward to
when they're drowning like fish in the sea
that gave birth to them like the sun in Pisces
at the vernal equinox where the celestial equator
and the ecliptic intersect like rippling bracelets of rain
elaborating into mandalic interference patterns
where the protocols of chaos wear the appropriate life masks
like dark poems and light on both sides of the moon
to commemorate the occasion of a rising constellation
in a metaphoric rapture of collaborative illumination.
Homage to the dark mothers of the words for water and light
it took a lifetime of silence for the daughters of the muse
to learn to say as if a poet's life depended upon it.
Homage to the thieves of fire that set the windows ablaze
from the inside out in ways they've never been lit up before
when they least expected it from the least expected quarter.
The sun at midnight. The moon at midday. And the shadows
remarkably supple given the age of the dance they're performing
like a swan song of black feathers with the wingspan of a ghost.
Homage to the mystery that led me like an exile
out of my own doorway to disappear like a bird in the night,
brief, brief, brief, and gone into the abysmal dark
of an afterlife I followed like a starmap of lightyears
into the open until my eyes adapted to the black mirrors
of my deepening awareness of how the heart
shone brighter than the mind and the entrance not the exit
was the harder way home for a human who was willing to risk it
for a valley full of fireflies and savagely clear insights
that echo a mountain that shrieks in its sleep
like a nighthawk to the sharp-eyed stars. Asleep
or awake, alive or dead, the differences pale
like wandering scholars in the moonrise on the river.
Prophetic skulls lose track of the time like amino acids
in the alphabet blocks of ancient asteroids
trying to keep it together in the Oort belt
after they were messed up like ricochets by Neptune
on tour in the leper colonies of shepherd moons.
The seven inaccessible dimensions of the future
fray like a spinal cord into an infinite number of lifelines
at the deltas and sacred meeting places where
the mindstream returns to itself, water to water,
not ashes and dust. And the silver sword
the moon lays down in tribute to the lake
is bent like the back of an old man so no one after him
could ever wield it like the hands of a clock in battle again.
Homage to the stranger that stands at the gate
to another world without disavowing his homelessness.
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