Patrick White

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

The World Is Only As Big - Poem by Patrick White

The world is only as big
as the size of the life going on in me.
If I wanted to take the full measure of the sky
what could that be
compared to the lightyears it takes
to get from one side of my mind to the other?
And look how huge the darkness is
that can be cast by one star
like the negative of its shining.
And what road has anyone walked
that was ever longer than their shadow?
Eternity's just another way of saying
you've run out of space for time.
I don't think I'm going to live forever
but my life will go on without me
just as it always has.
I'll get up in the morning
like the ghost of someone I can't remember
and I'll have a coffee and a cigarette
as I wait for the obscurity to clear
like steam on a bathroom mirror
to see if I can recognize
anything about me
that was true yesterday.
Will I feel as I do now like a leftover
from the night before
pushed to the side of the plate
as everything in the room
reviles me slightly
and gets back to the silence
they were engaged in
before I interrupted them so impolitely
I smeared their meditation
with my intrusive incoherence?
They all seem to be waiting
for someone to make an appearance
but it definitely isn't me.
It's beautiful outside
but when I look
I'm always looking at the beauty
of someone else's bride
and I turn away like night from the orchard
as if I were always the best man
at the wedding of Adam and Eve.
In clay-bound Sumer
from the word Edin
meaning the southern marshes
of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers
whose mouths were always full of food
and the living was easy and good.
Same garden.
Same tree.
Same apple.
Same suggestive serpent.
But I've always understood
from the first bite
of self-knowledge
the baffled man in me
eats the apple to know things
about the lucid woman in me
who eats it to grow wings on a snake
to raise that up high
which has been cast down low.
Now all gods and dragons are estranged oxymorons
and Nicholas of Cusa's Coincidence of the Contradictories
is the yin and yang
the lingham and yoni
of a grand biodynamic plan
to sow clarity in the heart of confusion
to see what kind of chaos we can make of it
that might randomly advance
the creative mischance of evolution
happening everywhere the same
to everyone all at once.
Though to think it has balance and purpose
is to build two retaining walls
in the corner of the one dunce.
It's the kind of war
where you go to peace against the other
and there's a commotion
in the heart of the stillness
that is distinctly human.
Something stirring
about the enduring effect
of love and compassion
when it happens without a cause
and the mirrors don't look through the laws
of iron bars
like skies in captivity
deprived of stars in their solitude
or words to lighten the mood.
Of course it's absurd.
Life's only playing at being serious
and a childlike madness
a crazy wisdom
that isn't imperiously innocent
of its own experience
is the only way to express
the lucid triviality of what's sublime
about its creativity
like stars in the daytime
lost in the lightless depths
of an expansive mind
that's come to the limit of things
like a Martian rover
by realizing
there's no edge to go over.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 5, 2012

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