Patrick White

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

There Is One Voice - Poem by Patrick White

And there is one voice among many,
one I remember as mine
among so many drops of rain, so many stars,
so many leaves, flames, feathers, flowers,
and the teen-age girl in so many corners of her darkness
skeining her pencil webs across the page
to catch something, a butterfly hunting spiders
that won't understand her,
and the lovers that have sifted downstream
from the radiant watersheds of their mountain plateaus
like silt over the laryngal deltas of my saying,
black pollen of extinguished stars
I carry around in the medicine bag of my afterlife
like mystic winds to keep the sails up
like the eyelids of a blind rose.

So many skies have enthroned themselves within me over the years,
so many waves and planets and legends of darkness
and the shipwrecks and shores of the weather,
and the storms and the birds, and the shriek of the lightning,
so many dawns and sunsets
and the strutting peacocks in the twilight,
and the sumptuous nights with their illicit luminosities,
so many banners of burning straw
as I look for the one needle of light
that was the gate and the eye and the mouth and the voice
of what most closely resembled me for awhile,
before I learned how to slough my skin
and the hauntings of the black poppies who long to be clear began,
and what was one threshold for a poet in solitude
turned into a palatial labyrinth of doors
that swung on their hinges in space like birds and tongues and bells
all the homeless whose last address will be a gravestone,
all the hapless, broken wretches
who keep trying again like losing bottle-caps,
and the women who came to the mike
to sing like an ambulance,
and the atrocities, the murders, the obscenity, the weeping,
that grabbed at my throat like severed hands
to scream of the horrors and sorrows
in the bloody braille and crippled signage of slaughtered flowers.

There was a boy. He was sixteen. And a prelude
that grained him out of a black cloud
that swirled around his feet like a snakepit
and pearled him into an eclipse
that time held up to the moon like a crow,
like a telescope silvered by the eyes of the night,
a black mirror that parted the veils of the obvious
like a woman's legs
and went looking like a silo of infinite space
that echoed like a famine
into what he was the name of.

And he discovered he was nothing but the shadow of the world,
deaf mailmen, reluctant debutantes, car thieves
with the souls of hunted deer,
hookers whose blood glowed like neon
to fill the pleading mouths of a nest of empty wallets,
and the arrogant, the boring, the vicious,
the scholastic tidal pools who conjectured
about the existence of the great sea of being
that overwhelmed them day and night,
and the arsonists who walked in the rain of their distant exile
playing with their hearts like matches,
and the bruised violets who hide their eyes
under the sodden leaf of an autumn journal
that reads like the last ocean on the moon,
and the treacherous, the bitter, the liars
whose quivers of feathered asps
broke like arrows against the stone lions of the truth,
and the assassins who waited
like the thorn of a sundial to blood their shadows
in the eyeless witnesses of the crimes of noon
and the reformers who wanted to cover the earth in leather,
put shoes on the world
and wore out like flying carpets,
and those who were born to salt the field
and those who were born to sow,
and the rootless wildflowers
that gathered on the corners of concrete cities
like fire on the wind
only to be threshed by the blades of the moon,
cut down by the scarlet scythes of harvest squad cars.

And he has lingered among the opals and sapphires
and on the stairwells of water
that coiled like rivers and women
through the hovels of fire and ash
that consumed him like the memories of a phoenix
that had gone out like a pilot light,
and drunk the stars and eaten the radioactive meat
out of his own skull
like an enlightened begging bowl,
and come undone like a bell of wine in space
like a drunk shapeshifter, a staggering compass
on the high wire of his spinal cord
when his locks were moved by one of the keys of the mystery
that attuned him to the voice of his freedom
in a vast, starless abyss
that wiped the universe off the mirror
like the last breath of the light
to prove he was irrevocably dead.

And through all of this he has been a podium, a stage,
the gaping ellipse of the clear light of the void
auditioning another dream for the talent show,
an advance scout in the night
following rumours of stardom
across the appellant deserts of the moon
like thought chains of migrating geese
trying to remember their lines
like the secret names of God
on the rosaries of their long farewells,
and the only way to be anything
when he turned the light inward
was to agree that everyone had the answer but him,
that even the darkness that dyed
the clarity of his waters with night
to detonate the fireflies like blasting caps
wasn't a robe of his own
but the nocturnal paint rag of the sky
that has been making him sit for his portrait like space
for the last forty-seven years
of writing shadows on the road like poems.

And I haven't stopped crying for him since.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012



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