Patrick White

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

There's A Bitterness In The Light - Poem by Patrick White

And there’s a bitterness in the light that fails me this morning
like a new nail bowing to the hand it could not penetrate,
the enforced humility of tempered steel
hissing in my blood like an iron serpent, the old folio
of an undiscovered sorrow
folding the edge of a secret sword day after day
into an implacable edge so exquisitely refined and lethal
even the slightest eyelid of the cherry tree is cleft
and even space is bleeding, the sky sheered
on the electric keeness of its honed horizon. Maybe
the only mercy is in a quick kill, the jugular slashed
and the startled elixirs of life released like poppies and roses
to find their own way home among the weary refugees,
their lives slumped like corpses and pillars of smoke
across the yokes of their hill-born shoulders,
and maybe there are underground shadows somewhere,
a habit of haggard roots holding out like fire
against the odds of ever recovering my heart
like a feather in an oilslick from the dark offices of its toxic occupiers,
the long stairwells down to its private deflation,
the lachrymose rubber of a punctured tire,
the parachutes of the daylilies wattled like soggy trumpets.
And I want to cry, I’m nudged to tears
by the wet noses of the gathering wolves,
the sympathetic carbons who sense my desolation as their own
in a ruined wilderness of snarling rosaries
cutting to the quick of their prayers like chainsaws;
but no grief rises from her bath, or virginity renewed
that isn’t a figure of tar, salt, wax, glass, vinegar and acid,
her berries boiled in the poison of red army ants,
and a blindfold of nettles across her eyes, and every word
that comes from her mouth, a mass grave
of contagious swans wintering under an ode of lime
to contain the infection, the caustic snowfall of a blithe extinction.
And I want to cry for the unknown beauty of a ravaged queen,
violet monsoons of tropical tears as long as anacondas,
tears from wells that have been boarded up for years
behind deserted farmhouses
left like a last assurance of return
to a nervous levy of family graves; old canning jars
encrusted with flies and bees; I want to cry
for afflictions that have gnawed
at the decaying orbits of the moon for eras of untold longing,
sit down on the ground, my face in the coffin of my hands
and weep the violent cocoon of the grey storm away
that cauterizes my wings with blisters of mutant lightning
that burn like salt in the shadow of a whip
thrashing over old burial grounds,
a severed powerline in an epileptic fit, my tongue
seized and swallowed like the struggling toad in my throat
that kicks like a baby against the walls of its womb.
I need time, I need space, I need money, light and liars
with morning hands and ample breasts, with thighs
that open like gates at the sound of my voice,
and the lips of enraptured cherries running down my chest,
and norms of oblivion to refute my wanderlust;
and I want somebody to take the straightrazor
out of the hands of the psychotic clock that keeps
nicking and and slashing its way around the sun;
I need somebody to convince me my life
is not a corruption of the original text I was bound to live,
that I’m not smouldering with the weeds
in a heap of rotten planks
stripped from the vertebrae of genetically dangerous stairs;
that my life and my love and my work
are not the smashed empties of last night’s ecstasy
fallen from their nests in the morning
disgusted with their inability to fly,
wingless in a sickening syrup of yellow eyes.

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Poem Submitted: Friday, January 27, 2012

Poem Edited: Friday, January 27, 2012

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