There's A Woman In The Doorway - Poem by Patrick White
There's a woman in the doorway
flaking like a rose of red paint
with eyes that have been weeping
the shadows of dead saints, a full eclipse
of mascara, sloppy sorrows, and a mickey
she quotes like a Bible, chapter and verse,
though the Bible's mickey-mouse
compared to how bad it can get
as I notice there's a pink Glock in her purse,
the arthropod of an uncalibrated shrimp
that isn't going to let her lover off the hook.
I'm engraving poems on the frosty windows
with a crow's claw as they whisper to me
like the moon among the corals when I dream,
strange omens of incipience I always mistake
for a sign I'm about to cry though it's seldom
revealed why. The earth is a sad, sad place
sometimes as you're ushered to your seat
by a starmap of waterlilies that can see in the dark,
a bouquet of wildflowers in a funereal movie-house
at the first screening of a cosmic prequel
featuring your life as you've never seen it before.
Reruns in the multiverse, I'm standing
on a million streetcorners all at once
trying to hawk my theory of fiscal surrealism
to a bloodbank trying to hang on to the Iron Age.
I turn the page like an eyelid to exorcise
the ghost of the jinn in the lamp, and the cupboards
are as bare as the vow of a celibate wishing well
the watercolour lovers have lost interest in
now that the stars have evaporated from it
like the spirit of yesterday's perfume in a purse.
Where is the lost atmosphere of the moon going
like the shrinking ferns and bonsai trees of my breath
as if it were revising nirvanic haiku until all that was left
were parings of nothing, lunar phases
and fingernails of glass that could scratch
your eyes out like nature red in tooth and claw
as you rake wavelengths in the sand
like a Zen garden in Kyoto waiting
for enlightenment to germinate the rocks,
hard-scrabble farmers with almanacs of crystal skulls.
I've ploughed the moon monkishly long enough
with a silver tongue to know when
to sow, tend, reap, the skeletal crops
of the dragon's teeth that police the secret
of a green thumb trying to hitch-hike out of here
on a long, dark, estranged, radiant byway
lacquered in black ice like the gleaming mirrors
of a snake uncoiling like the full eclipse of an oilslick
waiting for me to slip up like an apostate
of my mystical ineptness long after
the last sacred clown sat down on the ground
and had a good laugh on the house
at the expense of the unamused abyss,
remarking how absurdly child-like all this is.
Medusa, armed to the teeth, tries to tell me
she's tired of crossing swords with her own fangs
over a point of honour someone has to die for
like a crescent of the moon she's going to pull
out of the mouth of her lyrical liar with pliers,
every one of her vocal cords tarred and feathered
like the black swan of a stone guitar
reverberating in the Martian canyons of her heart.
Ars longa. Vita brevis. Hatred and angry grief
so much easier to master than the impossible art
of keeping your evanescent fireflies of insight
undisciplined enough to ride the lightning
like a pale horse with the wingspan of the universe
without tampering with someone else's specious curse
or plotting a course by the stars on your Spanish spurs.
Not on the dance-card of her spite and ego,
I listen compassionately to what
the white noise outside is trying to teach me
like the universal hiss of the afterbirth of road kill
about the ontological misfortunes of being born
to long for nightbirds and hear the rattling of crabs
lugging their armaments to the front lines of love
like lunar castanets, or the horns of a bull
narrowing the gap between parentheses
like the clashing dooms of Scylla and Charybdis,
a whirlpool and a rock, gravity and mass,
the crone phase of the moon having it out
with the vernal equinox at a calendrical toredo.
I see the first crescent and I want to put it up
to my head and pull the trigger to put an end
to the incommensurable agonies of fractious decimals
repeating themselves like mantric alibis
until nothing's left of the original cartel
except the amputated torso of the fire hydrant
that tried to put the blaze out like a voice coach
who didn't know all the words to the hysterics
of an anonymously amorous narco ballad
mythically inflating the legend of a famous love affair
out of the redoubtable details of a few bad superstitions.
Pity the fool who begrudges even the grubbiest delusions
of the quixotic heart tilting at the stars
like the precessional axis of the wobbling earth
come round again to the eternal recurrence
of the stratagems of spring in a Great Platonic Year.
Love is as much of a companion to death
as murder is to sacrifice or genetics to loaded dice.
House wine or love potion number nine,
pink guns with clips of rose-petaled lipstick,
everyone's upholding the incriminating honour
of their uncontested heart defended by their folly
to the death as if the mystery were about to be
lost upon them for good as they rend each other asunder
shooting out the stars like a fashionable crime of passion.
As for me and my tent, the dancing girls
with coral lips and wishbone hips have come and gone
like serpentine wavelengths red shifting into
the shadows they left behind like signs of intelligence
alloyed with carnal desire like a nocturnal mirage
of the moon laying its broken sword down on the water
like a vow we didn't let come between us
as if we didn't belong to ourselves
which made the theft of fire we stole from each other
a greater blessing than the hurtful consolations
of obedience to the thorns at the expense of the rose.
What can you say about the nature of crazy wisdom
when the heart is bemused enough to cherish someone
barefoot beyond the bounds of common sensical shoes that pinch?
Some people would rather be loved than right.
Others more righteous than touched. Majnun
had his Laila. Love limps beside others like a crutch.
And though he sipped from many goblets
encrusted with star sapphires from the Pleiades,
none of them tasted like the night until he drank
from the reflection of the beloved from his own hands
and knew a darkness brighter than enlightenment
and the music of rain in the eyes of a desert
more beautiful than water imagery on the moon.
The mad man knows a secret even the deepest stars
can't understand without losing their way to the well.
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