Patrick White

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

This Far From Shore, The Night An Oceanic Emotion - Poem by Patrick White

This far from shore, the night an oceanic emotion
I'm bobbing in like an empty lifeboat,
a message in a bottle among the stars
as if I had nothing to lose, nothing to rescue,
no voice on the hill calling out in the fog
to see if I'm still here or salvage by now.

I'm a runner of the woods, a courier de bois,
portaging across the moon to shoot
the black water rapids on the far side
of a wilderness with ten thousand shattered mirrors
as if every lake wanted a little piece
of the big reflection as a keepsake
of what they see in themselves when they look.

I light a fire like the memory of daylilies
that used to bloom beside my mindstream
and I'm humanly at peace with the immense
impersonal intimacy of the solitude it inspires.

Everyone's journey might be no more
than the history of a wavelength woven
into the fabric of a vast intelligence
pervasive as space in which everything is created
like the flash of a firefly out of the void
to ride around on the flying carpets
of the sky or the water like a fish or a bird
or the nucleating bubble of a membrane in hyperspace
as if the multiverse were a playful idea
that got out of hand in the elaboration of it,

an inspiration that hasn't burnt itself out
like a fire in the starfields, at least here,
for billions of years, the godhead run amok
with appearing in its own imagination
like a stranger in the doorway of its homelessness.

It would be unkind to say nothing about it
except to say there's nothing you can say about it,
but compassion demands you offer the gaping silence
of a wounded mouth a little lunar scar tissue
now and again, and not deny the nightbird
the lyrics to its longing, and even
in this desert of stars when it get's cold at night
let your mirages dress up in your hand me down delusions
if it keeps them warm for awhile. Truth
can walk naked if it wants, but love's all
silk in the summer and flannel in the winter,
and come the spring, a ball gown of apple orchards.

In autumn it trails a robe of smoke
like an era of pageantry magnificently adorned
like a dead muse on a pyre of bird bone flutes
and unpublished manuscripts brought to you
by the fruition of the letter apple, if the Druids are right.

Mellow sorrows ripen into expansive sunsets somehow
as you age, and the barriers of the self-contained
come down of their own accord like cedar rail fences
wearing lichens like tattoos of the moon not to forget
the redwing blackbirds that sang from its green boughs
and how it all changes if you take your mind off it
even for a moment to dream of writing a loveletter
to the eyes of some beauty who never promised to understand.

The arms of the old moon may be empty,
and the new too late for the future of yesterday,
but to plague yourself with disappointment
is an eclipse of black mould eating away at the rafters
that uphold this house of life like the rootless tree
of a human doing their time standing up as
they look time straight in its one good eye
and say to themselves under their breath, bring it on.

I am a peer of eternity as much as you are
in your labyrinth of mirrors, as I am by my fire
looking up at the stars shining down on me
with tears in their eyes for the way I feel their light
ripening in me like a brandy of the spirit
I warm in my hands and breathe deeply in,
the bouquet of a heart that's been tempered
like an alloy of joy and grief. The hour keeps an edge
on my blood as soft as rain that can't be blunted
by the pain of knowing one day, soon, I'll
fall upon it like the shadow of a sundial,
the petal of a flower that denied it loved me,
the paling of a gate I lived my way through
like the flightfeather of a waterbird in passing.

No stranger to the garden, no foe of the mystery,
my prophetic skull will go on singing
long after the snakes and ladders of my flesh and bones,
my arteries, my chromosomes, have taken down
the scaffolding I climbed up on like a boy
the highest tree in an abandoned orchard
to paint a myth of creation in the hues
of my heart and voice, listening to the wind
in the apple bloom whispering evanescently
as I prick out the cartoons of my fresco
like new constellations of an enlightened imagination
on the roof of a private chapel of a tent
I cart around with me like the skin of a serpent
I once shed, but will leave like a blossom
on a green bough awhile to remind the leaves
and the nightbirds what the wind meant about love and life.

I'll spread my wings like a starmap to everywhere
and nowhere in particular like a river
that flows through a small town at night
and I'll let the fire that burns within me decide
as the ghosts of many springs past gather around me
and the winter stars blaze in the still clarity
of their savage distances like messages
from an eleventh dimension that don't
ever seem get to me on time, whether this life
I let live me out of respect for its crazy wisdom
were a dream, a poem, or the picture-music
of an unfinished lyric about a firefly of insight
that caught its breath, as I did, like a thief of fire
on the run, pausing a moment in a midnight garden
I didn't feel wholly estranged from like an exile
seeking shelter in the shadows of its trees
somewhere between a seance and an exorcism.

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Poem Submitted: Sunday, January 20, 2013

Poem Edited: Monday, January 21, 2013

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