Patrick White

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

This Is An Old Sorrow - Poem by Patrick White

This is an old sorrow, almost beautiful in the way
it underwhelms me from above, a sky caving in
like a circus tent under the weight of the rain,
a ghost of fruit that could not bear the weight of its tears.
This is a random sadness that's got me as its only friend
when it thaws like a mirror
looking back over its shoulder
at its glacial past, ex-lovers, friends, certain pets,
and eyes that were glass weeping
in the intense mystic heat of a blast furnace full of stars
for how little they understood at the time, things pass
like Canada geese migrating across the moon
like a river you can't step into twice.
Though it doesn't make any sense to say so.
This is an ancient sorrow. And though one direction
is as good as many, I'm still following
the herds of the grazing stars as far north as I can.

O we shall sit down on the good earth half lotus sometime
and cry together for the wound of being alive.
The rose has teeth. And celebrate the scars
in the herb garden as if they were crescent moons.
Or the eyes of a powerful wraith of sadness
saturating the atmosphere with the pathos
of a lament that's been sublimely burning
through its heart for lightyears
like some deep emptiness it knows can never be filled.

As if God would never be enough for herself
and the whole of the universe were
one long maternity of endless creation
that is manifested in its entirety in each one of us
the way the moon's reflected in a dropp of blood
hanging from the thorn of a rose
with the last of two beautiful sunsets for eyes
like the sheen of auroral silk glancing off the scales
of a black watersnake at nightfall when the swallows go in
and the bats come out on the nightshift
like the winged heels of some demonic messenger
with minions that squeal in a frequency too high to hear.

But however you send it, by sound or by silence,
by light or by night, be assured the message you send
however time and space bend things
is the message that's received, like a bee by a flower
or a star by the eye that transcribes it creatively
into hieroglyphic metaphors of picture-music
following a dream grammar of starmud
with a bird stuck in its voice like a phoenix in the Arctic.

Time washes the dust of the road off
by shedding the moonlight like a snake's skin
and skinny-dipping in the fathomless lakes of eternity
it finds along the way like eyes along the mindstream
full of stars and fireflies and what blooms in the soil of its sorrows
beside the stairs at the back doors of all those tomorrows
that left the way they came without saying good-bye.

Volcanic lunar oceans that are only as deep
as the dark tears I have left within me
when I dip the leaking cup of my heart
like the goblet of an impact crater
into a watershed of compassion that looks like the holy grail
and share it with my fellow mirages in this desert of stars
as if they were all as thirsty as I am and everyone
deep down inside somewhere within them
like the green star you can find at the core of an apple,
had a fountain within them like a moon dial or a wine glass
they smashed on the high notes of the nightbirds
just to express their joy as a kind of defiance
in the face of their lots in life, though, in fact
nothing is longer or shorter than anything else in eternity
just as there's only so much time and then there is forever.
And it's the black magic in the roots of a demon
that blossoms like Venus in the west
or New England asters up around Westport in the fall.

And though there's something beautiful in this sadness
that eludes me like a Braille starmap
I can't quite put my finger on to see what's shining
like Aldebaran through the tree line of a bride in a widow's veils,
as I listen to a whisper of flesh
pleading in the darkness not to be excluded
from the presence of time, or left behind by the spirit
like a false clue of cast off rags on a hawthorn bush
to say where it's gone forever and ever and ever
as if whatever the spirit and the flesh had
going on between them never mattered,
whenever the clarity cuts through
the thin-skinned mirror like this
as if it were trying to slash my eyes open
like an insight into what's beyond the obvious,
immediately out of a wounded mouth
I am healed by the balm in a voice of compassion
that rises sweetly like the new moon from the womb
of a scarred guitar that didn't know it had such music in it.

And it says in moonlit windows and nightbirds
that make all the dreaming children wake up and listen
to the intimate strangers that speak as gently as fireflies
to the vast nightskies of their own imaginations,
that the world that casts these shadows on your wall
like a crow preening its feathers, or a bell
that's lost its faith in knowing, and plunges like an apple
into its next afterlife, are merely the holy petals
and sacred syllables taken like pages from the Book of Life
left out like an orchard in a nightwind for every one to read
like a story each of us writes for ourselves
to help us drift gently off into sleep again
to find out how it all ends in a dream that goes on forever
like the fragrance of lilac in an old woman's memories
or the marrow of the apple bloom
that clings like the moon to our bones
or stars to the flypaper stairwells of our chromosomes.

No other way to explain the shining of this sadness deep within
as if my very blood mourned the passing of the things
that have drowned and disappeared into it over the years
like honey-bees in the lees at the bottom of a black tulip
full of rainwater, and by that I know
this is a sadness common to all
that's worthy of the stars in its windows,
and the dreams in the mirrors that paint our faces
like quick watercolour life studies of rainbows in tears.

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 7, 2012

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