Who Could Have Anticipated? - Poem by Patrick White
Who could have anticipated being who and where we are
this moment? Did we imagine now, did we see
ourselves here when we were children? These windows,
that view, those stairs across the street we've
never walked to the top of into the stale darkness
of a room that hasn't been used by anything
but flies, echoes and shadows for years?
The hollow stillness, the white gold ray
of winter light illuminating an emulsion of dust?
How strange to be the awareness of anyone.
To take your identity off like a name tag,
to shed your skin like a wavelength weary
of being a particle and when no one's looking
slip into the vastness without making a ripple
like a watersnake as supple as smoke among the stars.
Peace in the evanescence of my eyes, my heart
unfeathered like the petal of a wild aster,
a forgotten poem, the small gesture of a thought
that didn't take root on the skull of a rock.
If the rain were a flower, it would be columbine.
I'm standing on this aquiline precipice
scattering my ashes on the wind like words
that were fire once when I was younger than tomorrow
o when was that? - -and sang like an arsonist
with a blue guitar about the women I loved
and the sorrows of the mysterious wines
they mingled in my blood like a seance of bells,
and the joys, out of thousands, that elected
like a moment or two of auspicious beauty and bliss
to winter with me through these lightyears of solitude
as if life were indelibly thriving under the ice-caps
of a shepherd moon like an introverted mindstream
that kept returning to itself like the solar flare
of an unopened loveletter stamped: No longer
at this address. Even a starmap can sometimes
get lost in the abyss. You are that. That is this.
Shadows of the mind, ricocheting splinters of radiance
lodged like mystic thorns in the heart, the Burgess Shale
encyclopedically contained in every fossil of a memory
imprinted on my imagination like the life forms
of words anyone of which could have been my mother-tongue.
My lyrical innocence may have passed, but not
the wonder of listening to the stars singing to themselves
like nightbirds getting on with the labour of longing
as if work were a form of worship, as the Upanishad says.
The hour liberated from its waterclocks and sundials,
the empty lifeboat of the moon from its urgent rescues,
unmoored from the wharfs and umbilical cords
of its earthly obligations, just to drift like a compass needle
in deep space, unaligned from its addiction to true north.
If I take one step beyond being, it isn't death, or oblivion.
I'm only washing my skin off the world so I see it afresh
like the bright vacancy, dark abundance of what's shining
through the flowing lens of an unpolluted abyss.
It's the return journey that reflowers the wild grape vines
that lose it in the winter. Every breath, a miraculous revival
of wines that have deepened their dreams in the interim.
Images and symbols are overlaid in space
like the playbills of a visionary hunting magic
still looking after all these caves and labyrinths
for the unattainable prey of the mysterious female
I keep following like the life-giving herds of the stars,
the ghost dancers among the white buffalo of the clouds
that gather and disperse me like the world out of nothing.
I can hear my life howling like a wolf moon
over the dark corpse of these hills, but I've never known
where the music's coming from or why it's grieving.
Or why so many open windows and returning birds
greet the spring with odes and epitaphs in the same breath
like galaxies passing through one another, the ghosts
of two strangers encountering the unknown
like the harmony of infinite points of view
going in radiantly contradictory directions at the same time.
Life on the burning bridges of the stars like a lover
trying to span the universe with cosmic thoughts
reflecting the face of the other on the underside of time.
As if one were the light, and one, more vastly sublime
than even the night can find the words to speak of
shining like eye sockets of dice in the black mirror
of the prophetic skulls orbiting the prayer wheels
of the mind like interlocking mountain gears of the rain
on the downside of a species whose time has come.
Though I still think it might be crucial to know
who you aren't as well as who you think you are
before you go extinct. Who sends a cold furnace
or an urn of the ashes of the nightbirds to speak
like a shabby messenger for the light as they knew it once
in the wildflowers of the earth sowing the starfields
with seeds on the wind about to open their eyes again
from the long dream of trying to shine from the inside out?
My starmud is rooted in light and flowers in the darkness.
The supersymmetry of above and below make one hourglass.
As many demons in the nightsky as there are angels in a cemetery.
Heaven and hell, one electron, that can be in several places
at the same time, how many worlds is my mind sustaining
where everything is an infinite elaboration of this one
and that of all the imaginary alternatives that are
necessarily bound to occur like the will of someone so free
it spontaneously has nothing to do with any of them
like the imageless image of the creator we create
in the likeness of to resemble ourselves without our faces on?
I give my oceanic thoughtwaves the same free rein
I give the wild mustangs of moonlight
an immeasurable range of emotions to roam in
without being broken, saddled or spurred
toward any destination in my homelessness
knowing that all movement is a characteristic feature
of the stillness that keeps it all going. The more you focus
the more you blur the effect. And when you look
out of the corner of your eye at life, it's as if
a thief of fire with the insight of a wolf moon
that thought it howled alone in its own forsaken mindscape
discovered us awake at the window listening to it
and like the picture-music of a shaman on a limestone wall
put his finger to his lips to bond us like carbon
to a secret we all share without ever telling each other.
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