Patrick White

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

Yellow Wildflowers Under A Grey Sky - Poem by Patrick White

Yellow wildflowers under a grey sky,
visionary smog on the dirty windows,
a genie in a crack pipe that ungrants
whatever wishes you came with
thinking six rocks might be enough
to make a whole new planet
everybody gets to rule
for an hour and a half
like fresh strawberries
and a brand new start. Fat chance.

The spring dawn has run out of preludes
and it's using spider webs
and dreamcatchers for substitutes.
Could be a lifeboat, could be a shipwreck,
could be this cataract of ash
in my third eye, could be the distant cinder
of a depressed seagull on my bent event horizon.

High calibre thoughts
as dizzy as bullets and marbles
in a game of Russian roulette
that's in it for the vertigo
and suggestive stage effects.

Addicted to the mystery
I'm always more intrigued
by what I don't know
about what I mean
than I am by what I do.
It's good to see wisdom
still holding hands with ignorance
after all these partially eclipsed,
partially enlightened spaced-out light-years
that went by in the flash of firefly
through the temple of a prophetic skull
that thought it was playing with lightning
when, in fact, it was only
third man on the match.

How could I possibly regret
what I still don't understand about life,
or celebrate what I delude myself
into giving the benefit of the doubt
when I open my mouth like a dove cage
and all the words fly out,
every mourning dove and longing nightbird
with a message that might be true
from me to God knows who?

And I know I've been staring dragons
in the eye too long
waiting for the moon to blink first,
as if I had something to prove
about the indefensible dignity of a human
when one isn't there to defend itself.
The true human isn't truly human.
I think it was Hakuin who said that.

And besides, my humanity when I am one
talks with the tongue of a scuffed boot
that's been down one too many roads,
stepped once too often over the edge,
or on a landmine buried in snow,
crossed too many thresholds,
too many burning bridges
with the broken heart of a bell in my mouth
and my new freedom shrieking
like a banshee at the door
to care much about what thing
comes thus anymore. Could be a curse,
could be a blessing, could be par for the course,
or worse, the sonic boom of experience
breaking down the sound barrier
of another sacred syllable for the record books.

Days I feel like a white tiger on the moon
with the fang of my first crescent
broken off, doomed to starvation
like fire stalking meteors for their oxygen
as once I used to drink blood like the nectar
of freshly-killed ruby-throated humming birds
that tasted like small aperitifs
of delirious picture-music
at the trough of the hollyhocks to me at the time.

Yesterday if you were to ask me what self is
I'd have said the sum of all you tried to rise above
but didn't. Today it's not even worth
considering the question longer than it takes
to dismiss the ensuing silence
as just another kind of curious theory.

O to be as useful and down to earth
as a wheelbarrow in the world,
a vehicle for building materials one way
and a death cart for the dead and unwanted
getting the excess baggage out of the way
of the garden I've wanted to be from the very start
sitting with Hafiz and Shabastari
like fountainmouths in the shadowwater
of the black walnut trees gibbering
with irritated sparrows and circus squirrels,
shooting the lyrical breeze just for the hell of it.

What could be sadder or lonelier than a muse
that no one's listening to, if it isn't a poet
who doesn't write back in tears to cool her eyes
with a song he made up on the sly
to slip under her door like a mailbox at midnight?

The wind rustles in the crowns of the trees
like the transient themes of pollen and dust,
and at night, gusts of stars, we all are.
And there are fires that give us sanctuary from the cold
we can sit around like planets for a whole lifetime
trying to squeeze a constellation out of smoke
and chimney sparks, and never manage
anything more than a firefly shy of a flashlight
trying to read a star chart in the dark
like a nightwatchman peering through windows
looking to see if anything's out of place,
untoward, missing, or lost in a space of its own
like a stay-at-home atmosphere trying to find a planet
that doesn't take it for granted like ozone on the moon.

Tomorrow, where will today be
when you look back on it like yesterday
if not at the same seance you summoned it to just now
to try on the death masks of the ancestral mediums,
eyebrow to eyebrow, on both sides of their eyes,
as if you were choosing the best language
to speak to yourself in when you're an alien among the stars
and everything is too immense, too radiantly hot and cold,
and time crowds eternity out of its imagination
and the void is so colour-blind it couldn't find its way home
if you were to line the streets with lighthouses,
and to be a human is to be exalted and humbled
in the same moment, like a moonrise without any frills
like vapour trails in a sunset, or ghosts
before the break of dawn anxious
to get back to their graves on time, and you can tell
by the way she carries her prophetic skull with dignity,
she's trying to do what we're all trying to do
each after our own fashion, given we're made of starmud.
Ingather and shine, ingather and shine, any way you have to.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 18, 2012

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