Patrick White

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

You Can'T Embrace Me With Your Moderate Love - Poem by Patrick White

You can't embrace me with your moderate love
as if two arms were one too many to give someone a hug,
or one eye were enough to look at the stars in your lover's eyes,
and make up constellations you've never seen before.

I've never fallen in love with anyone who ever
made my whole body feel like it was a ghost amputee
who had never gotten over the memory of having one.
You can't read Braille without fingertips.

And it's either brave and suicidally noble, or something
drastically real about me but I've always preferred
the dark, dangerous muse, to the sunny cheerleader
who cut the bananas into my cereal just for the potassium.

No moon. No music. No slumming in heaven
when we take every other nightshift off from hell
and then walk out on the job permanently like a Tarot deck
to see how it feels to be a shipwreck on the bottom of a prophecy

that foretold, one day, swimmers and drowners alike
would be in it way up over their heads. And that's
when I learned to count on my heart
like an overturned lifeboat to keep things afloat

for me and anyone I love who went into exile beside me.
Got to be ancient starmaps in her eyes
like the return address of extraterrestials
who promised to come back one day

and make crop circles in the hay together.
And fireflies for back up in the long dark halls
of what we were reading when the stars went out
and we opened up to each other about our secret research

into the comparative mythology of each other's psyche.
Even at high noon I want to look out of the corner of my eye
and see in the depths of her silence, stars
hiding out in the shadows on the bottom of her wishing wells

and know that she's ok at either end of the telescope.
And I'll show her the sun shining at midnight
and the moon among the corals, and come up like a pearl diver
with new metaphors to show her how I can still see her radiance

like a lunar eclipse in a mystic moon rise just behind
the guile of her veils and the eyelashes of her tree line.
And there shall be no shadow upon the earth
that she casts behind her that shall remain starless.

And it must be well understood from the very start
that you can't put the wing of an eagle on one side of the heart
and that of a sparrow on the other, even less so, a dragon,
and expect it to fly very good or straight to the mark.

And no broken arrows of the promises
we make to each other at a rain dance for the waters of life.
And no sipping from the river when there's a chance
to swallow it all in a single gulp and satisfy all wells at once

without getting the waterbirds stuck in our throats
like the high notes of sacred syllables above the reach
of the black swans that live in our chimneys for free.
By all means, I want to see the light

but coming out of the dark like a nightbird
with a message that wasn't meant for anyone else.
She can be swarmed by faeries, she can
live on a menu of mushrooms and toadstools,

all the soft gilled things without hooks in them she wants
I don't care, as long as she includes
a banshee or two scratching at her wings like windows
to be let in to the inner sanctum of her devotion

like a black candle at a white mass for wounded voodoo dolls.
And if she wants me to jump through her wilderness fires
to satisfy her occult desires in a coven of one
that's ok too as long as she's enough of a firemaster

to know when I've been done well. Not medium rare.
And I won't have things fifty-fifty, a hundred and fifty percent
and a hundred and fifty percent, or die in the attempt,
because anything less than that is nothing at all.

Love when it comes to the hour of gates, becomes
the best of the other in the leaving, as your lover
absorbs in the turn-counterturn-stand of the perennial dance
things about you she loved at first glance, jewels and virtues,

and all the wildflowers a suffering soul puts out with generosity
that were meant for her eyes only, even you
couldn't see in yourself at the time because even
among the most enlightened of us, the deepest insight

into ourselves as embodiments of thoughtless reality
is always blind. And if you couldn't find what you wanted
together, you always find it under your pillow
once the other who left it like a parting gift is gone.

Don't want anyone after we've broken up
who doesn't know how to honour the memory of what we tried
to be to each other before we outgrew what we meant
when we vowed to console our loss of happiness

with peace and a gentle release of the moon
like a blossom from a dead branch in the middle of winter.
She can come to me flawed, she can come to me wounded.
She can come to me like an apostate sunflower

who wandered off the beaten path to follow the moon.
Selfless as we all are behind our delusions of probity
who remains to be a judge of character except
the most doubtful and disdainfully vain among us?

Let the death masks argue it out among themselves
who is real and who is not, who's been true and who forgot,
as for me and my house, I'd rather be loved than right.
I'd rather have my lover's head in my lap at the end of the night,

or mine in hers. I'd rather stand beside her
and look up at the stars together as if they knew
more about us than us about them, than feel them
hemorrhaging like supernovae in both our eyes

arguing like medieval theologians painting
a picture on the third eye of the telescope
we're looking at through both lenses simultaneously
eye to eye, tooth to tooth, one false idol to the other,

squabbling over whose lop-sided view of the paradise
we planted to live in together, is most worthy of worship,
the hunter or the farmer, the hunter or the farmer,
keeping in mind women invented agriculture.

Intrigue me, berate me, teach, upgrade, or refute me,
just let me feel your hand when I suffer
as if it were the wing of a bird
I was scrying aviomantically to see

if it had healed enough to fly, to make
my homelessness a big enough sky for her
to spread her wings in and wheel
on the passionate thermals of joy

that arise within me like double helices of inspiration.
And in return, I would promise her to never think
I'd found an answer to her mystery, or a reply
to the silences that abound within her

like nightbirds that just won't answer.
And if she's not in her shrine when I come to lay
a bouquet of stars at the foot of her temple stairwells,
or off at a coven somewhere with the Horned One,

trying to get a handle on my polyphrenic diversity
that can speak to the angels as well as the demons in tongues.
Shapeshifter though I may be, I promise her
by the time she gets home she'll always recognize me

in the form that most becomes her. I've always thought
that death was shorter than life, because
death isn't lived through even for a moment and if
anything lasts forever anywhere, it's right here

where we can dance like rootless trees to the songs of the nightbirds
and listen to the squirrels in the walls in the morning
stacking black walnuts like prophetic skulls,
and reach out to the waterlilies like dragonflies

that know how to interpret them like loveletters on the sly.


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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 6, 2012



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