A Creed For The Desperate
Don't let your bones be softened by fear.
By the time you hear it the lightning has already struck.
Don't listen for the echoes of things you haven't said.
And stop breaking your fortune-cookie skull open
like an old prophetic head
that claims it's been to the dark side
without being dead.
Don't let disaster define you.
You're not the bouquet
of a second class vinegar
hovering over a first class wine.
No crisis ever comes with its own identity
until you give it yours.
Move calmly over your own waters
like clouds in the eye of a puddle.
Walk as if you were already
following your own funeral
and lost your way to the grave.
People make much of being
but seeing is enough
to save you sometimes
from your own obscurity.
And when was there ever any security
as if this flame were safer than that?
How long has the universe risked being you?
Take a chance on your own magic
and pull your life like a tiger
out of your own hat
to eat the rabbit you've become.
Then there's nothing to run from.
Become the sword
and you won't cut yourself.
Become the fire
and you won't burn.
Become life again
and you won't pass away
breath after breath after breath
wishing you could stay
in the negative space
of a comfortable death
that eulogizes your lies.
There are full moons
that don't weigh
like pennies on your eyes
to keep you from seeing too much.
And there are things of the earth
that have followed you into exile
like a new birth of things you can touch
that are wholly yours in passing
like music from a keyboard
or a fire in church.
And you may be down
to your last black beatitude
and righteously uphold the sanctity
of your will not to listen
to anything but the clinking of your own chains
and the mournful whistle
of your distant dying derailed thought-trains
giving up the ghost
but you're just sucking on the tit
of a perverse purity
and you're milking it
like the bitter truth
for all it's worth.
And it's not worth much.
And you may have flattened
all the mountains
and filled all the valleys
of your flatlining event horizons
but there's still life going on
in the crooked back alleys
of secret dimensions
you don't know about
stuck in the house all day
like a child afraid to go out.
You look at a tree.
You see a crutch.
You look at the moon.
You see a scar.
You look at a star
and you're lost for good wherever you are.
And it's not really a dysfunction of your imagination
that you can look at the Taj Mahal
and see a one-room hovel with slumlords
jacking up the rent.
It's good to look both ways
at any spiritual crossing.
But you see a stick in the water
and you think the water's bent.
And to shrink anything as the Tao says
you must first expand it.
But I think the Tao meant the universe
not a used condom on the death's-head
of a stillborn resurrection.
But you'd have to fall
further than you have
to understand it.
You'd have to fall
from your present plight on the world mountain
all the way down until you came to a space
where there were no more opposites in the abyss
and nothing in order
nothing is meant
to scare you into being
and nothing is trying to hold you back.
What's your lover's mouth
if not a wound
you can kiss into healing?
You can see it that way.
Or you can harden the bruised fruit
with brittle tears
and flint knap chandeliers
to fall from star-crossed mirrors
like rain from broken glass
that hasn't fired up a single root in years
to dream of flowers.
The mind's an artist.
The painting's yours.
A self portrait in the image of God
whom no one's ever seen.
I see a black star in the bottom of a tulip
shining up at me
like the direction it took
to get to the other side.
You see a poisonous spider
like the leftover lees
of a flowerless wine
in the eye of a toxic goblet.
And you might raise it to your lips
like a lunar eclipse
but you never drink up.
And even when you do
it's a bad guest in the house of life
that drinks from his own skull
like the grail of a grape on the vine
with one eye open
as if he trusted the wine
but not the cup.
You're not the cure
that failed the ailing kingdom.
And you're not the miracle
that got up and walked away
to spread the word like a bird at sea
that had just discovered a tree to perch in
you might have sinned as a crow
but now that you've been saved
you're a carrier pigeon.
You can sit here all day if you want
like a buddha on his tatami mat
about burning enlightened diamonds
back into eyeless coal.
You can squat like a tree in rings of fat
smashing small thoughts
like eggs on the rocks
trying to read your fate
in their misfortune
like a chromosome
you hold in common
with all those who hate
having been born.
You can heap your afterbirth with scorn.
You can turn your eyes
into a pair of gravitational lenses
like dark matter
and wince at the stars
like cinders of light
that contradict your seeing.
And you wouldn't be wrong
because you can see it that way too.
The same eye by which I see God
is the eye by which She sees me.
Two creative geniuses in one studio
painting each other in the nude.
And she shows you hers
and you show her yours
as she enflames your solitude
by not putting her name on it
though it's a perfect likeness of you.
Your face warped into
a convoluted starless space
like the opening gala
of a staged extinction.
And your soul shrouded in lampblack
like a candle
that soils its own light
by putting on a deathmask of night
like a snakeoil salesman
selling skin to ghosts.
And there where your eyes used to be
two black holes
surrounded by random haloes of light
like lipstick on the mouths of star-nosed moles.
And look at that scar of red she's used
to catch your ambiguous smile.
That's the kind of genius
that leaves the asylum gate open for awhile
for everyone to get into your style
of imploding your eyes
like black dwarfs
with abstract depressionist astigmatism
as if gravity couldn't dig a grave deep enough
or matter make a stone heavy enough
to put on your chest to keep you from rising again
or the gold of the moon in your mouth
ever prove true enough to pay the ferryman
to get you to the other side of nowhere
as if he knew somehow
you huffed life like a paint thinner
trying to escape the race a winner
by never crossing a starting line
that wasn't already
a dark horse lamed by life behind you.
And he couldn't be bothered with anyone
who would fix their own death
and lay a bet against everyone
their pain could outrun their compassion
and in the second heat
their bitterness the truth.
But if you want a way out
like an emergency door
I'll let you in on a little secret.
Life doesn't grow into death
and death isn't waiting
to take your next breath.
And there's an eye of liberation
in the darkest hurricane roses of despair
that frees the light like life enough to care
that all it falls upon alike
should see its own face everywhere
through a crack of black lightning
in the white mirror
where everything that appears
evaporates like a ghost off a lake
or cataracts from the eyes
of the orthodox
who couldn't see straight enough
to thread their keys through their locks
like mystic heretics
to have known
the deepest wounds give birth
to the sweetest spears
that life has ever thrown
like light on a roadless night
or insight like a bird through the sky
that enters the sunset
like a planet following the sun
through the seven coloured doors
of the seven blind seers
who disappear in a vision of one clarity
with many more eyes
than there are lightning bolts and fireflies
whose age can be measured in light-years.
If a fraction of nothing is nothing.
Then a fraction of eternity
isn't a brevity less than the eternal
and every fraction of anything is all.
There now that's not too hard to follow.
The white face of the moon
veils the dark other you never see
because it's all been timed to turn away.
The moon and its month are one day.
Things might be empty
but they're not hollow.
And you're free to go or stay.
Patrick White's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (A Creed For The Desperate by Patrick White )
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(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
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