Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
A Moment Away From The World, Please
A moment away from the world, please.
Denude me of this coat of killer bees.
I have endured its agony long enough
to know there's not much honey in a stinging nettle.
This kind of pain doesn't break into flowers.
The stars have been telling me that for years.
The darkness doesn't ask for a sacrifice
and you can tell by the New England asters
the light doesn't treat them like martyrs at a crossroads
between the high and the low. You just have to look
at how wide-eyed the day lilies are
even when they're dreaming to see
the sun doesn't burn their eyes out with its blazing
and their tangerine goblets are always full.
Drain these toxic squint-eyed metals out of my blood
but don't ban me to the slogans of a religion
when what I need is an environmental protection agency
with soul, instead of being buried under
this avalanche of pebbles in a gold rush of cornerstones
like a seven thousand year old skeleton
of an adolescent Archaic Indian by the Straits of Belle Isle,
as if everyone in the world had lain their head on my chest
as a place to rest, or they were looking for a heartbeat,
or they wanted to make sure I never rose from my grave again.
Free my metaphors from these chain gangs of d.n.a.
I've spent most of my afterlives here
and I'm not looking to be paroled or escape,
I just want out. Make a chrysalis out of a fortune-cookie,
not a straitjacket, and free me of all this spiritual punctuation
as if thousands of dragonflies were drying their wings
on the eyelids of the waterlilies without any regard for grammar.
Let me flame out like a meteor in the upper atmosphere
as a sign of what I was dying to say and if
you're going to embrace me because you love me so much
do it like space, so I'm never out of it, but there's
lots of room for the galaxies and I swear you do that
I'll open the lockets of the black holes
in the inner core of their hearts, and show you
whose picture is inside of them. Leave me alone
with the inconceivable awhile to listen to the musings
of the unnamed as she washes her hair like a lyric
in her own tears, and sings to herself like a willow
that has been made beautiful by suffering
that has finally lifted its heavy veil of tribulation
from the unmapped mystery in the eyes that remind the stars
of why they're shining in the first place.
Amor vincit omnia. It said in big gold letters
on a baby blue banner tacked to the wall by doves
above the minister's pulpit in the First Centennial United Church
I was pressed into for ten bucks a month when I was a kid,
one of the myriad ways, my ingenious Catholic mother
kept us fed. Love conquers all. I suppose.
But then I was never on a crusade against it to begin with
and though I'm an infidel, I'm not religious about it.
And I've never lived my life as if
I had to close the gates of the city at night
and if love ever wanted anything from me
all it ever had to do was ask, regardless of the recipient.
But that doesn't mean I'm not infernal enough
to know how to hammer swords out of the bell-towers of my defeat
whenever anyone speaks to me about conquest.
Free. Free. Free. Freedom deeper than sorrows.
Freedom more expansive than bliss. Freedom
the invisible gift we're all born clutching in our pudginess.
Like a butterfly that lands on your finger.
A shooting star with your name on it that took aim
and missed. A poem that lands in your lap like a maple key.
Or comes like words to the tree like birds in the morning.
Or shovels you like coal into the mouth of a dragon
brutally wise in the ways of diamonds, and in its claws,
the mercy of scalpels. The compassion of rain
from an ocean of awareness. Free to change
as life would have it without any notion
of betterment or reform. Each as they are, unmaimed.
Freedom the only holiness. Not a state of mind
at absolute Kelvin, motionless entropy,
but dynamic energy creatively shaping
the world out of itself like a child making up a game
when she's alone, to amuse herself when no one's watching,
whisper secrets she confides to her own ear
like the sea to a shell on a deserted beach
without a lighthouse demoralizing the mermaids.
Comments about this poem (A Moment Away From The World, Please by Patrick White )
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