A Rock In The Current, A Skull In The River - Poem by Patrick White
A rock in the current, a skull in the river,
time patiently washing away the sidereal silt of my mind
as if insight were alluvial. You can't keep
what you won't give away so fling it from you
by the handful, phases of the moon, apple bloom,
fire seeds, eyes that looked through you once into
the secret life of the abyss that glyphed love lyrics
and occult zodiacs for homeless exiles across
the multitudinous firmament like a mystic tattooist
inking ice ages in caves for spiritual Neanderthals
alarmed by the approach of a tedious apocalypse,
dead shamans at the feet of defecating rhinos,
and the hunting magic that expressed the inner life
of slayer and slain in images of blood and burnt bone,
hemorrhagic red ochres of midnight, extinct
as the grammar of fire that once adorned their torches.
You see how I get carried away by the blackwater
of my visions sweeping me downstream
from these arcane symbols of self I can barely remember
except as the vague stations of an ongoing shapeshifter
who knows that all he has in common with time
is its flowing. Evolution isn't a popularity contest
but some recollections are more violet or vermillion
than others, and I recall the features of several women,
a few kids and an occasional friend who were
more indelible watercolours in the rain than others.
Rainbows made manifest by an auspicious eclipse,
starclusters in the eyes of radiant snakepits,
the brass rings of moondogs on lunar doors
that opened like the first crescent of the knife
you held to your wrist to purge the bad spirits
as you fought for your life in an undeclared holy war
of transfiguring omens trying to seek out
the unsayable syllables of the name of your god.
Estranged lovers of mine still clinging like exposed roots
to the river banks of my shoreless afterlife
moving on in a muddle of stars leaving
dolmens and gravestones in my wake
to say where I once stopped long enough to die
to erect a constellation as a wayward direction
of where I'd gone for those breaking trail
into the available dimensions beyond
the last handprint I spray painted on the wall
of a gate you could pass through to the other side.
Enter at your own peril. No proxies or strawmen,
no voodoo dolls or false idols, no puppet masters,
no witchdoctors with elk antlers or candelabra on their heads
make it this far without being divested of their identities
like shoes at the thresholds of an interminable firewalk
that insists you take your winged heels off
like no vehicles past this point of departure
and walk barefoot over the stars scattered like thorns
along the path of a dangerous initiation no one's ever mastered.
Here in this mindless realm genuine achievement is measured
by the aspirations of brilliant failures courageous enough
to overturn the sacrificial altars of their conscious expertise
and risk the untutored innocence and polymorphous madness
of their ancient childhoods again, the crazy wisdom
of realizing even on your deathbed as you violate
the first rule of your worst taboo, true to your disobedience
to the end, there isn't enough time to grow old
when you're on the run with all you can be carried away by
as eternity opens its coffin like an eyelid on the deathmask of time
and reveals the continuity of all your cosmic beginnings
expanding like a universe that wouldn't be caught dead
standing still when there's so much fire left forever to steal from.
Go ask the stars, if you need the affirmation of angels,
where they got their light from, or the demons,
the shining ones, who hide their radiance in shadows,
if you need earthbound followers to believe in your own eyes.
O fool, in your heart of hearts, admit what you already know.
Life is an evanescent stillness that's been transcending itself in motion
like a secret that wanted to be known when there was no one
to listen but a void with the imagination to create
a selfless reflection of the kind of empty awareness that could.
So we all die laughing in the lifemask of a mirror
that's never seen its own eyes except as these nightskies
of fireflies and stars we all disappear into like creators
into their own works, like children at play with our bones.
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