Patrick White

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

Asked What I Wanted To Be I'll Say


Asked what I wanted to be I’ll say
this is my achievement just as it is,
what I am, counterintuitively second-guessing
whatever this is. What else can a river say
winding its way across the moon
seeking fulfilment in an abyss it’s trying
to fill like a heart-stopping waterclock
that knows it will never catch up
to its own emptiness, but what the hell,
at least you can die knowing you tried
the impossible, you failed at something crucial?

The lovely green-blonde willows are leaning
like a rain storm out over Stewart Lake
and there’s a galactic rush of creation
in the small rapids of the Tay River
coming at me on this hard park bench
as if God were revelling in squandering her talents
just to empower the glee of knowing she can
transcend herself like the one returning to the many
through a million suns dancing on the wavelengths of her eyes.

God’s her own worst heretic and the last
I’d entrust a secret to given how she hides things
out in the open where everybody could see them
if they only stopped searching long enough to look.

Feel free to fill in your own pseudomorphic image
or colour outside of the lines as you wish, tattoo
a starmap on your eyes or howl like a moondog
or a tree ring there’s no green bough in your heart
for a red-winged black bird to perch on anymore
and startle you with the beauty of how
long you’ve forgotten how well it can sing.

When you’re sitting in the sunshine and you don’t want
to be an ignorant eclipse and punch a black hole
like a pupil in the evanescent radiance of the scene,
as the wild irises yearn for the colour of your eyes,
open your fist and try to live like a flower does
not knowing what brought you to bloom
but shining back at the stars nevertheless.

People, dogs, and lovers on the Little Rainbow Bridge,
and I don’t know if I’m dreaming this or not
or if some occult imagination anticipated me
before I happened like a sign of the continuous forthcoming
of the waters of life that have metaphorized me like a mindstream
as my vaporous sensibilities wander off into oblivion
beyond the boundary stones of my prophetic skulls
popping up overnight like mushrooms and moonrises
from the death valley of stars I buried them in
to temper the white lightning of my self-annihilating insights
into the heartwood of a rootless tree like a firefly
in a miasmic cloud of incorrigible unknowing
waiting to see what incomprehensively appears all by itself.

That’s a rush, I know, but if you don’t say it fast
you begin to lie. My space-time continuum’s
deranged at the speed of thought but that doesn’t mean
the shore-huggers see more than those
who flow along with the stream do whether
they’re overturned in the whitewater of their tears
or liferafting down the spring run off of the Milky Way,
what did Dogen Zenji write about how much
we can know about human life- -no more
than the reflection in a water droplet on a heron’s beak?

It’s doubtful we’ll ever be able to speak to each other
in the same voice we’re listening to in the solitude
of the silence within, but ask yourself in the slang
of your own indecipherable mother-tongue, because
everyone’s caught in the same crossfire of life
ricocheting off the waters like a quantumly entangled multiverse
of noetic dark matter looking for the light,
in your own inner voice so the furthest galaxy
can hear you like a gamma ray burst of fierce insight,
in this spiritual lost and found, do you still seek solace
from the dumb-founded echoes of your own voice
or have you given up, assented to the silence, and begun to rejoice?

Submitted: Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, September 17, 2013

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