Banging Bins And Hammers Unbending Nails - Poem by Patrick White
Banging bins and hammers unbending nails.
Morning in a small town. Chores, chores, chores,
the self-interested business of the world.
Wood and bread. Coffee and kids. Tooth aches
and cabbies trying not to get caught
drinking on the job again. Car alarms going off
in panicked parking spots. Blue September sky
and bright sunshine clean as newly laundered sheets.
Hillbilly hippies arguing over who stole whose crop,
wearing their crystal laurels like the root rot of the sixties.
I study the masonry of the orange brick
in a building across the street and wonder
what it would look like glazed in Babylonian
lapis lazuli. I feel like the thirteenth inch
of a carpenter’s foot when the old world
went metric. What am I the measure of
if not the freedom to observe the life
going on around me, with no discernible purpose
in mind than the rain falling on the roots
of dead flowers giving their ghosts up to the wind?
Two bees working a late blooming Scotch thistle,
eggs and butter, sunny side up, and star clusters
of asters deepening their imperial purple
like cochineal on the eyelids of junior highschool girls
gaggling down the street to the greasy Pizza Parlour
for a coke and a slice they eat like torrid landscapes.
Deadly nightshade boiled out of foul-smelling snails.
Wasn’t it ever so when witches catwalk like models?
Brave bodies that ignore the Braille of their goosebumps.
Even though it’s cold. The show must go on.
Life insists. There’s a season to be on stage
like a trooper on tour, and a time, as most of us do
just to sit sublimely in the audience
and enjoy the view we’re ambivalently happy
we never have to live through again except as art.
Recollections in creative turmoil on the run
from the chaos of killer bees that once churned honey
in the hives of our hearts where the mystery
of love and lust still presides over us
like a dark queen in winter after the first snow.
How meaningfully irrelevant life can delightfully seem
to a dog without a purpose that’s slipped its chain
like a distinguished voice in a choir of wolves
who feel the sadness of the full moon
is unspeakably deeper than the second rising
of the blue that looks down upon the threshed fields
and the few remaining flowers like the paint rags
of an unachievable masterpiece that failed brilliantly
to be apprenticed to its own solitude as a kind of guess
at a good life that cleaned up its mess before it left
like a traffic jam of Canada geese rising
from a ruined cornfield candied by frost and moonlight.
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