Bituminous Briquettes Of Coal For Eyes - Poem by Patrick White
Bituminous briquettes of coal for eyes,
and the shadows of diamonds in your heart
the crows delivered like loveletters in the dark.
Spooky and eerie, the Aquarian wyrd
of someone with the emotional life
of a Tarot pack who picked up overlooked skulls
from the forest floor like lost moons
only the undertakers of the rain
and the anthracite ants you blew gently
out their eye-sockets like lunar landing craft
wept over as you placed them in the museums
of your windowsills, artifacts from the firepits
of Stonehenge at an equinoctial eclipse.
The longer I loved you, the younger you grew.
I knew you were coming back from the dead.
That love had dislodged you at the side
of your hospital bed like a snowdrift
sliding off the roof. Death or a hysterectomy
in your early twenties. They tore the bell
out of your steeple, the nest out of your bird,
the promise of dawn out of your La Brea Tarpit
and there wasn’t a lot to sing about after that
but you kept the slash of a smile on your face
like the scalpel of light edged by the new moon.
Blind isn’t a colour, but black suited you best.
A lover isn’t a knife at an occult sacrifice,
but you’d had several that wheeled you
like a butterfly crucified in a circus
where every blade that tried to cut your heart out
after your womb, was the addition of another petal.
Xion flinched, but you had the courage
of a black dwarf that took everything in
they threw at you like a shelter for the homeless.
You healed the shadows of small, broken things.
You took the fallen in like birds of prey
and you mended their wings. And for awhile
they felt like constellations after you left.
In that vast expanse of night that unrolled
like a starmap of your soul, you restored them
to an exalted place of shining in your darkness.
Noble, a few more stars and you could have passed
for a queen of Egypt rummaging for your body parts
in the canopic jars of other people’s hearts,
your beauty, an ancient creation myth restored
after long severance as if the moon in its mourning veils
hadn’t come up in years, and then, in full eclipse
just appeared one night like a sacred prostitute
on the stairs of the Iseum with a fascination
for pyramidal men aligned with the circumpolar
indestructibles of heaven centred on an afterlife
too much like this one to be astronomically credible.
Microcosmically honest, you never fully mastered
trusting anyone, though you smiled at their efforts,
but not once in nine years did I ever doubt you
when my back was turned like a sundial
though there was always something slightly suspect
about the heroism of your compassion for the dead
as you leapt like a genie in an oil lamp
into the calderas of their spent volcanoes on the moon,
to trade their new mirages in for something completely old.
I saw you grow like a religion of dependents
who never wanted to get over themselves
for fear of losing someone like you to worship
like initiates into the coven of a great witch
as many told me you were as if, being a male.
they knew more about you than I did, and who knows,
in retrospect, maybe they did, maybe they did.
Hear that northern river of raven hair
is long and white now, that you’re still beautiful,
that the guys in motorized wheelchairs line up at
the entrance of the mall to compete for who
gets to drive you across the overly waxed floors
as you jump laughing into their laps on your way
to work in the morning, and you keep
the hotshot owners of the chic clothing stores
leaning in their doorways wondering why
you choose them over them. Had to smile
when I heard that. The spirit of love lives in you yet.
You still know how to raise the dead.
Prayer wheels, hot wheels, wheels on meals,
training wheels, wheels and deals, cogwheels,
wheels of birth and death. Where the rubber
hits the road, I could have told them how it feels
to stand there like a crop circle in a labyrinth of rain
that goes round and round, spinning its wheels
like a red-tailed hawk sliding down the bannisters
of its thermals, remember, when the sunsets
painted their eyelids over the alder groves?
You want a beautiful witch to ride shotgun
with you, brother, you better learn to shift
that four on the floor as if you were riding
that golden chariot of yours through a slum
and everyone were hitchhiking, and you stopped
to pick them all up to remind you that you’re mortal.
Your driveshaft better be yoked to six white moons
and every spoke of the tree rings in your heartwood
better be a broom that knows how to do cartwheels in the dark.
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