Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Everything Shines Even A Wet Cigarette Butt On The Sidewalk
Everything shines even a wet cigarette butt on the sidewalk.
Glad I didn’t miss that. Whole town’s dressed up tonight.
I’m changing costumes on the inside. Come to my door
and I’ll slip the universe into your bag even if
I know who you are behind your mask. Giving
is the way the world renews itself. Take it all.
It will still be spring, even as winter approaches
like an empty silo, and my sense of balance is restored
thanks to the Dexamethasone. Tired. Don’t sleep.
Want to be awake for every moment of awareness
of life. Time enough to dream in a black hole
and then be shot out of the abyss like a fountain of light
someanywhere, someanyspace of any kind,
some anywhen. Who knows anywhy. There is no end
that’s ever really been out of sight or the beginnings
would have never known which anyway to go.
Me and Archibald Lampman, poets everywhere
always the warrior minstrels of the forlorn hope.
Holy war’s not much of a challenge if it isn’t
against the odds, is it? Be equal to your victory
and your defeat alike. Pasternak. The victory’s
only worth as much as you had to overcome
to achieve it. I forget. Poets don’t jump bumps, they
jump mountains like the moon or their hearts
when they stop dead in their tracks, startled
by the unforeseen beauty and truth of everything.
The woman that you love, the man, was once
an ugly little comma or cingulate of an embryo with gills
in a womb that didn’t go to waste, did it?
Even if your loved one is not the hero or heroine
of the play anymore, you venerate them as great villains
in the course of time. Love and change do that,
don’t they? And then you forgive everybody,
even the audience at the end, with an encore.
I applaud everybody whoever played a part in my life
as well as those who didn’t just as masterfully.
Three cheers for the hopeless, and the lame and the broken.
I wish you’d spoken up sooner, but better late than never.
Garlands of flowering herbs for your wound. Laurels
for the mute, and the deaf and the dumb. Well done.
Your art was seamless as stitches in an emergency ward.
I couldn’t always see that. But I see it now. It’s playing
creatively with life even as you’re dying exit stage left.
You can change the shape of the crosswalk but
that doesn’t help you to get to the other side any faster.
And when you do, you find you’ve always been standing
on the side you’re supposed to be on. The heart empties.
The heart fills up. A waterclock. The tears you’re crying tonight
were a mighty river once, or a sea that dried up.
Go ask the moon. It doesn’t forget you’ve got tides.
You ever find, in your whole life, fossils of water?
What profound silliness life has ever been
but who would want it any other way? Sacred syllables
dressed up as apostate clowns. Rebels
in the ice cream cone that toppled to the ground
like the tower of Babel, comets from a dark halo
shining like crown jewels of ice in the sun and astral ants.
You know you’ve got your stuff together.
That labour is done. And it weighs a ton.
Leave it at the side of the road. Travel lightly
and walk on, walk on. Your spine is a suspension bridge
with cables that sway in the wind. Not an anchor line
that keeps you in the same place you fished last year.
Cross over. Firewalk the Milky Way like a bridge
that’s burning to show you there’s nothing to fear
from the flames that flower in the mouth of dragons.
If my bones lie down like spilled toothpicks,
broken twigs, yarrow fire sticks, a petrified forest
on the moon, what’s that but firewood out of the ice?
You’ve got to count the trees rings to know
how old and happy I was to expand infinitely
in the wavelengths and ripples of the rain.
It starts out in tears but it ends up popping the cork
like the Big Bang and quantum foaming all over the place
laughing in celebration of chaos about to slake
the windows, the mirages, the desiccut life
and I could hear the mermaids with their
beautiful hourglass figures as if God not Gabriel
ran his hands over those breasts and thighs
or underwent a cosmetic sex change to enter
a meaningful lesbian relationship, and yes,
they were singing to me. Gender change
for all you disenchanted feminist priestess witches
out there. Athena wasn’t born of Zeus’ cosmic
cracked egg skull. A god cosmologist of any sex with eyes
in the back of their heads could see that right away.
But don’t start a war. The rafter of that house of life
is fallen and splintered like the weight of too much snow
on the roof of an abandoned farmhouse. Be
the ground hugging, tree climbing snake
that enters the nest like silence and swallows
the egg that flew away in scales that turned
to feathers just as it began to rain. Let’s be
dragons together, let’s heal the wounded caduceus
like doves and snakes together. It might feel
like a live mouse falling into a snakepit
or being held by the tail at first but
in no time at all you’ll have them swaying
in unison like a flying carpet of wavelengths
woven into your picture-music and the distinction
would be unthinkable as a magic baton out
witching for water in hell like a lifeboat
in this sea of freshwater and salt, fire that burns
like a blazing starmap and the rain that falls
like tears of mercy and soothes them like a cream
of moonlight and hand-picked shadows, and not finding it.
Quick. Something. God. Whatever’s left bless
dexamethasone, wet cigarette butts, and death
slowly lifting its eyelids like the moon to take
a good look at me. Give me my winding sheet.
I’m going to cut a few eyeholes in it and get around
like Caspar the Ghost pretending he’s Zarathustra
adding his lantern to the market place like a poet
and prophet that’s never recognized at home
like a candle with a good voice that’s trying
to throw a little light on things Halloween night
when the dead come as close as they can
to whispering like a nightbird in the ears of the living.
Longing is as great a characteristic of death as it is of love.
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