Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
If I Were A Poem You'd Be The Last Line That Eluded Me
If I were a poem you'd be the last line that eluded me
like a rope thrown to a man overboard in a perfect storm
of the picture-music that swept me off the deck
as if from then on I wouldn't need legs whenever
I tried to walk on water to hear the mermaids
singing like the Supremes to Sam Cooke.
Late spring snow this morning. People drawing
their tendrils in like the blunted horns of morning snails
who were ready to venture out of their shells
like buds and tendrils, but got caught like crocuses
out in the cold, and it's one more night in their coffins
before winter gives up its ghost. If I were a poem
you'd be the muse of fireflies in total eclipse
that lit up my life like the new moon in the arms of the old
for a while, the last nightbird to give voice
to an old growth forest struck by lightning and chainsaws.
Winter patina of candle smoke and nicotine
almost skin on the windows looking out at the grey skin
as if they had a reflectively depressed, unlucky opal
for a third eye coated in a cataract of milky ice
like a goldfish trapped like a comet in a frozen pond.
I usually identify with everything that's going on,
empathize with the pigeons someone's scattered like ashes
from the urns of the chimneys squatting on rooftops,
though I never knew them personally, I heard their word was law,
and there are states of mind, sublime and trivial alike
that can be reactivated by the garbage people
throw away in backalleys and parking lots
like lottery tickets and crushed coke cans,
cigarette butts put to the heel like a third world country
or left to burn out like the field fire of a relationship
that's vaguely over, the mountain ranges of house keys
with tiny coded teeth lying like the jawbones of fossils
nature doesn't have any use for anymore. If I were a poem
you'd be the caesura I kept falling through like a crack
in my skull when it opened up like the earth
and swallowed me whole like a dragon swallows the moon,
a cosmic egg in the nest of a red-winged blackbird
returning to the place of its childhood after long absence.
If I were a poem, you'd be the one word, like October
I couldn't find a recombinant rhyme for, though
I read the dictionary like a parrot listens to a rap song.
Funny how we pearl our irritants into full moons
and the false dawns of sunrises in an oyster shell,
the silver lustre on the lining of abalone pit mines.
If I've learned one thing as an alchemist over
the metamorphic course of an hermetical life
is that it's impossible to make an alloy out of inert gases
however resplendently they shine on their own
like secular stained glass on the Keatsian eve of St. Agnus,
and even when you do find empty chairs at the table
that enable you to bond periodically, the argument begins
as you start to forge a new life together whether
it's better to be poured into the mold of a sword
pulled from the rock of a metallurgical wizard
or a ploughshare ready to till the moon like a fertility goddess.
Conquer or nourish. Make war on agriculture
or try to civilize nature with genetically modified wheat.
If I were a poem, you'd be the solitude I entered into
like a vow I made to the willows down by the river
that made me weep my heart out like a bloodstream
whenever the last crescent of the moon slashed my wrist
like the tongue of an envelope on a loveletter
I was trying to reread in private like a paper cut.
If I were a poem, more important than me,
you'd be the publisher and the literary award
I didn't get for it as I sighed for another just as hot
sure to enslave the ripples of the rain at the growing edge
of the expanding tree rings in the wavelengths of my heartwood
and give all my literary root fires dry rot. If I were a poem
it would be difficult to explain to you how
my mythic deflations are a seasonal function
of my oxymoronic quantum entanglements with life
that exalt me as compassionate compensation for
enduring my humbling like a Zen samurai
writing haiku that caw like crows on dead branches in autumn
and drift like apple bloom or the swan of the moon
shedding its feathers on the lyrical theme of a nightstream,
without drawing my sword in ignorance
part way out of the scabbard then resheathing it
in a magnificent eclipse of being effaced by enlightenment
like a deathmask with a smile like a telephone cut from ear to ear.
If I were a poem, I'd be here and you'd be there
like an electron that can be in several places
at the same time and I'd be shadowed by enigmas
that would follow me for the rest of my life
as I walked on home alone without you
past the lunar tarpits where I used to go skinny-dipping
with the mammoths and staple gun Smilodons
as if I were swimming through penumbral oilslicks
on the moon like a snakepit of emotions at high tide.
My Papa was a rolling stone that came down on me
like an avalanche, literally, so I always feel
there's a meteor shower out there somewhere in the unimaginable abyss
with my chromosomes. The building blocks of life
like Castor and Pollux in Gemini, snake-eyes
on the upside of the dice if I were a poem, you would
well-meaning enough, breathe on for luck, and then
where X marks the spot where we expected to dig up
our buried treasure, I'd be called upon to suck the poison out,
hoping there were no cuts on the lips I kissed you with
for fear of contaminating your wishing wells and aquifers
with local earthquakes caused by fracking
as I researched my panic in a maenadic state of Orphic dismemberment
for everything between you and I I was lacking.
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