Patrick White

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

If I Were To Say My Heart And Mind As I Would


If I were to say my heart and mind as I would,
no difference between the picture-music inside
I’m singing to myself, I’m being sung by,
and the world as it is when I look under
the stones of my eyes, amazed by how much life
goes unregarded, as if, ultimately, it were
none of our business whether we know about it
or not, but verbal expression is not thought.
Seeing is not the same as saying what you saw.
Life isn’t a state. Death isn’t a state. Being
and existence, and their opposites, are conditioned
by the authorship of those who try to define them.
If you beat the pinata long enough manna
falls from heaven, or the rain cools its lightning roots
with tears the wind will cheer up with a windfall of apples.

Why not? Life’s the engine of every move you make,
not a thing, not a force, but the indefinable
once you get past looking at your corpuscles
as if they were not yours, or worse, your source.
I live as if there were a sight in end to what
I’ve been vaguely labouring toward like a kid
swinging on the garden gate of my hapless beginning.
Chaos built the Taj Mahal. Give it an order
and it’s doomed to fall. Where did the flowers go
that were a moment of who I was for awhile
in this dream that never stops masking everything
in terms of something else. Say one thing, anything,
like a black walnut on the sidewalk that reminds me
of Rumi’s poem about a scorched, black future
where everything’s incinerated in a black hole
or a nuclear holocaust, and you elaborate a world
through the translators of Rumi’s words, not Rumi
as he knew himself before he went on changing.

Be a desert with the choicest mirages
your housewells and hourglasses ever envied
or wrap your mouth in mummy cloth
until the star storm blows over and you’re
not blinded by the blazing anymore
and you’ll start whining like the ubermensch
about nobody listening to Zarathustra
trying to enlighten everybody with his lantern
in the market. If you can’t see the supernova
in the candle-flame, adding more pixels
isn’t going to do you any good. Everybody
set themselves on fire. It’s Arab spring
in the middle of autumn. The nightingale’s wings
are the cage it defends like its freedom to sing
what it wants about the impositions of the deranged.

I’ve come back from a lot of holy wars I’ve lost
and won, that didn’t mean a thing, and what
have I got to show for it but a lost earring
and a child’s shoe? Horror is as intimate as love.
There are snakepits you fall into like a bird bone flute
that has to weave myriad wavelengths
into a flying carpet of picture music if you want
to get out without being bitten by a downed powerline.
Radical changes whose time may or may not have come.
So the year begins in the middle of an ice age
and breaches the Arctic as a sign of global warming.
I take my sleeve and wipe my breath off the window
to polish the stars like gold burnished by fire.
I imagine thrones because I’m a peasant who toils
with his hands in the starmud of his mind.
I wear rubber-boots like an insulated pair of plyers.

If you were to speak your heart and mind
as clearly as it’s impossible, would it make
any sense, even to you? You can make a seabed
on the moon, or you can step out of the crumpled sheets
like Aphrodite who associates sex with
the bloodstream of an earthly tide when the moon
crests like a lunatic with gravitas at a distance.
What did the man say? Intense heat, unusual sprouts?
Are there pilot lights on the stars? How far
to the next stone in the Milky Way do we
have to jump before we realize we’ve cobbled
the way with our prophetic skulls, that our lifeboats
are the ships of state that navigate the whale roads
hoping Moby Dick doesn’t sound like an ice-floe
and pull us all under because we stabbed it in the heart
like the albino eclipse of a utopian third eye?

Waking and dream are so quantumly entangled
in the net of Indra, dolphin drown with their gills
caught in the interstices, when you’re not asleep
and you’re not awake, and it could be
a mandalic spider web, the aura of a magnetic field,
a dreamcatcher, a boring starmap washed in
by the watercolours of the northern lights,
or the collateral damage of fisherman making
a living by walking all over their own tears
at the expense of the sea that sustains them.

My heart doesn’t beat for me alone.
My eyes don’t see a name on the book they’re reading.
I write but my mind speaks in the accent
of everything I do like the Tower of Babel.
Every wildflower in the field is a definition of life
in its entirety. What’s been said? Once you’ve realized.

Submitted: Monday, October 21, 2013
Edited: Monday, October 21, 2013

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