Patrick White

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

In The Dark, In A Tongue Twister Of A Whisper


In the dark, in a tongue-twister of a whisper
I can hear the silence has added a new voice
stuttering over the sacred syllables of my past
as, even after all these lightyears, it’s still trying
to pronounce me like the patois of a dead language
rooted like a stump in an old growth forest to the earth.

Desecration follows in the wake of anything
you try to create out of your own starmud
like an empty lifeboat drifting aimlessly
through the fog toward the ghost of an unknown voice
pleading to be rescued from its own night sea of awareness.
Or dream-figures cremating secret loveletters
in rusty oil drums burning under the overpasses
of my rebarred solitude as if an embassy
were about to be overrun by outdated passports.
Stars are the flowers in the gardens of the homeless
and a few sparks like breadcrumbs from a final analysis.

The desecrant noetics of a viciously troubled mind
seeks freedom from itself in the dark to keep
from self-destructing before its prime like wine
and supernovas. What terrorists love best about themselves
isn’t so much the explosion as it is the timing.
Can’t you hear it, the nightingales singing like cellphones?
And this is the hour of the noble word that sounds
like smut in the ears of the cynically liberated
confounded by the chaos of their ungrounded indecisions.

Sometimes it’s better just to sit by the river
and watch the light on the water dancing
with its own shadows like the music of your eyes
playing a soft lament that uplifts your spirits somehow
like the passing and approach of an undivined beginning
in every moment of silence between the whole notes
of the nightbirds answering one another like longing
in the heartwood of the rootless trees
that yearn to echo in the spring again like tree rings
and the tintinnabulum of the rain that ripples through them.

Who doesn’t wish for a taste of something gentle
and forgiving that hasn’t been conditioned
by perdition or horror, especially in this hour
of quantum foam frothing rabidly at the mouth
like frog spittle on the grass with a hydrophobic
animadversion to the waters of life. No asylum
from the madness, even the river laced with
the antidotes to our own toxins as we strike
at one another for boiling ourselves like kids
in our mother’s milk while we were still on the tit
so even the galaxies are dying like sea stars from the acids
we spit into their eyes like a snakepit of angry umbilical cords.

And God forgive the boy scouts who show up
with one eye open and nooses around their necks
as if they were mastering knots that might prove useful ahead.
In a dark time endure like fire in an ice-age
painting on the walls in the house of life
whenever the shadow of a bird crosses your mind
with a suggestion of what to paint with all the flightfeathers
that have drifted down to you over the years
like a road of ghosts that leads anywhere you want to go
because you’ve shed your last starmap like a windfall of eyes
that ripened in the light of your own seeing
without aiming your telescope like a firing squad at the stars
that shoot back from ambush if you look at them blindfolded.

Beyond understanding, the dark watersheds
these mirages in the void reflect like the fountainheads
of our flowing away from ourselves as if
one step forward were one step back in the perpetual stillness
of the here and now throbbing with the improbability
of a pulse as erratic as love buried at sea on the moon.

Even the most tender of fools bobbing for apples
in their birth sacs to amuse the giddy children
with the unforgivable delinquency of their sin of omission
will eventually be toughened up by the crazy wisdom
of forging their words like swords out of an alloy
of compassion and intelligence that doesn’t cut the cord
under their tongues because they speak left-handed
in a world that’s turned right, to find directions out
by wind-resistant indirections at the crossroads of chaos
muttering to themselves like sleepwalkers
grazing on shepherd moons that have put them out to pasture.

Lost sheep in wolf hides trying to follow the herd
like shamans afraid to embrace the absurd as if
they didn’t have any faith in their own prophetic words.
Be the first among poets to be recognized by the homeless
for the way you wander in and out of doorways
like a drunk off the street who’s sure he’s been sent
to the wrong address like a nightwatchman who
keeps on turning doorknobs nevertheless
while everyone else is asleep in their beds
thousands of thresholds away dreaming like photo-ops
of all the children that went missing from the lost and founds
of the abandoned milk cartons they were weaned from
as if some perversity of radioactive starmud in the gutter
had just pulled the plug on their camera shy haloes,
like trap door spiders peeking at butterflies out of their black holes,
undertakers of their own desecrated innocence
as if to have been them and young once were a gateway drug
to the hard stuff that didn’t get off on them
like head bangers in a moshpit of polka-rock
that smiled like an accordion at the end of every gig
as if their lives were kind and fair and intelligible.

Merd, the self-exiled anarchist sings as he drives a knife
through his art in the process of disassociating rationally
from his surrealistic sensibilities burning cold and clear
like stars shining down upon the dry ice of the broken chandeliers
weeping glaciers over the plinths in the eyes of the Pleiades
as if they were firewalking on the toxic thorns of fractured mirrors.
Apocalyptic imagery appears when ecstasy can’t find
a metaphor for itself like an equals sign between its energy
and the speed of light it’s travelling backwards through time
advancing into the abandoned dimensions of its derelict solitude
as dawn breaks like an empty on Devil’s Rock
as if you’d come to the right door, but forgot how to knock.

Submitted: Monday, June 10, 2013
Edited: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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