It Isn'T The Illusion That Binds You - Poem by Patrick White
It isn’t the illusion that binds you to yourself like skin.
It isn’t not finding the missing link in the fossils
of the chains you used to wear like dna. You’re still
in a dichotomous world if you’re giving your illusions
bad spin, enslaved by enlightenment. Is the play improved
by shaving the heads of the lightbulbs in the billboard?
Are you living alone in an isolation cell of bedrock?
Are you proofreading mirages in a desert of stars
that took things too far to remember where you
started from? Hydrogen and helium. Are you still nebular? Do
you really believe it’s the gathering clouds that get in the way
of your shining? Still trying to liberate the abyss
from its own emptiness, the mystery of life from the lips
of a one-finger vow of silence when it’s your mouth
that’s keeping it a secret? Let the dreamers sleep awhile
like flowers in bud, let the thorns of the locust trees
add to the poignancy of its blossoms. Admit it
all the fixed addresses you’ve handed out
to your peers like identity thefts still leave you
wondering who you are long after you’ve been accepted,
crossed the border, the bar, the threshold
as if there were always another country beyond
the one you just broke into that doesn’t recognize you either.
A garden of light, yes, but why uproot the shadows
that work behind the scenes without applause?
So many things in the world going wrong all at once,
flawed, defective, deranged, all your old starmaps
going up in flames in a state of flux like a phoenix
as if you were the Library of Alexandria and you’re
the arsonist in the crowd watching your pyre burn out.
By the discolouration of your feet, I see you’ve
walked through a lot of educated ashes
like a signpost looking for a road of smoke
in the vatic urns of your heart trying to press
the issue into a grey wine that isn’t perishable enough
to avoid publishing. When you die, do you want
your starmud interred in the sky, or would you prefer
the poppies and butterflies of chthonic goddesses
in a dream time that works the roots of the flowers
like puppet masters and umbrellas at a funeral?
Would you throw that inkpot at the wall
if Lucifer rose up before you like the morning star
or would the earth shake with a new Buddha
who’d lost his identity in the pre-dawn light
where the fresh water meets the salt when you see
the fools you’ve made of your own eyes
by trying to clarify them like stained-glass windows
blooding your eyelids when you look at the sun
so you can see right through them like a nasty spell
of aniconic Protestantism. What next? Rainbows,
moondogs, the chromatic aberration on the prisms
of oilslicks and houseflies? You are the picture-music
listening to itself when you’re lost like a voice in the woods.
Who else is whispering the stars into your ear
as if you were the key to the language they’ve
been speaking to you in for billions of light years?
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