Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
It's Greying Over, But It's Still A Free Day
It’s greying over, but it’s still a free day,
no rent, no hydro, no gas, no car insurance,
to write, to paint, to let time grow like a weed
as I pace my apartment from studio to scriptorium
where I write apostate holy books in the margins
of my colas and kells. And not care if I’m a cult or not,
if I’ve got any followers, if there’s a stake somewhere
with my name on it, in Venice, Giordano Bruno,
writhing in flames because he believed
everything was alive and should be greeted as such
and so do I. Hunter’s moon again when
the heretics are culled. What did the wolves do
before the hunters came? Licensed to kill,
but it isn’t the same. No red dye or cellophane.
The flowerless daylilies are buried in leaves.
They paint carbon copies of themselves
on the walls of their cement caves. I wonder
if solar panels will ever know what autumn means
to these that are banked like cornflakes
out of the box. Is there a prize for the most
graceful swan dive into yesterday’s junkmail?
Blood and bone, does leafmeal keep
the rabbits and deer away from a garden
with budrot because the grower’s greedy
and feckless? A matchbox of pot from the sixties,
for free believe it or not, unschooled in the tactics
of the gram masters of Gore Street keeping
the price of peace with a smile on its face, high.
Mary Jane, the holy. Street queen without
portfolio, the pimps have turned you out
under a lamp post, packaged for a trick to double-park.
Are you the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene?
Leaned into any power windows lately?
The world corrupts the gifts it didn’t steal.
I can remember the west coast in l966
but what’s the point? The mortgage came due
on those ideals, and the creative imagination
has been squatting on Crown land ever since.
Liberation. By accident. But how do you
chain water up like a dog to a fire hydrant?
I let my mind skate two lengths of the canal.
I pity the poor watersnakes whose nightmare
is Alexander the Great’s solution to tying
yourself up in knots for the winter months to come.
Nothing else to do when you don’t drink,
in a small town, at fifteen below zero, but chill out.
Dealers do, but humans don’t live by bread alone.
You need a boost that lays you out like your girlfriend
or a bear skin rug that’s given up on the dump
and gone into hibernation. Wonder if Krishna
were ever mauled in his sleep by a grizzly
who eats you like a lotus that moved in a dream
of salmon swimming up the foodstream to die
in the sacred gene-pool of a waterclock timed to sex?
I can smell the leaves burning from here. Come
the snow, ten cubic cords of acrid two year old
red oak no one’s ever prized for its mistletoe.
Depends on who lies down on the pyre
the message the wind sends about the afterlife
of the fire that’s blazing like a furnace in a funeral home.
Black smoke or white, everyone’s infallibly
been elected pope. Except for the heretics
who are in on the joke. Whatever gets them through
the night, mortally wounded by their own boredom.
A secular kind of tolerance that doesn’t reform anything.
But gives death as wide a berth as life.
That observes, for the most part, the desperation
in the chokecherries and berries of most people’s hearts.
One foot in summer and the other in a lifeboat
crushed like a milkweed pod or a hull
from the Franklin expedition in Hudson’s Bay
until the first snow overwhelms them like a morphine drip
supported by a human fighting for its life
and that’s the end of their nostalgia for dislocated hips.
The crosswalks get wiped out. The Iroquois
still make us run through a gauntlet of sticks and stones
to get to Giant Tiger on a Wednesday when
everything’s been marked down like a cemetery on sale.
The road is doing figure-eights with a bull whip
in each hand as if it were trying to imitate a snakepit.
The journey stings, Momma, the journey stings.
My nerves sing like downed hydro lines to the rain and the ice.
But never let me forget the way a country road
one car wide, winds with a mind of its own
that’s superior to mine, whatever I’m driving
like a Ford l50 or the sun god’s chariots in eclipse
so everything looks fine until the diamond cutter’s
Vajrayana, reveals to the little and big vehicles,
no one knows the road better than a shot-up mailbox
knocked over by a snowplough with a blade
that reflects the moon like one of its phases
or a planet like earth at odds with its own ecliptic
twenty three and a half degrees off upright
with the solar plane of its own dinner table
so both sides of the pig on the spit get done
as if someone were glazing an oil painting
in translucent lacquers that didn’t yellow
except for the dog stain and the wild siloes
of the long grain and grasses that stuck it out in the snow.
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