Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Moonrise Among The Crumpled Swans Of The Bed Sheets
Moonrise among the crumpled swans of the bed sheets
ploughed aside like snow at the sides
of the impossible road it didn’t matter
whether we walked alone or together.
No one was going anywhere for the winter.
Your eyes grew numb with the long gaze
of windows that haven’t had much
to look at for awhile, and though you
only had to smile to convince me
the wild irises were still burning
in the water gardens down by the river
I knew you were snowblind inside
and gave you my shades like eclipses on crutches
to take the bloom off the angels’ albino rose
and remind you there were stars emerging
from the dark at the end of these
long, somnolent afternoons lazy as fog.
Sometimes people relate to each other like stones
pushed around by one too many ice ages,
meat and berries, and they start consulting
the skulls of their ancestors under the hearthstones
of the fires that kept them alive, and o
every once and awhile, didn’t they, suddenly blaze
when some spirit of the wind danced around them?
Do you still paint your face when you’re indulging
in savage sex? I’m looking at stars that no longer
exist lightyears away from where I hope
you’re shining now. I’ve got this indelible wound
in my heart with a typo in it like a thorn
that’s probably out of print by now but I’ve learned
to live with it like the arrowhead of an extinction event.
The winter was too long. The isolation too deep.
The ashes gathered around our feet like the pyres
and smokestacks of genocidal sky burials
and even the chandeliers began to fumigate the air
like the pendulous censers of our ritual heartbeats.
Dark’s one thing. But bleak’s another that’s harder
to account for like a rusty bullet after a long war
with the elements strategically arrayed against you
when the sofas go into hibernation like fat bears
and the cardinals come to the bird feeders
hanging from the locust trees like rare flames
to a candle on the greyest of days that sputter out
before you have a chance to make it to the window.
Thresholds of bark and snow we brushed off
the tree rings of the fossil fuels of two springs ago
we kept throwing on the fire as if a genie
would be born of the flames without smoke
and suggest what we might have been able
to wish for from one another when we took
our hearts out of the freezer and unwrapped them
to see how badly they’d been burnt by the cold.
Don’t expect to see you again waist-high
walking toward me out of the golden grass.
One of those moments so off-handedly forever
time’s never crass enough to repeat it, nor
need it be, given it’s occurred to me a thousand times
since that summer above the marsh
with its galaxies of waterlilies at the beginning
of the universe with only you and I in it,
as if it signified something deeper than even love
can discern between a man and a woman
trying so hard not to hurt one another knowing
there was no way to avoid it for the rest of their lives.
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