Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Nothing But Windows For An Emotional Life
Nothing but windows for an emotional life,
the town dead, Saturday night done, this heritage silence
I haven’t died here long enough to belong to
reminding me I will always be a stranger until
I’ve filled up half a cemetery with my last name
to claim I’m rooted in the local starmud
like vetch, loosestrife, common mullein or Bouncing Bet,
when in fact all I want to be is a backroad to an unnamed lake.
There should be a Russian olive whose silver green leaves,
spectral with moonlight and wind should suggest
the exquisite metalwork of the Byzantines when it came
to feathering mechanical birds that could sing.
Let the fireflies shine on a par with the stars
flickering through the boughs of the ironwood trees
like a lighter that doesn’t work, more spark than flame.
Neither intimate nor distant, may the toxic weariness
of swimming through the tarpit of the world
like a watering hole on the moon my childhood drowned in,
never diminish the shock of the insight that I’m alive,
do you hear me, alive, a pilot light of blueweed,
still on in this crematorium and morgue of a night,
a peer of the stars and fireflies, their constellations,
and the wake of the Milky Way they leave like waterbirds
skipping out over the lake like stones that never sink,
echoes that reply in kind to the solitude of my intensities.
No rural aristocrat, it doesn’t take a body count
to make me feel I belong anywhere. I’d rather be
as I am, nothing in the emptiness that keeps suggesting
life’s never as bad or as good as you think it is,
could be a curse, could be a blessing, but rarely,
is it boring enough to be self-explanatory when it speaks
to the mystery of remaining so clearly unknown
to those who have harboured a dark love for it the deepest.
Whether I’m ready for the wind or not in this game
of hide and seek, I’m an ageing lantern now and the light
hangs heavy on me like the bells of a bruised windfall
I’ll return to the earth like the fruits by which I’ve known
I’ve had more in common with abandoned orchards
than thornapples, more as a preference of luck, than
a principle I’m prepared to kill anyone’s garden off for
like an early frost in the autumn when I set fire
to the thousands of starmaps I’ve shed in my life
to give their myths of origin a taste of shining for themselves.
I know I said pilot light but I could have meant arsonist,
or just as easily, heretic, self-immolating like the protest
of a Buddhist monk, or setting fire to the ten cubic cords
of dry, cracked, two year old red oak I’ve piled about the stake
of a black chimney pipe that shoots demons at the stars
like the sparks of the fires I’ve started, trying to get to heaven
like Giordano Bruno in Venice, or the soul of a pharaoh
to Orion when he heard what the burning bush had to say about him.
I was born with two eyes that don’t take sides like the black holes
of the Satanic positivists who define the light as what’s left
after you’ve exorcised all its shadows and left the sun
feeling the dawn gets all the aubades, but the dusk
doesn’t get to herald in the night like the beginning
of the longings of the threnodies of a hermit thrush
waiting for solitude to return like the echo of a voice
that isn’t its own, wise with the melodic melancholy
of a hope that hasn’t died, making a go of it alone.
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