Patrick White

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

The Blue Potential Of A Grey, Grey Day


The blue potential of a grey, grey day.
The bikers have flown away like starlings
emerging fractally from the woods.
The driveway is clear though my car
is not going anywhere. They’re middle-aged men
the way I used to be, black leather
and cowboy boots where the rubber hits the road,
and though things take shape like Canada geese
rising out of a threshed cornfield, you run
like an unbaffled, four stroke wolf pack
that plays havoc with your testosterone.
Snow on the roof. Fire in the furnace.
It’s a winter wonderland when it isn’t a Quaalude.

Age is like that. It’s not a daffodil in late autumn.
It’s a Blackberry Moon given to heart attacks
and hemorrhages, an understanding the heartwood
shares with the tree rings that are keeping it alive
like leaves and birds grazing on what they can
in common, knowing the dozy tree never gets cut
for the keel of a ship, or a mast that will snap
like a dislocated hip on an icey, unsalted sidewalk.

I’m trying my senescence on like adult shoes
in childhood playing dress up in a dark closet.
More glibly, seance. I’m summoning all the ghosts
of the people I used to be, maybe that’s why
it’s grey, and I’m asking each of them what perishing
means to anyone. And I’m not interested
in tedious arguments, but I want to know
if they’re going with me into the legends of oblivion
at the bottom of a starmap. On board or not
with this shipwreck that would rather go deep
than far as the moon approaches the earth
cataclysmically every day it turns on its axis
like a weathervane secured at the peak
of a barn roof like a mermaid at the prow of an ark.

Initial response. I don’t want to lie
in a heritage cemetery with the leaves
passing over me and the grass always
an unusually moist green that’s supernatural.
I don’t want to be screen-tested for
my physical response to pain or disease.
Emotion always hurt me more. I don’t
want to be grateful for the idiocies
of the stereo-types I’ve had to suffer
at the hearts of lovers and well-meaning friends.

What did Yeats say he had to comfort him
in old age? Rage and lust? I can’t help either
when they arise, and though I’m supposed to be
forbearing and wise, I don’t object too strenuously
when I’m led astray by my eyes or repulsed
by the filth that’s caked to justice like a travesty of starmud.

Don’t help me unless I sincerely need it. Most
of the time that’s cash. I’m not muscled
like a rocking chair close to the stove.
Don’t bore me with your plans for the future
and I won’t bore you with my plans for the past.
I listen more to my body than my mind
when it comes to taking a nap which I admit
gets sweeter the more it ripens than I thought
it would be when I first conceded to longer,
less radioactive shadows than the meltdown
of my dreams as they ran out of heavy water to cool
them off like eyes staring too intensely
out of the darkness of the doorway like stars.

Not for lightyears schooled by a compass set
and a rule I learned in a classroom. I relate
to chaos in a larger frame of reference beyond
the surreality I project upon it as if my pineal gland
had stopped showing horror flicks on the weekend.
Freer than I used to be. Running out. Running down.
Until time stops at the speed of thought
and light’s just another also ran. Which bend
in the hourglass is upstream? I scheme. I scheme.
And what goes down has so very little to do with me.

I pay attention when I want to and get on
with how meaningless everything is, until
you give it one as gradually the fresco begins
to fade like a sacred roof over your head when it rains,
and the oils are bleeding too deeply into
the wet plaster, and the candles and censers
treat you as if you’d lived your life too colourfully,
and dyed it sepia-tinged, like a beer bottle
or a radiant stain-glassed window in a brown out
that played with the light bars in an art gallery
in Kingston that had a habit of playing dead
as if a black bear were in the neighbourhood
and death was the only way to save yourself from being food.

I’ve come to cherish my work as the less
of many evils, and much more fascinating
than the worst, like a junkie eyeballs the silverware.
I say starmud, but half the time I’m as big
a clod as I ever was when I pulled a plough
on the moon. I don’t underestimate women
in the name of love as much as I used to,
the stillness and the stealth of a halcyon hurricane
waiting to happen like an ocean in a rose
with the dorsal fins of sharks, thorns and sundials.
But God, I love the way I’m defiled like a sinner.
No angel that never floated a lifeboat down
a bloodstream ever had it so good as all that
like an incredibly long amen to a very short prayer.

And not mean, and bitter and cynical. Self
destructive as I’ve been for poetic reasons
I wouldn’t do that to myself. I might carry
vinaigrette on a long march with the legion
to keep from getting sick as an eagle on what
swims into his ken like Herschel or the Pacific
or a salmon struggling to make ends meet
and make sure the circle remains unbroken.
I don’t live recklessly enough anymore
to step on God’s toes when we’re slow dancing
to a song neither of us have heard before, alone.
Besides, everything is looping into its second innocence
like the moon on replay taking a bath in her own grave.

Submitted: Sunday, October 20, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, October 22, 2013

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