Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
The Lilacs Are Not Blighted By Rust
the sky isn’t soiled by a storm.
The stars don’t despair in the darkness
they’re alone, and the swallows
are not deterred by death. Ever hear
the wind complain of the load it bears
or the earth weary of being the footstool
of mountains? Water serves unreservedly
the efforts of the irises along its banks.
Hard and indifferent as it is sometimes
to be here, living is a blessing and a boon
that never asks for thanks, like oxygen,
the table’s been set in the absence of a host
but that doesn’t keep everyone from feeling
like a guest. Praise to the capability
of all those things I can take for granted
like a heart beating without intervening
instructions from the supervisory mind.
Eras of Cambrian seabeds within me
shale loveletters inked in the flesh and blood
of my starmud like fossilized cuneiform
teaching me the abc’s of this elaborate alphabet
I’ve evolved into trying to read my chromosomes
like the plot of a lost epic with a future
that holds us all in suspense as if the outcome
were anything but assured. Though
the hunter in me yearns homelessly
for the migratory nights I spent around a fire
following the herds of the stars
to the lower slopes of the echoless valleys
their shadows lingered in a while to drink
from their own reflections like sacred paintings
drawing blood from stone, praise be
to the stationary freedom that allows things
to grow on their own like wheat and poems
in the starfields of Virgo when I grasp the horns
of the plough of the moon to till the Fertile Crescent.
The sea is too immaculate for seeds,
but the wind is a libertine and the earth is a slut
that doesn’t discriminate between the waterlilies
in their nunneries or the brothels
of the wild orchids rooted in muck.
Praise be to the dark abundance
of her open-minded desire to receive
whatever windfalls might come of her generosity.
The sea lets all things run down into it,
but the earth builds them up again after
their will to live has been torn down.
Not a man alive hasn’t known a woman like that,
the sage and the clown, the braggart and the penitent,
whether he’s overcome his desires or not
doesn’t owe big time for the planet that laid
the foundation stone of the lordly towers in the clouds
that bend like the sky toward earth
in an awkward bow to the scarlet letter
of everything that followed in its wake
like paid mourners and plumed horses on parade
behind a dead lifeboat in a hearse with
windowless waves that couldn’t find anybody to save
who wasn’t any less worse than they were.
Isn’t it weird how men as tough as peacocks
do all the flowering like mirrors with built-in eyes,
but woman burns in the oracular coils
of her own serpent fire like the power
that dreams sidereally in the roots of the larkspur
climbing up its burning ladder of stars like heroes
to a mysterious window in their vision of life
they’re not deep enough to reach even if
they’ve got the balls of bathyspheres or spy satellites.
A downpour of applause, please, for
the unconditional freedom to delight in the earth
more like a Zen courtesan arranging flowers
than a midwife in a documentary about birth.
All that moonlight squandered on star-nosed moles
in the tunnels of love, blind to the source
of the shining like profligate insects having sex.
Even the heaviest of bells are roped to the wind
like the copulating wavelengths of a double helix
that seperates from what it hungers for the most
to bind the dove to the mercurial axis of a caduceus
seducing Medusa into releasing her healing powers.
From Kingu and Tiamat to quantum theory
celebrate the mythic dimensions of the delusions
you follow into deserts like a legendary mirage
of yourself that humbles the rain to bring into bloom.
Celebrate the errors of perception that bent space
down pathways the flowers along the roadside
have never had to make way like intimidated refugees
for passing vehicles in a hurry to get somewhere.
You’re not the worst astronaut who ever
walked on the moon without a starmap of spurs on
his barefeet, when his heels sprouted wings
though so many myopically use them
like feather dusters of cedar to cover their tracks
than fly like waterbirds that leave no trace
of themselves whatever medium they’re swimming in.
Minnows in the mindstreams of early spring,
or albatrosses crucified in the yardarms
of the nautical trees of Vancouver Island,
it’s never too early not to worry though I wish
I’d taken my own advice long before this.
Give your hallucinations a break. It’s not easy
keeping you amused when your mind eats
everything in sight like a wild boar at a feast of eyes.
There will be many to come that will be
just as wrong after you as there were
before we born to illuminate our ignorance
by holding our shadows up against the light
in order to see the invisible made manifest.
You abuse your spiritual experience of life
when you use it to empower your impotence
to make right at the expense of everything
that’s been creatively wrong about you
from the very beginnings of your infallible innocence.
Plead indefensibly human before the jury
or the choir, call asylums to testify out of the box
as character witnesses to your upstanding madness,
then count your blessings like prophetic skulls
on an abacus of calendrical rosary beads
darker than the promises new shepherd moons
that vow to guide like snakeoil through the valleys of death,
though, at the time, it’s not unusual to feel
as if you were in total eclipse, keep your eyes open,
for any sign of a chance in this house of life
to praise the earth for the fireflies you set
your bearings by like a tall ship with a crow’s nest
and a sacred grove of Douglas firs to roost in
like the moon’s bird through the long lunar voyage ahead.
Comments about this poem (The Lilacs Are Not Blighted By Rust by Patrick White )
People who read Patrick White also read
Top 500 Poems
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Still I Rise
Edgar Allan Poe
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
William Ernest Henley