The Neglect He Had To Impose Upon His Life - Poem by Patrick White
The neglect he had to impose upon his life
to write, to pursue an earthly excellence
to make up for the childhood he was told
was blighted by the time he was seven as if
to be angry in the age of innocence were
a culpable sin of deficiency. A sin of omission
worthy of an imagination pariahed by the truth
not to be as idylically blissful as other people's expectations
demanded you smile as a child while your heart
was being torn out for adult reasons
by the people who said they loved you
but only as a matter of manners, not fact.
The want and humiliation he endured. The snakepit
of anxieties he slept on like a waterbed
that moved under him like a sunami
as he tried to dream his way back to the stars
to step away from the earthbound nuclear reactors
that kept melting their bells down
into the bullets of a firing squad trying
to make the point it was heresy to act
like a wavelength among so many sub-atomic particles.
Pleasures foregone. The women and kids
who looked at him like a shepherd moon
without any shopping malls. The killer bees
that swarmed his heart like an asteroid belt
when they left for good as if love didn't matter
anymore than quality had a leg up
on what was being fobbed off as the real thing.
A succession of noble acts by an underdog of integrity
that had to live ten times more dangerously
than the couch poodles with pampered emotions
to express the dark oceans thriving
with unknown life-forms in the depths of Enceladus
within him, or a housewell he dug
like a grave for himself that filled up
like a black hole of galactic mirages
that bloomed in a desert of sea stars
everytime he lowered his heart like a bucket
to draw water he could drink from the skull
of the moon at a Zen tea ceremony with Aquarius?
A hermetic chrysalis in the life of a caddisfly,
always, it seemed, in preparation for a transformation
greater than himself, making a gift of a gift
that didn't fool people with the mere lustre
of an empty stone that skipped out over the tide
like a pulse that died as if the sea had been crying
all over it even as it tried to revive it mouth to mouth,
but dark matter with a star sapphire for a third eye
embedded in the slag heaps of ore like an eye sore
to those star-nosed moles that couldn't look upon the light
without wincing. Nightwatchman glowing
like a lantern fish by its own light in the depths
of Pisces, or feeble as a prophet in the belly of Cetus
suffocating under its own weight beached
on the unchained rocks of Andromeda rescued
by Perseus standing up to monsters like a dolmen?
Ambiguities of an echoless vocation, nothing less
than everything all the time, the hidden headwaters
of multi-headed clepshydras that flowed
faster than the towers of the hollyhocks
could bring their microwaves to blossom
as if they couldn't speak for themselves
without pinging someone else's thoughts
like bees and hummingbirds cleaning
the wax from their ears. Frogs and anthropods
in the tidal pools and shallow ponds
of the waterclocks dabbling in mosquitoes
like haiku at the beginning of the food chain
as if someone had sucked the enlightenment
out of life by thinning its blood hemotophagously
with feverfew and heparin and a needle exchange
that gave less than it could take fishing for the heart
like a pregnant junkie getting ready to lay its eggs.
Apostate veganism as a radical art of decay.
The jade rabbit sleeps in the clouds at the edge of the sky
watching them prune the tree on the moon with bush hogs.
He stayed up late and wrote like a candle doomed
to die at first light, when the hermit thrush
packed it in with the stars like posthumous insights
on the graveyard shift that dispossessed him of his demons
at an exorcism of fireflies and major constellations.
His eyes began to droop like medicine bags and bells
over the lightyears he travelled alone with his sorrows
trying to enlighten the past with backward looking tomorrows
that always arrived too late to do him much good.
The secret garden he cultivated on the moon
never found a way to put a gate on his solitude
that wasn't worth walking through alone
like the tusks at the entrance of a kraal,
or a gauntlet of crossed sabres of first and last fangs
that enclosed love in lunar parentheses like an aside
some shadow of a sundial made under their breath as if there were
only a beginning and an end of time, and no eternal moments
in between one heartbeat and the next ad infinitum.
Such were the serpentine mainsprings of inspiration
he drank from like golden ratios of water when the moon
shed her skin like white petals of wind blown peonies
and Apollo lyrically tightened the strings on his turtle shell
as he sang like an abandoned housewell enthralled
by the mysterious voices of the birds on a prayerwheel
lucky enough to be blessed by the jinx of their calling.
Angels dancing on the heads of the pins
in the eyes of a voodoo doll plummeting like Icarus
through the false dawn of the sun toward nightfall in paradise.
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