Want To Write Or Be Written Poem by Patrick White
Want to write or be written. Whatever comes first.
Want to slide down a Martian sand dune
like a hockey puck of dry ice etching clawmarks
into a copper plate as if I were trying to cling
to something I couldn’t get a grip on like a snowman
thawing. A mirror melting. I want to plough
the desert in an hourglass into a Zen garden
where the stones flourish like weeds. I want to
swim in the wavelengths of my own mirages
in a month of heat, but there’s a small, nasty voice
like a deerfly buzzing the wheelhouse in my head
that bites like a cattle prod of conditioned guilt
because I’d rather write a poem than fill out
the deadpan forms of the world. All those deathmasks
plastered over our faces like papier mache over the years
just to prove we’ve got some kind of nonrefundable identity.
Do this, do this, do this, and then, this. As if
business had become the sign of a healthy spiritual life.
Curse the opportunistic careerism of our pettiness.
I’d rather hide like a tiger in the stripes and shadows
that are cast upon him by the busy, busy villagers
tying a judas-goat to the stake of an hour hand,
forgetting that time’s a waterclock, not a traffic cop,
to draw it out like fire from a moonrock.
Tears of blood flaring like the stamens of a matchbook
brief as a poppy blooming like a solar prominence.
No auroras in its wake. No scarves of light
lingering on the air like the fragrance of a mystic insight
into the humbling depths of our own ugliness and ignorance.
Que sais je. The clearest of all corneas. The Kepler
of all third eyes in orbit around some guru of a shepherd moon.
Life’s a mystery, not a question. Don’t expect me
to answer that. You can autofill your own blank.
Or try to second-guess your way out of the abyss
you wander in as if emptiness were a labyrinth
you had to follow your daily bread through
like the crumbs of the dreams you left behind as clues
to where your freedom went when you closed the windows
on what was once as wonderfully useless as a sunset about you.
Whatever it costs. Whether they cut me down
and make my skin into wallets to cover the expense
of hanging me from a heritage lamp post like a flowerpot
nesting in midair from the bough of a one-armed tree,
hemorrhaging violet petunias, I will still
heretically insist on how crucial it is just to drift
down your own mindstream as if your only purpose in life
were not to have one that moored you like a lifeboat
to a long walk off a short pier. You can sing to the stars
or you can call for help. You can water plants
like green lanterns in the window waiting for love
to hand out starmaps to your stem cells as if
you only direction in life were some kind of photosynthesis.
It’s a dangerous calling to live creatively free.
There are always hounds barking in the distance,
coydogs yelping after the magic rabbit in the hat,
deerflies trying to land like kamikazes
on the flightdecks of your carriers in Pearl Harbour
whether they’re out to sea or not, low-flying topedoes
released like snakes from the claws of sea-eagles
trying to train them to bite other people. Good luck
in the snakepit. I’m out of it like an emergency exit.
I’m not into mindwatching from a crow’s nest
for any sign of trouble on the horizon. I’m not into
crawling across my thresholds like the rungs
of a burning ladder for the upwardly mobile.
I’d rather fall toward paradise than cling to it
like mordant ivy on a church. And truth to tell,
I’d rather search than find. Build my house
on the waters of life than a gravestone that covets
my relics like a bone-box in a Gothic cave.
Water’s always on the move like a true pilgrim
following its own thought waves like tree rings
in the heartwood of a cross of terebinth
many springs have hung the fruits of life upon.
Peace be upon the pilot lights of the prophets
who taught the spirit how to make it through
another night without freezing to death in the firepits
of cold zodiacs feathered in shrouds of ash cloth.
Rites of passage trying to thrive like fish in the desert
around the great artificial barrier reefs of the moon
that ossify like dental plack and barnacles
on the decks of our spiritual shipwrecks
in the dead seas of life we’re walking on
like root fires of our own radiance in the housewells of light.
Whether you make an ashtray or a body cast
out of your starmud, no matter, the dragons of life
burn no less hot in their urns than they do
in the furnaces and kilns of the stars whatever
prayer wheel they’re being turned upon
like the inconceivable embodied like the sun,
the moon, and Venus, in the false idols of visionary insights
that shadow the ineffable with the simulacra
of the painterly senses that know of their own accord,
like unsuccessful saints, who better? - -there is no metaphor
for the light upon light, the mind upon its own waters,
until your seeing isn’t discoloured by the eyes
you’re looking into as if they were brighter than your own.
Patrick White's Other Poems
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