Treasure Island

Patrick White

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

Yes, There Are Pale Gardens


Yes, there are pale gardens, wings ribbed
like the eyelashes of butterflies, and roses
of flaking blood rooted like something
that was said between the lines of lovers
in a book of fossils in the Burgess Shale.

Even the silence that binds the sacred
to the mundane when the margins of beauty
are feathered by the eyes of peacocks
in the apple green dusk bleeding into mystic blue,

as if one weren’t enough to anticipate
the stars emerging like a gentle rain,
the breath of your lover on the hairs of your arm,
as if the dark were crying through tears of light
from the clouds of unknowing, from
the fathomless watersheds of life and death,

even these tender precipitates of the light
that come on like porches and fireflies
and lamp-posts in this breathless interim
where we neither let things go nor take them in,
nothing born yet of its native waters
and no corpse to wash for burial, neither
prelude to the night, nor epilogue of the day,

even the silence, unliving, undead, unborn, unperishing,
can sometimes seem as dessicated and stale
as the bread and the salt we laid out
on the kitchen table as a feast
to welcome our ghosts back as if they
were the guests for a change, and we
their absent hosts only a threshold away
from revealing the mirage of our own origins
to those who have dismissed us like the wisdom
of old wives’ tales vaguely remembering
the distant legends of our own mythic past
that animated us once like dragons in the dawn
that vowed never to be false to its own beginnings.

So I have not forgotten you like the tattoo
of a starmap inked indelibly on this
paper-thin skin of water like a gravemarker
of the oceans of the moon that have dried up
since the heart has stopped flowing into them
like a waterclock of shadows trying to top off
the overturned hourglasses of better times.

No other place the past has ever lived
but in the specious present, in the same
house of life it was born into and you
have gone on morphing where sacred rivers join
at the meeting place of tribal fires
that have grown brighter over the lightyears
than ghost dancers inspired by the shadows
of things to come out of these penumbral sketches

as I have always done and do like quick studies
of your face since I met you like someone
I would keep on encountering for the rest of my life
in the charcoal and ashes of first magnitude dragons
that still burn like candles beside the beds
we lay down in where we couldn’t tell
if we drowned in the oceans of the rose
like the waves of the vast night sea
that overwhelmed the bodies of our lifeboats
in rogue sunamis, or the flames of desire we were
cremated in prophetically like butterflies
that burned like furnaces in the infernoes
of our mouths as we drifted off like satisfied fire hydrants
into the mindstreams that flowed like rose petals
strewn in the happy gutters of dreams that didn’t
long for anything more than what our arms could hold
of blood and hair and eyelids, lips and breasts,
and the mystic defaults we fell back upon
like the feather pillows of our dishevelled humanity.

No urns, but the kilns have remained hot
as the Pleiades, and the vases we turned
like our bodies back then are still arranging
the constellations like wildflowers that haven’t
shape-shifted into kitchen pots and garden plots
where lovers scatter their ashes on the roots of roses
mummified in bark and burlap, hoping
they’ll make it through another long winter
that drags on like the extinction of spring
in a homely afterlife awaiting the return of everything.

Submitted: Friday, June 14, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

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