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I Like The Feel

I like the feel of the new heels on my cowboy boots.
I like the feel of breathing in joy like oxygen,
of moving from one small joy to another
without pomp or pageantry
like the constellation of a black swan
on a midnight mindstream
drifting through the small torches of the stars
that won't go out in any kind of water.

And I don't know why I'm wounded
deeper than tears by joy
whenever I witness any undoubted example
of human excellence
and penumbrally share in the triumph
remembering how truly astonishing
a human being can be
when compassion and insight
are the fruit and roots of the tree.

So much in the world I abhor,
horrors and sorrows and atrocities
that violate the elemental dignity of life
as it expresses itself in a human so deeply
even the silence cuts out its tongue
as an offence against
the unspeakable decency of the darkest abyss
when it stands before evil.

Like a golden fish in a polluted stream
slurried by a nuclear reactor
into a cancerous elixir
I have ingested every toxic meme
of a sick society in a feverish dream
and I cannot help but think and feel and live
whatever's written on the water
to soil the stars
that thought they were out of reach
and make manic depressives
of the waves that spoil the beach.

A child of my times, the Zeitgeist, the Holy Ghost,
and the jinn at every well
like the forbidden fires of holy explosives
wrapped in folds of smoke,
I see through the glass darkly
like everyone else
who paints the eye of their telescope
with the shepherd moons
of despair and hope
and reports their observations as the truth
to whomever might be listening.

I can humble the night with my darkness
when the light goes out
and I have fought for years
with the child that I am
not to feel guilty or vulnerable
whenever I was taken unawares
by some happiness
that spilled over the rim of the black hole
that indelibly kept my cup full.

Now I rejoice in the emptiness of things
as useless as rocks and people
and feel a great tenderness for anyone
who needs to feel anything more.

I like the way your gate is hanging by a hinge.
I like the dead bee on the pyre
of the late-blooming fire
that consumes it like a last kiss.
I like the way my portrait's turned toward the wall
like a delinquent outside the principal's office
listening for footsteps down the long, empty hall.

Lightning in the lighthouse
or fireflies on the moon
I like the way my Zippo snaps shut
like the beak of a turtle at the feather of the flame
it rose like an ancient moon from the muddy depths
to pull under.

I find joy in the slightest,
in the cast away and the spurned,
in the tiny birds that have learned
to glean the dragonflies
off the car radiators
and the way people like to be found
like hubcaps at the side of the road
holding up a mirror to the beauty
of the wild irises
like a new logo
they hope will catch on.

When you haven't been saved from anything
there isn't much left to save you from
or any point in trying
to save the ashes from the fire
after everything's gone up in smoke
so why ox yourself
to the unbearable yoke of a cross
trying to grind bread out of starwheat
when the children you labour to save like seed
have already died for the night
with nothing to eat?

Who needs to turn themselves into a broom
when they've drunk their mirages dry
to sweep the deserts off the stairs
of an afterlife in an empty asylum
that talks to itself like the moon?

I don't care what kind of bars
silver, gold, iron or bone,
spiritual or corruptly marrowed
by the tainted terrestrial
you want to put on the window
to keep the stars out like thieves at the gate,
I'm already in.
And you're way too late.

I like to live my life
as if I were getting away with something.
I like being weeded out like a key
to a door that time forgot to close
like the coffin lid of the nightwatchman
who kept an eye on things like a flashlight
looking for his flashlight,
his mind for his mind.

I like being less and less of me
like a rogue sunset that sheds its roses
like a watercolour of its eyes in the void
to see more clearly into the emptiness
there's nothing to be in this nothingness
that isn't a last lifeboat without oars
and no one in it to rescue
jumping ship in a turbulent dream.

Illusory cures for illusory diseases.
And once you're restored to clarity
does it really matter
what the medicine means?

I like the tear in my wounded blue jeans.
I like the autumn dyes that set your hair on fire
like the Gatineau Hills
risking everything
as you squander your leaves like rain-cheques
in the overly salubrious poker-faced casinos of Quebec.
I like the day I was let out of school
with eternity for a recess.

Why spend your life
panning your own mindstream
for the fool's gold of the iron pyrite rule:
Do unto others before they do unto you,
when you know as well as Wall Street
things aren't what they seem?

Look how an apple tree lives.
It gives. And it thrives
by just expressing itself
like a bouquet in the hand of a bride
that walks like a bridge to the altar
and marries herself in her own eyes
to the earth she's rooted in
holding her green arms up
to the orchards of the Hesperides
that blossom among the stars
like holy ancestors.

I like the way the comets stray
like hair across her face
and the way she twists her mouth
like driftwood in the sun
to blow them away.
And I like the blaze
of the supernovae of enlightenment
who give it all back to the night
like a blood transfusion,
a hemorrhage of light,
and even more,
these small illuminations
that arrive through the night and day
like anonymous stars and flowers
beside a death bed in a private room
where only the dying know what to say.

Stars above the mountain.
Flowers in the valley.
I like the way the moon's punked out in the alley
between the church and the funeral home.
I like the way I refuse to assume I know where I'm going
like a newly-hatched garden snake in the spring
or a stream setting out on its own
with nothing for a creekbed
but its own flowing
and how I always catch myself like a fish
rising to the hook and allure of a new direction
as if that were the truth north of not having one.

But let the goldfish nibble at the moon as they will
and swim through the tops of the trees
even as these fire-birds are flying through my roots.
I like the feel of the new heels on my cowboy boots.
I like playing the fool with my own molecules
as if I were madder than plutonium
at having to break my balls like a kick in the nuts
with my own pool cue
everytime I give the game away
hoping somehow that will make me
as sane as lead in the table of things.

I see hell. I live in hell. I breathe hell.
And this pillar of I enshrines and embodies it
like the corpse of a murdered river
flowing through darkness
without any recourse or redemption
for its suffering.

No elixir. No grail. No lapis philosophorum.
No celestial gold to climb the ladders of fire
out of the dungeons of hydrogen
or missing link that breaks the chains
of the slaves in the hold
that labour in vain to endure.

Life isn't fair or unfair.
Pure or compounded.
Civilized or savage.
Eternal or brief.
Loving or hateful
nor all of these together.
The sky isn't just
the daily news of the weather
and the sea isn't just
the tragic rage of co-conspirators
doing their worst to fall on their own swords
as if they could be turned
like waves against one another
and though it is immaculately kind of us to say so
the earth really isn't our mother
if you go back far enough.

The earth is more of a nurse these days
trying to suckle
a hydra-headed wound
in a nightshift emergency ward
at the full moon
with plastic udders of blood
hanging from a cruclfix on wheels.

For every demon that jumps from heaven
an angel rises from hell
and I like the way
I'm learning to fall toward paradise
without a parachute
like a one-winged samara trying to angel on
with these seeds of loaded dice
riding the luck of the wind
like a wounded albatross
looking for new ground
at the foot of an empty cross.
As much has been gained as was lost.

I like the way time weaves the manes
of the sheepish dandelions
into the emergency ghosts
of a thousand scattered parachutes.
I like the way every conclusion about life
rights itself with its opposite
like a compass or a keel
and there are addictions
so intensely beyond the obvious dark mirrors
and shared needles of true north
trying to snort the stars
to light up the room like a legend
on a neon movie marquee,
unschooled states of mind
so powerfully clear and whole
your being is shot up like a tree in the lightning
that God wants to use for a voice-box
so that the tree is known by its fruits,
the taste of its words,
the joy of its birds,
the blossom of the moon on the dead branch
the butterfly on the green
like the whole notes and stops on the flute
of a snake-charmer
collaborating with the muse of a cobra
on a new song
two minutes long with a hook.

I like the way life goes on in the dark
beyond the painted eyelids of the billboards
running for re-election as a theme park
to improve the fibre-optics of their umbilical cords.

Even as the truth turns out
to be more of a lock than a key
that can be turned in your mouth like a word
to set you free of yourself
like a long thought-chain
that plugs the world into your navel;
and beauty is a pimped-out carnival
of surgical exaggerations and defects
that wear the look of lost luggage
under the sagging circus tents
that taxi down the runways of the rejects;
and the evil that is done in the world
cloaks the oceanic eye of awareness
with the cataract of an oilslick
that giftwraps everyone like water
in the same starless snake-skin
they tattoo their corporate logos on
like a new translation of the Rosetta Stone
in the demotic tongues
of the illiterate mobs of PsychoBabylon.

Even in this deepest eclipse of hell
that swallows us whole
like the eggs of the moon in a nest
and is running out of eyes to darken,
even here there are still small lighthouses of joy
that shine through the cracked skulls of these coasts
and haloes of fireflies
that still iris the eyes of the black holes
that are too deep for anyone to put down roots
or go witching for water with lightning
screwed into the eyesockets
of their spineless lightbulbs
playing peek-a-boo
in their see-through birthday suits.

Let evil offend or amend its own statutes.
I like the feel of the new heels on my cowboy boots.

PATRICK WHITE

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