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Patrick White

Now Halcyon Seas

Now halcyon seas, the Kingfisher Star, Alcyone.
No sign of ever having drowned here. Most
are as unaware of the sentient space they're immersed in
as a fish is of the water it wears like skin
or a bird of the air it plunges through. I was
given a brain. The universe was rolled up
into a ball of starmud, a planetesimal of my own,
that was meant to receive a lot more than it
could ever transmit. The way this bursting bubble
of a multiverse gets you to listen to it
once you get sick of listening to your own voice
trying to lift words and feelings like an ant
with a butterfly wing in its mandibles like a sail
that knows more about which way the wind is blowing
than it does. I may be only a whisper
of the shriek I used to be in a much denser medium
than this when I felt my lungs being crushed like bag-pipes
by the implosions of a black dwarf. Thirteen tons
per cubic centimetre of mass. Things weighed
heavily on me back then like basso-profundo bells
with overactive pituitary glands in a shell game
of the pea in the pod. Maybe I was looking for God,
and God was playing hard to get, who knows,
but the devil, time, death, suffering and the brutality
of certain modes of oxymoronic mystic bliss
have blown like compassionate winds
on my magma ever since like a mother
cooling the burns on her only child's fingers
as if she were blowing out a votive candelabra in a church.

The river reeds are drawing maps of my mindstream.
I'm going with the flow without letting go.
Serpentine currents of picture-music playing me
like a cobra plays a flute in the sway of things.
Precisely where you run out of rope and road
to hang yourself is where the way begins and ends.
I look up at the stars tonight, and as aloof as they are,
my heart opens up like a black waterlily, and says,
without any prompting from me, after all these lightyears
of staring at each other, they in their heights, and me
in the places I had to climb up to see. Friends.
Because it's not hard to imagine them suffering
the way I do, shooting into the dark on the midway of life,
like a ray of light hoping to hit a flower or two
to let them know it's time to wake up like radio telescopes
looking for signs of extraterrestrial life
like a loveletter that doesn't have to be opened with a knife.
The dire wolves of all my Pleistocene ferocities, extinct,
I don't think Gandhi's hearing footsteps coming up on him
from behind, to bring him down like a bison on the run,
but I can still hear their ghosts howling in the dark hills
that surround my homelessness with a local habitation and a name.
Now I'm a gray wolf by acclamation. A gentler adaptation
to my environment than my environment is to me.
I've still got my fangs but I'm into smaller, more diversified game.
The beavers are huddled in their mud bunkers.
The lakeshore rocks still bear the scars of the glaciers
that were driven off by the sun protecting its prey.
And the new moon is flint knapping itself
into a lunar spearhead that sinks a lot deeper into the heart
than the old Clovis points used to. And I can smell
hot poppies of blood on the air startling the pungency
of vegetable detritus and decay in the duff
of last year's holy books going up in flames.

Never been a fan of words unless words are living creatures,
dragonflies in their chrysales. But once the secret's out,
they have wings of their own, and names that have power
and a unique integrity endowed upon them
like their mystic specificity by the mouths
of the humans that use them like rain.
Thousands of droplets falling like veils
from the wings of a rising waterbird
shattering its own reflection like a sand painting,
a mandala, a spell, a holographic projection
of the pineal gland or a two dimensional black hole
like the urn of the ashes of the Library of Alexandria
after it burned down. John Keats said
here lies one who name was writ in water,
but here it is before us, written on gravestone.
The whole universe is an encyclopedia of wavelengths.
And it doesn't really matter if you send out the dove
or the crow first, by the time they get back to you
about sighting land, they've reversed colour
like chameleonic dice in the cold hands of misfits.

The willows are looking haggard at the approach of fall.
The aspen and the birch leaves are beginning to curl
and turn brittle like gnostic gospels and the sumac is burning.
My thought waves are syncopated to those of the lake.
My heart is jumpstarting the frogs like dozy engines
as I watch the wavelengths of the watersnakes
hunt them down like serpentine wizards
with tuning forks with perfect pitch for tongues
to make up for their lack of ears, as do their scales,
as if amphibians were always half a note off key.

And all this seems so surrealistically mystical to me,
when I consider the infinite number of ways it could have been,
and probably is somewhere in the multiverse like a fruitfly
perfectly preserved in a tear of pine resin creeping
like a snail of incense down the trunk of an evergreen.
It's the billions of switches in between, not your genes
that determine whether your thought-trains
are going down the right track or not. A diesel howls
like a dinosaur in mourning for the end of things
through the country darkness, immeasurable pain.

Once you realize the way things are are who you are,
there's no room for separation, even the skeletal wings
of the bracken that fossilized its way back to the living,
even a pine-cone, is a psychological event. What then
to make of Jupiter and Venus descending in the west,
Venus near Regulus in the Lion, Aldebaran in Taurus
and Alcyone in the Pleiades bull-vaulting its horns?

Turn a leaf. Look at a starmap face down. Turn the light around
Exorcise the sprite in the candle. Thaw your eyes.
They've been falling for light years like tears on the stars
and they haven't put anything out yet. Orion soon
and pharaonic kas on the Road of Ghosts disappearing
over the skyline of a black hole that doesn't come with lifeboats.
But once and awhile, under my Kingfisher Star,
lets things float along in time upheld
by the buoyancy of their own wonder
that things are as they are as you are in a world of forms
where each engenders the myriads of everything else
and no more, even with a razor, than you can
peel the moon's reflection off the water
can you find a skull's worth of separation
between the inside and the outside.

Tat tvam asi. You are that. Your mind
arrayed before you like jewels of your own seeing,
almost a Mephistophelean compassion for humanity,
more that of others, than my own, to judge by the way I've lived,
estranged by my own familiarity with what I wish
I didn't know. Ah, Faustus, why this is hell, nor are we out of it.
With this one inclusive exception, that if you were
to ask an angel where heaven is she'd say the same
as a fish would say it's all the sea, or a bird, the sky.
If you want to be a pilgrim walking around with a death mask on.
Don't be surprised by the apocalypse that dooms you
like an out of date Mayan calendar that knew time
was an eternal recurrence of a moment with no afterlives.

Maybe you're a spiritual humming bird sipping
nectar and ambrosia from the goblets of the gods,
or an existentialist dimming the lights with tunnel vision
or you're an alley-cat going through triune phases of the moon
as if birth, sex, and death were all synonyms
for lyricising the same event. But reality
is a lot more original than it's usually given credit for.
Even in science, mind is an artist, able to paint the worlds,
and the masterpiece you paint is the world
you've been living in for as long
as you've shown up to model for it.
That's how you know there's compassion
quantum-mechanically saturating the whole universe.
Everyone's living in a world
that fits them like skin they're growing out of
like waterclocks shedding one world for another
like watersnakes of serpent fire with backbone.

You see those constellations in the crowns of the ironwood trees?
They're not out there shining at you across
the vast, vacant, interstellar spaces out of earshot.
They're all paradigms of your own mind
whether you look at them in a gallery or paint your own.
They're every bit as intimate as sunshine
that gets in through your eyes or caresses your face.
And if you give them names, not words,
Aldebaran, Regulus, Alcyone the Kingfisher Star
and let their dead metaphors age like sages of heartwood,
they'll whisper in your ear creatively
about the leaves of the silver Russian olives
glistening like Byzantine lunettes
in the markets of moonlight with a dusky touch of soul
low on the horizon of a visionary mindscape.

Look at the stars? What do you see? If it isn't
your own eyes shining back at you without
a mirroring consciousness in between,
it's got to be traffic lights for fireflies who've gone blind.
And that, too, is a fingerpainting of your mood and state of mind.
And further proof of a compassionate universe
is that no one can abuse another's work
by using it as a palette for their own because
when you're wholly effaced by what you're doing
there's nothing to imitate but what you see before you alone,
the urgent potential of a whole world of your own
crying out like a nightbird in the plenum-void of the darkness
kun fia kun, fiat lux, let it be, and it was,
like the first taste of light and longing in your mouth.

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