Late Spring Snow

Poem By Patrick White

Late spring snow on its way.
Dead ochres and colourless greys
that have never heard of the impressionists.
It's a landscape
it's a mindscape
but it behaves like a still life.
I've been staying up late
trying to paint my way
out of my life
until dawn every morning.
The windowpane a ripening phthalo blue.
It's compositionally deranged
to hear the birds singing
when you're totally exhausted.
Mentally physically spiritually emotionally financially
gone gone gone altogether gone beyond.
All my happy endings orphaned.
A sum of depletions.
I'm living this creative life
scribbling down the notes of the picture-music
that doesn't just run through my mind
but is my mind
colours and words
down on canvas and paper.
When I'm writing
when I'm painting
when I've wholly disappeared into what I'm doing
for a few holy hours of life
immensities open up like the multiverse
and I've got a window a wormhole
I can fly through
and out out out among the starfields
with the evanescence of smoke
or a bird
putting itself in the picture
as a finishing touch to the sky.
And I am free to explore the intensities
of my own creative peace
as I keep saying to myself
one eureka moment after another
turning into a mantra
no no I can't leave that.
I've got to bring that back and show them.
They'll be delighted with that.
They won't believe it.
You've got to write and paint with an open hand.
Let the brush hold you.
Let the pen.
Then you're the meaning
of what the words are trying to say
and it's o.k.
you don't have to look any further than that.
Sublimity slips into the mundanities of the world
by creative accident
and you stand down from bliss
and spend a reverential moment
in its presence
just looking at it
not knowing where it came from
or whose work it is.
And it's the wonder of that depth of ageless being
expressing itself as a gesture of time
that's kept me at it
for forty-eight excruciating years.
I get off this chain gang
where I've broken down more rocks than a junkie
or saxifrage in the rain
and the pain the labour
the enervating futilities
and terminal successes
of all those ambitions
that run counter to the flow of life like salmon
disappear from my bloodstream
like apparitions in the morning.
And I am more me
the less I grow aware of it.
When I consider the chronic agony of life
I sometimes think that God created the world
not because she was a hidden secret
that wanted to be known
but because she wanted to forget she was God
and lose every cosmos and atom of herself wholly in it.
Paint till dawn and you'll know what that means.
As the great Zen master sort of said
you can swallow the whole of the river you're painting
with a single gulp.
You can chug the well of the muses
with every drop.
And just when you think
you're working in a medium of illusions
that are playing you like a gravedigger
that likes to get to the bottom of things
they all begin to taste of life.
The mirages water the flowers
in this desert of stars
and everything blooms.
You're back in the garden again
before anybody knew anything but the names of things
to distinguish them from the angels
and life was too vital to need an explanation.
As you go to write
you can take all your dark energy
and intensifying it
by letting it empower you
bend space into a gravitational eye
that gives you a deep insight into
how even a blackhole can be creative.
How what's been left out of the shadows and lights
says as much as that which was included.
Who you are not
is just as much of an artist
as the one who signs the painting.
And don't think you can do things by half measures
one foot in the boat
and one foot on the shore.
Talent knows the tear
but genius knows what hurt
the feelings of the watershed that let it fall.
It's the same in art poetry love enlightenment life.
You've got to let a mask every now and again
wear your face just to play fair
and see how things look from the inside out.
You've got to let the fireflies
make up stories about the stars
that haven't got anything to do with shepherds.
You got to be free enough
to let the world be all kinds of things it isn't.
You can only hex yourself
by taking a voodoo doll out of the arms
of a sleeping child
like the new moon out of the arms of the old
because you deny the darkness within you
its return to innocence
and try to separate the roses from the thorns.
Living your life
as if you were always
applying yourself to the world
like the task of the business at hand
is as destructive
as trying to pry the petals of a flower open
with a crowbar
because you haven't got the time to wait.
Paradise is effortless.
It doesn't have a gate.
It doesn't have a custodian.
It doesn't maintain a teacher.
Adam was born knowing the names of things.
Not how to keep books
on the comings and goings
of the saints and the miscreants.
The first lie out of a tempter's mouth
is to ask Eve if she believes
she's worthy of the truth
as if it were something that could be acquired
without her.
There's more innocence
in running the risk of being left out
than there usually is among the deluded
who play it safe by dissing their doubt
to be included.
You've got to take your church your mosque
your zendo your synagogue off at the door
as if they were hats and shoes
when you enter a holy place
or you'll track the world in
like starmud at your heels
and desecrate it with religion.
And this is as true of Druidic birchgroves
in an abandoned Westport field
with the wild geese flying overhead
just as the stars are coming out
as it is of a poet climbing burning ladders
up to his beloved
as if every rung were the vertical threshold
of a mutable transformation
that estranges and illuminates her face like water
as it changes his eyes.
Don't add your feather of flame to the fire
like the flightplan of a faint-hearted phoenix
with ambulances standing by
in case things get out of hand
but light yourself up like a Buddhist monk in Vietnam
or a filial vegetable seller in the souks of Tunisia
who set the Middle East on fire
and consume yourself wholly
until there's nothing left of the geni but the lamp.
When you let the way come to the end of you
how can you say you're lost?
That's where your freedom begins.
When the object of your quest
can't find anyone to look for it
and there's no one there to know,
King Lear writes Shakespeare.
David sculpts Michelangelo.

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