Things I Would Say To My Daughter If She Were Here

Poem By Patrick White

for Jody

The important thing
is to stay ahead of the pain
like a debt you'll pay tomorrow with your life
they're calling for today.
Tips for survival:
Luck has nothing to do with intelligence.
Stupid will get you killed faster than evil.
The most dangerous assassins
conceal themselves under the eyelids
of those who say they love you best.
And as any bruised heart knows
there's more power in an open palm
than there is in a fist
and the best way to get someone
to taste their own effluvia
is not to point to it.
A lot of opinions
is the frenzy of gnats in the sunset.
Silence walks like a tiger on soft paws.
Take a hint from the moon
who only bares her crescents twice a month
to show what's she's got up her sleeve
at the beginning and the end.
Keep your claws retracted
like laws you haven't enacted yet.
And never pass judgment on a friend.
A free mind is a godsend
but don't measure your liberty in chains.
And if you feel the need
to attach yourself to someone
attach yourself to them
like the full moon to water when it rains.
Think with your heart.
Feel with your brains.
And don't expect the Red Sea to part
into a thousand miraculous pirate-swept sea-lanes
just to let you get away because you're special.
You turn a legend into a farce
the minute you start to believe in it.
You can't make a commercial for one
of the light that falls on everything alike
so don't abuse your shining
like a fire eclipsed by its own soot.
Greenwood blows the most smoke
and gives the least heat.
Stay a jump ahead of yourself like a real star.
People might point to you and say your name
and write your story into the Pleiades
thinking they're only a finger's length away
from where you are
but cherish your darkness
like a secret you keep to yourself.
And remember when you transit zenith
everything you see in the sentient mirror
isn't having an illicit affair with your eyes.
You should receive your life in every moment
like a constant surprise
if you want to stop aging,
if you want to grow up like the wise
who are always the first born of time
to inherit eternity
like a bloodline without a beginning
that leads to everyone as if they all bore
the creative likeness
of your closest ancestor
like Castor and Pollux in Gemini
like the history of your breath
in every gust of wind
that sows the dust
of countless generations
in the features of your face
as if everyone's story were told by the same voice
in the same spontaneous tone
of all things passing away into fruition.
Don't track a hovel of impoverished thought
into a palace of thoughtless intuition
and expect to be invited back.
Thirty chiefs of autumn
sit around every fireleaf
that's ever fallen
telling stories about things that last
no one believes anymore.
All the reasons for yesterday
turn into today's folklore
and if you're trying to look into the future
from anywhere other than now
trying to separate the light from the darkness
like gold from its ore,
trying to anticipate the harvest before it's sown,
you're only prying the petals of flowers open
before they're ready to bloom.
You're just peeking under the eyelids
of the embryo of a new moon
as if you could crawl into the womb with it
to see what's it's dreaming
before it comes to light
as if you could get an angle on life
to take the shot
without sinking the table
or load the dice in your favour
with the third eyes of prophetic snakes.
Insolent with disobedience
you turn yourself into a slave,
but bound by duty
the great sea of awareness
is mastered by the sloppy salute
of any green recruit
passing in review like a wave.
The stars don't need to convince anybody
they're stars
and the flowers aren't trying to be beautiful.
Live as if your death were already achieved
and lost in the shadows behind you.
Life flowers in the valleys of death
and if our beginnings weren't
our ends are equal
and there's an eternity of a chance
more than not
there's a sequel
but live your afterlife now like water.
You can't pour the universe out of the universe
anymore than your mindstream
can flow out of the sea of awareness
like blood from an irreparable wound
or a theme of unrequited love out of its music.
In what space you don't already occupy
can you bury the corpse of all things
as if you could fit your boundless mind into anything
as if you could dig a blackhole deep enough
to bury God
as if there were ever anywhere to go in the first place
that wasn't already in your face?
The delusions of a coward cast longer shadows
than the things they're the images of.
There are dragons that know more about love
than the doves we send out looking for land
and who among sphinxes knows more than the sand
they come to in time like wisdom?
The mysteries are the mysteries.
They're not looking for answers.
The meaning of life
is the life of meaning
as waves are the life of the sea
or even in late autumn
leaves are the life of the tree.
Let go of things as they do.
Blossom bear fruit and fall.
It's not such a long way down to your roots.
Not long at all.
No further than the boots you're walking in.
And if someone should ask you your name
say it like a constellation
that doesn't shine its light on fame
though everyone sees it rising in the west,
not an inert all night marquee
with letters missing
that burned out like candles
that gazed too long
at their tiny tongue-tied celebrity
as if they were on a visionquest.
Sophocles said never to have been born is best
but he was just trying
to get the world off his chest through denial.
He was a bad guest with tragic manners at a great feast
who had forgotten
because he was born Greek
that life's negation is its oldest affirmation
and what is lost in life is lost solely to those who seek.
Gratitude is the truest measure of wealth.
Squander yourself lavishly like an orchard in spring
knowing generosity is the spontaneous sign
of a spiritual being in good health
that doesn't need money to prove she's rich.
Let life adorn you in its robes and ashes
as if they were just so many cloaks of the moon
slipping from your shoulders
like petals in the starfields of space.
And don't heed the blind fool
who calls for chandeliers
when she's already got tears in her eyes
she's been dancing to for years.
And remember this for the rest of your life
long after my tongue is a leaf
and my eyes are clouds on the wind:
once long before you were born
I asked how I could best return my life to the water
as clean as the reflection of the waterbird
that had just left it
and when the stars of Cancer
granted me you as my daughter
since then I've never needed to look
any further than their light in your eyes
for the answer.

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