Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
I See In The Eyes Of So Many People These Days
I see in the eyes of so many people these days
this unclaimed look as if their heart had never belonged to anyone
or only long enough to hurt, as if they’d spent
too much time in the lost and found isolated
by a longing for reunion with someone who forgot.
Above ground and usually happy about it,
the days pass like most of the lives of the people
in this town, hawthorn and lilac, locust tree
and willow, goldenrod and aster, loosestrife
and waterlilies that decay like cheap ice cream cones,
all the temperaments and moods, tumult and truce
of humans putting a good face on their wounds
like the scab of the moon that keeps them
from bleeding out into space like a lost atmosphere
or hemorrhaging in public like the miscarriage of a rose.
Lunar silts of the affluvial moon’s cheerless floodplains
talc the private conversations we keep overhearing
with ourselves, as if strangers could understand us
better than the people we cherish the most. For some
that means sleepwalking like ghosts through their dreams.
I’m devastated with sorrow at times for how much pain
I can do so little about, or even find a way to lie to myself
it’s mystically gratifying to forgive as some kind
of abstruse wisdom that seeps into your understanding
like ripeness in an apple that took a bite out of your heart
and threw the rest away like a flavourless poetaster.
I’m creatively fascinated by my solitude, never knowing
what’s not going to happen next, or is, and does
as I’m watching my mind walk on its own waters
like a spider messiah looking for the catch of the day
in green wavelengths that go ping on the other side
of a universe occult as the dark matter of the universe
or the subconscious if you’re afraid of wandering
too far from home without enough metaphors
to make it back the way you came. The light years
don’t leave breadcrumbs of the dreams we left at home
in the corners of our eyes for the faint of heart to follow.
And there’s no wind on the moon to cover your tracks
so you’re lost either way, unmoored or tied to the dock.
The more familiar I become with myself in the world,
the stranger it gets. Suffering, for example, or
the erosive torment of breathing time in and out
like an hourglass that has to be turned on its head
like a long term patient in a hospital bed now and again
on the interminable nightward of modernity. Amen.
Madness isn’t for petty people. But compassion, by comparison,
is a cult of one that identifies with everybody as if
they had no home to return to. Their solitude, an orphanage,
and their eyes, forlorn as the faces they’ve drawn on the windows.
Avalanches with big dreams of the Taj Mahal
if things fall out the right way. Quantumly entangled
with ourselves in trying to live our lives
as positive as twelve grain gluten-free bread
we’re double-crossed by our own aspirations as if
we’re more liberated by the defeats enlightenment
keeps trying to bang into our heads than we are
by the victories that don’t carry us away far enough.
I try people’s voices on for size to listen
to what they’ve got to say about life deep inside
but if they don’t fit, or they’re an idiot, I don’t
look for a mirror in which they do or try to upgrade
my introspective capacity for being anyone,
or haul Rosetta Stones to the Tower of PsychoBabylon
like simultaneous translators with earphones on.
Even divining you’re connected to everybody
like a party-line in the country where local history
is a geriatric farm girl listening in on everyone else
as if she weren’t eighty years old alone on a farm
that’s taken hold of her like a memory system a Roman orator,
it’s still crucially important to know when to hang up
like an auditory imagination at a seance that’s tapping into you
for secret rumours of life written in the runes
of the purple passages that scar your heart so glacially
even ten thousand years from now when the seas
have boiled away like the tears of shepherd moons
and the sadness in their eyes has evaporated
and drifted aimlessly on like a road off the clock
to make a small, mysteriously heartfelt offering to the stars
for being there all those lightyears for the blind to dream on
like Braille polished and bevelled by a billion eyebeams of the rain
it will still be disdainfully legible and mysterious
as a wounded rock that had its heart cut out
by the very sword it poured from the ore of the forge
and tempered in a trough of tears to keep its cutting edge
hard and sharp as the thorns of fire burning like Orion
on a winter night above a habitable planet
with a hovel of starmud nearby lavishing palatial compassion
on the vagrant in his own doorway who aches
like a frost-bitten heart to come in out of the cold
and thaw out in a space that’s undemonstratively
embrasive, human and warm, true to the perennial nature
of its own homelessness in a world of companiable form.
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