More Often Now As I Grow Older
More often now as I grow older, not a hot flash
or photo-op of time, I see as if my eyes
were waterclocks not chromatically aberrated telescopes
with astigmatic tears for corneas. A woman
walks down the street straightening her hair
with her hand behind her in the sunshine,
and she’s beautiful without any awareness of it,
and I see her image in ten thousand generations of women
all doing the same thing at one time or another
by housewells, in mirrors, in the eyes of lovers,
as if it were a kind of symbolic signage
you practise when you dance with your hands.
And the meaning is expressively true and perennial
in the extraordinary simplicity of the moment
when eternity unveils how indelibly intimate it is
with the most off-handed features of human transience.
We pass without passing away like water,
or wildflowers who bloom in the light of the spring
we bear in the eyes we bring to them
like a book of preludes to the eras and hours
as new to leaves on the dead branches of autumn
as the apple-bloom is on the green bough.
Some nights, I swear, I breathe out
and my whole being evaporates like stars,
radiant ghosts glow on the cold night air,
exiles in diaspora lingering in silence for awhile
without trying to grasp anything on the threshold
of their homelessness. Every time I die like this
I am more and more convinced death isn’t
the absence of life but its twin. Opaque abundance
quantumly entangled in its own translucent vacancy.
The darker it gets, the more I’m shadowed
by the light like a star peering through the foliage
of the black walnut trees as if it had just come across
a world it hadn’t detected before, and couldn’t help
be amazed at the fullness of our skulls in the black holes
of the graves we embody like stem cells
of our ancestral emptiness. Even the light of a star
mastered by the vastness of the space within us,
forever in the presence of what we can’t be guided to.
O how lonely the taste of death is in our mouths,
but I ask you, not as a sentimentalist who lacks
the clarity to be honest about their rootless emotions
as if the lucidity of a starmap had planted gardens
at the end of a journey that bloomed along the way,
is life not born of the same solitude it enters everywhere
as if the whole of death were achieved in the very first breath
we ever took, all of life, all of death, behind us from the start?
The many return to the one, and the one returns the favour
like a good heart that hasn’t been wounded
like a sea on the moon by giving it all back like rain
to the myriad rivers of eyes it drank its own reflection from
like the flowers of the stars that strew petals of light
in their own wake as if their shining illuminated the dark
in hindsight and the future memory of our endless becoming
were already a prophecy behind us long before we got here.
Patrick White's Other Poems
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