Silence, Most Eloquent Ghost Of My Oceanic Emotions Poem by Patrick White
Silence, most eloquent ghost of my oceanic emotions.
Solitude, irrevocable seance of a summoned heart,
linger with me awhile like a night fog sweeping
off the sea on a deserted island beach, softening
the air and the edges of things, saturating time
with an iconic awareness of advanced evanescence,
cloud of unknowing, feather on the mountain,
down of the Orion nebula in last year's leftover herons' nests.
Birth and death in the same breath, are you the shroud
or the cocoon? The aftermath of a vision in a distant fire
that went out a long time ago like a candle in a lighthouse
trying to signal to an empty lifeboat on the coast
where shipwrecked men could talk to the sea like a woman
who could answer them with her eyes and they knew
without doubt, she understood more deeply than they did
how to love the world like a rose that was given to everyone
thrown from the stern of a journey into the wake
of a star that was always moving on to stay ahead of its shining
so that it would have a future to look back upon
when everything came full circle like a tide
of providential highs and lows, widow walks
and wedding aisles, rowing roads, and the seeps of the drowned?
It's taken me Russias of suffering to discover
the most enduring wisdom comes of joy, not pain,
though there's precious little of it to communicate,
no more than salt in a tear from the eye of a life
with a leak in it that can't be engineered into restraining itself.
I rejoice in the stability of my flowing as if
there were more to the going than just passing beyond
another gate into the open wide-eyed with fear and wonder.
A gate can't tell you anything on either side
of the sweep of a lapwing hanging by a hinge
like the wing bone of a broken windshield washer
or an insight lingering in the doorway of enlightenment
as if the longest journey it's ever taken were a threshold wide.
I've seen the ballerina scrubbing floors for a cash cow.
I've seen the rich boy maltreated by jackals like a lunch-bucket.
The stars don't think the fireflies are pretentious
for trying to shine a light on themselves, but there are frauds
who vy like Coca Cola and poets for prime time on the shelves
like clerks in the emporia of their ghost towns
long after their fool's gold didn't pan out
like scar tissue in a volcanic rift where the viciousness
of their mediocrity hisses and evaporates
like spirits of hydrogen sulphide from rotten cosmic eggs.
A splinter under their fingernails, and they swear
they've been crucified to elevate the elect
to vertiginous altitudes that give them sacrificial nose-bleeds.
Such horrid self-esteem in the middle of so much to celebrate
they settle for reputations they calibrate like dung beetles
by the Milky Way that rolls their world up into a ball
in an exhausted bingo hall for arts and letters. It's a drawing
of the awards lottery for the improvement of middling chromosomes.
Tomes and tomes of it like an anthology of gravestones
where all the epitaphs read like approximate haiku
that had their body parts compacted like a wrecking yard
and sent to Japan to rust in a recalled vehicle on salted roads
to keep the bluebirds and chicory from singing like Carthage
on the soft shoulders of their marginal attempts
to nest in the rafters of a world that's too heavy a lift
for a bubble in a hurricane that thinks it's the third eye of Eden
relieving the Hubble on the nightshift. Evil never sleeps
in the naked city, but it's the darkness that keeps
the details honest, not flashlights peering into the eyes
of a morgue like graverobbers that keep the night lights on
in their own tombs for fear of seeing anything other than themselves
out of the unusual like the Standard Model of the Universe.
O let the gripe of our green spirits ripen in the sun and the rain
so the dusk doesn't need to explain why it's worth looking at.
So the apple the moon bites into is sweeter than a mentor
that says nothing about what you want to know
about tasting life for yourself through long exposure
to the emerging elements in a dark room urgent with stars.
Forget the orgiastic corruption of emperor penguins
that didn't get laid enough in highschool to stop
interrogating their sex lives in the House of Commons
as if they were giving a drunken address to the Press Club
across the street from the safety nets around the tower of suicides
where the fledglings fling themselves from the Peripeteian Rock
as undesirables. The providential tide turns around
like a messenger reversing the intent of what he meant.
Though once you're falling, you can't be held responsible
for your descent into hell or who looks back and who doesn't
whether it's Gommorah or Hades you're running from.
Out here in the country, O Canada, there are red-winged blackbirds
singing like quarter notes on the staves of cedar rail fences
plastered with lichens like decals on the guitar-case of the moon
hitching down the 401 for a gig in Toronto it's trying to sober up for.
The snowmen aren't weeping in self-pity at the approach of the spring.
Blackflies soon, to be sure, but two days of intense heat
at the end of May when the temples are cleaned, and they're fried.
The triune identity of the silence, stillness and solitude,
three faces of the same Druidic deity whose eyes follow you
like phases of the moon in the crowns of the black walnut trees
swimming upstream against themselves through the xylem and phloem
of Pisces coming into leaf like fingerlings of catfish
in the exuberant nightcreeks running their luck
like couriers de bois trying to paddle faster than the whitewater
of the current in a commotion of dangerous glee
as if the deepest cheap thrills of all were still free for the taking.
The lake exorcises its crystal ball like cataracts and fog
and the wraiths are on the move like a smudge on a mirror
trying to make things clearer than waterbirds to itself
or sunspots behind the veils of their beautiful auroras
hanging in the air like music to disguise the complexion of their voice.
And the fireflies aren't organized like clips in a machine gun.
They snipe at you one by one from the bushes like bad shots
playing paint ball with your eyes. But let's not track
our starmaps into the house of life like the slime of morning snails
trying to resilver the mirrors of last night's telescopes
in their own image. Let's acknowledge how unreal
everything is the more familiar you become
with your own stranger who isn't interested
in standing at the gate waiting for you to look up
from the cemeteries you're planting like secret gardens
in preparation for spring. Just because you
take the lead in the dance doesn't turn your partner
into a lost follower anymore than the brown star of Jupiter
is a disappointment to the sun, or the bone-box of the moon
is any less of a sacred reliquary releasing the wind
to sweep the oceans off their feet with the breath
of God waltzing in three four time with the brides of life
like apple bloom in orchards of moonlight opening their eyes
like whitecaps stepping like Venus out of their own surf.
Patrick White's Other Poems
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Comments about this poem (Silence, Most Eloquent Ghost Of My Oceanic Emotions by Patrick White )
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(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
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- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
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