Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
Soft liberation going on underground
as if someone left the gate to my heart open
and the horses are grazing in sidereal pastures
and there’s no turmoil in the wind blowing
the leaves around burning off their idle energy.
Don’t know what it is. The stump of the candle
shedding the spirit of its flame, the way life
dreams at this station of my eyes like a firetower
on an autumn night, or just the stars celebrating
something that has ended well without my knowing.
Bliss in the freedom of this night to keep
its secrets to itself as the mystery deepens
in my blood like wine that’s been sleeping
a long time in a cool, dark place that smells
as if it’s been smothered in moss and now
it’s time to breathe easy under the stars
and marvel at all a human has to go through
to ripen into the second innocence of the return journey
when exile turns around, and almost without noticing
you’re no longer bound by the prodigality
of your homelessness firewalking the thresholds
of the burning ladder that let you down
from paradise, unscathed like the eye-witness
of a window you had to break to see out of.
New England asters blooming among
the apples in the hair-braided grass in a shaft
of morning light that shocked the beatitudes
out of you, as if something inconceivably remote
had just expressed itself in the intimate beauty
of the moment and you understood something
profound about life without knowing what it was,
but it didn’t matter because it would be with you
for the rest of your life and further if there’s
an eternity with wildflowers in it that can
fix your gaze on the radiance of being possessed
by your eyes like dark angels that arose
out your starmud, cloaked in light, hidden secrets
that let it be known to each of us in silence
they’re manifest in every breath they take away
in an ambush of wonder that’s less like prayer than play.
Maybe it’s perishing that mends our estranged childhoods
as a concession to the abyss at the end
of the passage up ahead that roars like a waterclock
plunging over a precipice, but for the moment,
I’m clear again as a boy in the Indian summer of my soul
and I’m appreciatively intrigued by my fascination
for the way all things are the way they are as if
I’d wholly forgotten what it is I used to compare them to,
long ago, do you remember, when our shadows
didn’t come forward like undertakers measuring us up
for our graves and we broke curfew under the moonrise
and all death ever meant to us was all it would ever mean?
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