Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
This Strange Sadness Ripening In My Heart
This strange vastness ripening in my heart
that makes me ache with sorrow like a farewell
to the waterbirds in autumn though it’s only
nearing August, and the loons and the kingfishers
are far from gone. And the stars are all wrong. Why?
A new start or the beginning of giving up?
Life in death. Death in life. Fire in the tomb.
Water in the womb, or is it solely human
to go on failing your way into the unknown
trying to make a gift of a gift and all you’ve got for ribbons
are a few shadows cast like words and longing
for the mysterious silence, the unseen spirit
that bids you leave your eyes in the doorway
and enter a wholly disarming space where
the nothing you’ve become can overhear
in the formidable distance, reminiscent echoes
of who you thought you were. And a mindstream
moving like a hidden nightcreek, a pageant of images
bleeding into one another like a watercolour
being creative about its tears. An evanescent chaos
tinged with moondogs and rainbows, all the homely eternities
of an intimacy with time that never makes a promise to anyone
it can’t break like a tree in a thunderstorm.
And there in the heartwood, a calendar of the springs
that have passed like ripples of rain, grail by grail
because what makes the things of life seem holy
appears to be that they share in being as lost among us
as we are to ourselves among them. Comes a thought
like the silhouette of a bat against the moon
and then it’s gone again as if the seeing of anything
goes way beyond what it means. Gapes with significance
because of its passing away. And where within us,
for all the remoteness of our solitude could we hold it
like water and sand in our hands, without limiting
the openness we pass through like waterclocks
in a labyrinth of locks that may raise our spirits a moment
like a lifeboat on the horizon, but as things approach
three bells are ringing all’s well like a nightwatch
on a shipwreck that lost its sense of buoyancy
the seventh time down? As if the hour had marked its place
in the gills of a purple passage in its last entry in its logbook
with a golden hook like a question mark between
the first and last parentheses of its waning and waxing crescents.
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