A Feeling In The Heart That Overwhelms Thought Poem by Patrick White
A feeling in the heart that overwhelms thought.
Can the stars feel our pain like distant neurons?
Thorns blunted in moments like this, the hands of time
almost folded in prayer like the wings of a nightbird
whose lament has seized the air with something
so sad and true, everything that lives,
and everything lives, can sense it,
even though they can't think it or say it.
The vigil of sentience is arrested by the same
mysterious note of suffering that binds us to everything
in the courage that it takes to live it beautifully
by burning with insight to flower compassionately
in the midst of the heretical flames of our own damnation.
The presence, the friend, the blaze, an affable familiar,
enlightenment or an expedient delusion of an hour or two
when pain isn't the personal possession of anyone,
and a vision emerges that supersedes empathy
when even the demons cry alone for things they can't explain,
too deep for tears, though they're never far away,
when a kind of peace overtakes you from behind
and there's heart break in the clearing of the clouds
and you know you haven't lived humbly enough
to see it without fear, but you open your eyes
and look anyway and they're seared
by the dragon of awareness looking back at you
as if you could feel every mystic detail of hurt in the world,
time past, present, and to come, all at once,
a bolt of black lightning splitting your bones open
like an oak to expose your heartwood to the stars
as if the scars just fell off a chronic wound that never heals.
And there's no injunction behind this devastating insight
into the pervasive depths of the grief that must be endured
as one of the terrible conditions of life if for no other reason,
and reason's always a small guess, than to live to be aware of it
and try to love one another better than we're capable of.
To fail at what we're trying to attain from the unattainable
because there's no love in the acquisition of anything
we can get our hands on in a world of forms and dream figures
that are always passing away from us like roads
that leave us walking alone with the moon
for our only companion, wondering where the others went
who used to chatter in the trees like homing birds
about whether you were a threat or just another lost soul
going anywhere in the defeated hope that he might be found
even though what he seeks is doing the looking
and there's nothing retroactive about our eyes
that can creatively repeat the immediacy of our seeing.
Eternity wounds the children of time like wild flowers
at the end of autumn, and the harvest dance is ruined by death.
And whenever and whatever we celebrate, it's as much
of a protest singing through our tears like light
in the false dawns of our candles and chandeliers,
as it is a party. If we act happy, maybe that's half the proof
we were born to be, even alone at night in the woods,
saturated with decay, trying to convince ourselves
all passage is the prelude to the renewal of a recurrent dream.
And may it be so. May it be imaginal and necessary.
May delusion always be the cornerstone of enlightenment
and the impact of meteors always splash us in diamonds
like the tears of the fires of life that don't wash off.
May what's already been given to you always outweigh
the reward of what you think you laboured for
so your gifts perpetually exceed the limits of your just deserts,
and the praeternatural walk beside you like the dark sage
of everything that remains to be known but can't be
until you learn there's nothing to master in the stillness.
In the silence. In the essential grammar of the abyss
which is us trying to express ourselves like mediums
of our own minds with these nouns of sorrow, verbs of bliss
of the whippoorwill, the hermit thrush, the barred owl,
the starling and the mockingbird singing without meaning
anything to anyone but themselves like an artist or a child.
The heart of the petty is always a compass needle
Zen-duelling over the proper direction of prayer
as if it were swinging a sword over your head,
but among those born demonically blessed enough
to be self-defeatingly great in the name
of a few noble absurdities they'd prefer to live than explain,
this feeling that flows through you like electricity
through a glacier, that fills you like a silo of suffering
is the spear head that's embedded in the starmud of your heart
you can't pull out and you can't push through
given there's no exit, no entrance on the enclosures of life,
whether it be a secret garden, or a famous grave,
or you just want to be let off your leash like a playful dog
to chase the nurses like gulls on the terminal night ward,
or not cry out in pain to prove you're a Mongol of the soul,
this emotion that makes you feel so empty
in the light of the truth of the enormity of the pain
that's been overcome by life through the agony
of everything that's been endured for no one's sake
to vitally accommodate the unassessible transformations,
of sentience adapting to its cruellest mutations,
and so surfeited with it all in the shadow of a lie,
this is the birthmark of that counter intuition
that makes life worthy of being lived against the odds
of ever being able to justify it to yourself or God, the zeitgeist
or anyone else in need of a proxy or a paraclete
to moderate the human divinity that's been bestowed upon us,
at the very least, by virtue of our suffering
and the unknown voice in the void of its release.
Patrick White's Other Poems
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