Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
In The Ceaseless Silence
In the ceaseless silence, is it my soul I address
in these barely audible whispers of blood,
you, are you there, a friend to me, aloof companion,
intimate stranger, are you just the longing of an echo
after the nightbird's flown, the light that goes on shining
well after the star is dead? Did I create you
out of the loneliness of my imagination
to talk to under the stars down by the river,
where life seems so sad and beautiful much of the time
and even the most trivial seems supercharged
with a significance that bears no resemblance
to the tiny fireflies of meaning I attribute to the stars,
vaprous candles sublimating in the blaze they try to illuminate,
my eyes, mere raindrops in an infinite sea of awareness?
Science too dazzling right now to be wholly credible,
blinded by its light, its field of view narrowed
by its own expansiveness, is there sorcery beyond this
that isn't quantumly entangled like you and I in the same dilemma
or is it all clear to you who you are and what you're doing here,
my simulacrum, my shadow, the dream under my deathmask
that will carry on without me like a creekbed in the absence of rain
waiting to return to consciousness like a fish buried
in the sediment of its own starmud, an urn in a kiln
baked to hold its own ashes like the prophetic skull of the moon
until you return again like an atmosphere and the wind
delights in making the waters of life tremble with anticipation
all that has thrived and died within them shall be renewed again
in your presence standing at the gates of all my arrivals and departures
as if your greeting and farewell were one and the same
gesture of acknowledgment. Or am I second-guessing myself
in a monologue of the alone with the alone that sees
eye to eye with me as if we both made each other up
creator and creature of our interdependent origination?
It's late on the graveyard shift and I can't help asking
though I know you won't answer, am I at least getting
the questions right? In this floating world, are there
shipwrecks at the bottom of a mirage, or are we
walking on stars like spiders at the edge of a lake
trying to connect the dots like a waterclock of constellations?
Are we pearl diving in these bubbles of life
for new moons that will help to keep us afloat
by keeping us self-contained like fishing buoys and crystal skulls?
Mindstreams digging our own graves in our travels,
do we labour to see what we have achieved undone
by hands as busy as ours once were? Are we
working at one another like habitable planets, spiritual proxies
of each other's supersymmetrical afterlives,
the interreflection of moonrise in an hourglass,
the donkey looking into the well, the well looking back at the donkey?
Times I feel I know what you want of me
and you're easy to adapt to by holding my mirroring awareness
up to you like a shapeshifter, like a lake to the moon,
a candleflame talking to the wind, and things seem
to find their own equilibrium like water flowing
into puddles of starmud and the clouds not getting dirty.
My earthenware integrity is renewed in the peace I enjoy with you
and nothing is excluded. Resigned to whatever
diminishment must be endured as the aperture narrows
the cat's eye of the needle I'm trying to thread
with a narrative theme that could weld the disparate parts
of my discontinuity into something whole like a loaf of bread
I left out for the ghosts or some kind of chrysalis
I can crawl out of to dry my wings like a dragon
on the celestial parapets of the waterlilies, or the sunset
of a scar that did the decent thing and gave the wound a proper burial,
fulfilled in a way that's more a grace of the moment
than a reward for anything that was done or left undone,
the shadows of my life are reconciled to the light that's casting them.
It's wisdom and beauty, untroubled freedom
and the lyrical enlightenment of inconceivable myriads
just to be alive as a peer of your complementary presence
I'm always breaking into like a star in a windowpane.
But what does it mean to have lived in vain? To spend
the whole of your life on your hands and your knees
looking for a key in a duststorm, whether it's gold or dirt
that's lashing your eyes into tears? Time's holy commandment.
Don't waste it. You might wish you hadn't later on.
Not because any immaculate omnipotence is going
to punish you for it but the very sin of omission is itself
the karmic nemesis that arises synchronistically
like a teaching device that doesn't impart anything to you
you don't already know. It's crucial not to underestimate
the inconceivable. To tempt the truth out of hiding
when you're not prepared for it, duped by your own ideals.
When the stars aren't there, our eyes are the less for it.
For the lack of other signs, even a mirage sometimes
serves as a direction of prayer like a scaffolding serves
the bigger picture without intending to. Reality is not
a static state of mind, it's a supratemporal creative event
and everything that happens, irrevocably once, indelible as space,
inseparable as the moon from its reflection on the lake,
is neither fictive nor true, not one, not two, no gap
like an abyss that must be bridged between one
distinct extremity and another, no thought moment
billions of lightyears old between you and I.
I hear you like music in a dream, I see you like a mindscape
painted in fire, I think of you as the bone-box of my innocence,
the avatar that embodies my experience of the intangible,
my scarecrow, my voodoo doll, my dolmen, my anti-self
my strawdog, my mentor, my buddha, my fool,
and a dead branch flowers on a rootless tree,
as we differentiate ourselves collaboratively
in the ceaseless silence of our configurative unions,
the many returning to the one, the one returning
to transcendence, whole in every part.
Five petals of a flower open and one hand blooms.
Comments about this poem (In The Ceaseless Silence by Patrick White )
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