Patrick White (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)
So Far From Home For So Long
So far from home for so long I’m beginning to feel
I belong to this self-imposed exile that keeps whispering
like the miles and the stars and the far off voices
of the waterbirds lifting off unnamed lakes at night,
move on, move on, through the next gate, doorway,
field, rite of passage, into a deeper, darker space
where you can hear the loneliness of the light
singing to itself as its fingertips read your face like Braille
to see what kind of man you were before sorrow taught you
your eyes were bells of water hanging from a blade
of stargrass that never really knew what it was crying about
except for the hidden mercy in letting go into a farewell
it remains to be seen will last forever or not.
You haven’t come far enough if you can still
recognize yourself as the stranger that left home
as an old man or woman apprenticed to a child
you couldn’t discipline like an impetuous life
that admits of no masters. And takes possession of none.
Once you get over the mixed emotions of the tears
in your eyes at a blissful insight into your liberation,
the amazing moonrise over the birch groves,
the broken menagerie of an ice-storm’s chandeliers
you discovered reflecting as much light in pieces
as it did when it hung like rain from the lobe of a lover’s ear.
And then comes a night that closes over everything
you could possibly dream of being, like an iron eyelid,
and you’re chilled to the marrow by the mystic terror
of your cosmic solitude, and your heart is a bucket
the bottom fell out of as if time had stopped its waterclock.
And there’s no plausible way to say what’s happening
to you, except you’re alone in the world like a secret
you can’t even share with yourself because you’ve run out
of opposites and your shadows are no longer attached
to the light that cast them. Unruly forms bite their tongues
like lightning rods, and the silence stops stammering
in metaphors that reveal the dissimilarities of their likeness
to everything that preoccupies the moment
with an awareness of the unitive life of existence.
Neither zero, nor one, but not two, not two, not two,
neither denying nor affirming, not waxing, not waning,
as if you could feel the pulse of the universe beating
in your own heart, and there is no God, and there is no you
to be known in isolation, except for the fallen plum of a sparrow
in the palm of your hand you absurdly cherish
like the wounded death wish of a lamp that hasn’t gone out
when death is the inspiration that keeps you
perishing deeper into life as if you were staring
a dragon in the eyes on the inside alone together with everyone
as they were when they were a child closer to each other
than they are now. When we trusted the unknown more
than the nothing we can know about it, and innocence
were a perennial state of life like an entrance without
any sign of an exit closing like a barred door behind us
as if there were no need to ever come back this way.
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