Deep In The Night - Poem by Patrick White
Deep in the night that shells its husk of blue
to pan the nuggets of its stars from a darker stream,
the heart an executioner with a fistful of pardons,
and the soft, moist, lulling of the evening air,
the threshing of slow fish,
I'm enthroned alone in a crucial palace of light
that realigns its domains to the borders of the wind,
and I don't want to feel lonely but I do,
and I don't want to miss so many, so many faces
stripped from the bough like a savaged telephone-book,
so many feathers of light drifting through the shadows of their names,
and the black granite of the uncarved bell
that turtles the blood under the eyelid of the knowing,
that makes my eyes want to scream
until the pillars of the dead sea fall like rotten salt:
how long can one road endure the passage of everything
walking life off into the stars that measure the miles in skulls?
Was I young? Were you there in the brindled moonlight?
Did I remember how to love you well; did I see with long eyes
how you rose out of the chest of the hills like a spirit leaving,
the blue effulgence of your nebulous departure
almost a cocoon of morning mist, the last breath of a lake
as if an indigo thistle released its silk to the wind
or a dandelion relinquished its ivory mane?
Were you the soul of me that lingered by gates and wharves?
Have you come back now with your bells of blood and lamps of flesh?
Can I feel again the leaves of the silver herbs
in the gardens of your fingertips?
Touch me like the breaking of a fast,
find me like a river in the night,
the dazzled theme of a wandering valley,
and pour your journey into mine like stars into a vine,
shadows running down the worn convictions of the stairs,
the midnight wines of old eclipses in the goblets of your eyes.
Once for the flame that dances on the wick of the tongue,
Once for the orchards that plead with the heart for birds,
Once for the envelope that read the letter it married,
and you, by the river, a sapphire among rocks,
tender blue grass in the translucent water-skin of the night,
loving me once as if your hands were autumns full of departure
and your eyes, the gulf of the world in your eyes, your eyes
were the soft flowing of the dark honeys
that leak from the wounded hives
we carry like knives to the grave.
Distinguished among broken clocks,
sultry and bitter, a quarantined bay of refugee stars,
caught in the threshing blades of a circular waterfall,
a mess of tents I've furloughed across the milky distances
like a chain-letter from a secret constellation to you,
I blue the intimate spaces between us with time
and patch the maps with the confluence of our lifelines
and try to restore the eyes in the sockets of our bridges
under a brow of swallows in the dusk. And I remember
all the names of the flowers, all the names of the stars,
all the badges of love that heaven and earth once offered
in lieu of the reasons why
love bares the skin of a poppy
to the teeth of the hunting sun
and then flares like a firefly
over the water-lamps of the moon,
but when it dies of its own self-inflicted wounds,
slashed by shadows among the ripe fruit of its vowels,
and the seed wasn't asked and the harvest had no choice
there are always two skies,
one bound by roots, the other, eyes,
at the back of every voice.
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