Patrick White

Rookie (September l5, l948 / Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada)

Stranger In The Leaving - Poem by Patrick White

Stranger in the leaving
than you were before you came.
Is it not always so
when people separate?
Lovers who knew each other intimately for years
close their gates to each other
and say each others' name
as if they weren't philosopher's stones anymore.
And the base metal outweighs the gold that comes of it.
Alone with the alone
in the abyss of the absolutes
what was vivid and vital
turns numb as glass
and what was mystically specific about the other
is no longer a shrine that holds the secret name of God.
Stranger in the leaving
than you were before you came.
You leave with some of my memes
as I leave with some of yours
and we are both no doubt slightly changed for good
by the reciprocity of the encounter
like hydrogen and oxygen make water.
Though now it's all tears frozen on the moon.
Good-bye my lovely
I shall miss your eyes and your skin
and the thrill of your dangerous heart.
I will miss your wounded mouth
I tried to heal with messianic kisses
that never walked on anything but the earth.
And there's no blame
you couldn't fit my lunar month
into your solar calendar.
We had everything in common except time
and our faults were as compatible as our virtues.
I will miss the rumours of alien life in the wavelengths of your hair.
I shall miss losing myself like a firefly
in the wishing wells of your eyes
even if now my own seem more
like impact craters in the prophetic skull of the moon
when I consider what's leaving like an atmosphere from this mindscape.
And I shall always remember
that your heart was as generous as your breasts
and whenever we made love
how the earthly was the envy of the spiritual fact.
You didn't want anyone to know you were gentle.
Not even me.
But I could see through that mask
eyebrow to eyebrow with you
as if we both were intent on showing the same face to the earth
like the crescent fangs of a Georgia moon that said
don't step on me
because we were afraid.
More than enough to have you in the nude
I wasn't a glutton for your nakedness
that demanded you take your illusions off
to prove you loved me.
It would have been an irreverence
beyond the aspirations of heresy
to witness you renewing your virginity
like the new moon bathing in a sea of shadows.
I never tried to pry the petals of the flowers open
before they were ready to bloom.
I was never the ant
that told the peony what to do.
I never tried to look under the closed eyelids of the rose
to see what it was dreaming.
Though I'm not into voodoo
I never desecrated
the bird shrines
of your involuntary taboos.
But now I look in your eyes
and see that yesterday
is less vivid than tomorrow
though neither of them has happened yet.
The new moon is all potential
The full moon all used up.
There are effigies of potential
standing like scarecrows
in late autumn cornfields
and paragons of actuality
who love to star in constellations
that make them out to be the hero.
I try to stay
and I end up going.
I try to go
and the earth moves underfoot.
The root feels the death of its flower
as the autumn stars turn into frost
and burn its petals like old loveletters
to the immensities that didn't have time to read them.
The harmonies of life
are distinguished from the harmonies of death
by a single breath
taken in
and turned out
into the vast expanses of where it came from in the first place.
And the spirit that isn't shy of its own lucidity
knows that everything it illuminates
whether by day or by night
has the lifespan of light
and light is the brainchild of the darkness.
So even when the lights go out
like people and candles
and us
the shadows go on blooming
and even when the stars
are a gust of ghosts at our heels
the dust is rich
with the memory of all the roads
that once got lost in us
trying to find their way back home
like blood and fire and spirit
as if their final destination
were always the place they started from.
And if in the lightyears ahead
you should ever wonder if I remember you
be deeply assured
I shall remember you
as if every footstep I took
were a threshold of this homelessness
I am brave enough to cross without you.
And I shall thank you for this courage
inspired by the muse of your absence
and the feel of my blood Doppler-shift toward
long meditative wavelengths of red
that stream from the intensity
of the wounded white-hot blue of a renewed beginning.
You can't teach a bird to fly in a cage
or snakes to bite other people.
But when I first met you
it was as if the serpent-fire at the base of my spinal cord
that was running to keep its thoughts aloft like kites
suddenly had wings
and all my dirt-bag myths
that crawled on the earth among the lowest
were elevated into constellations
that burned like dragons among the chandeliers.
And when the muses of life well up in me like water
as they will
and ask me back
for all the tears they've shed on the sorrow
of the way things had to be
between you and me
for them and us
to happen the way we did
I will show them the eternal flame
of the nightwaterlily
blooming in the clear fire
of its lonely lucidity
not even the rain
the dragon brings
can aspire to put out.
I will show them the sun.
I will show them the moon.
And I'll say
you see?
That's us forever.
That swan in the heart of a phoenix.
And they will be well-pleased with the beauty of the lies
I use to shadow the truth with compassionate alibis
for why the flowers fall.
Sometimes it's the bird that swims through stone
and the snake that flys
in a profusion of fire and water
shadow and form
darkness and light
intensity and death
madness and wisdom.
Sometimes you meet someone
and you realize
this fallible flesh just as it is
is the deepest longing of the spirit fulfilled
like light in a perishable garden.
That there are no flaming swords
in the hands of the angels
at the wounded gates of our exile
trying to keep anything in or out.
Stranger in the leaving
than you were before you came.
The knowledge we have of each other
might want to keep things the same
but like all living things
in this garden of creation
the only way to sustain our innocence
is change.

Comments about Stranger In The Leaving by Patrick White

  • Pranab K Chakraborty (4/2/2012 1:05:00 AM)

    Wisdom flows spontaneously like a river. Very hard to hold such trance at a single reading. It needs long attention. Many lines are astonishing. Nice cultivation. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 2, 2012

Poem Edited: Monday, April 2, 2012

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