Failure of Communion
What is the space between,
enclosing us in one
united person, yet
dividing each alone.
Frail bridges cross from eye
to eye, from flesh to flesh,
from word to word: the net
is gapped at every mesh,
and this each human knows:
however close our touch
or intimate our speech,
silences, spaces reach
most deep, and will not close.
The moon drained white by day
lifts from the hill
where the old pear-tree fallen in storm
springs up in blossom still.
Women believe in the moon:
this branch I hold
is not more white and still than she
whose flower is ages old,
and so I carry home
flowers from the pear
that makes such obstinate tokens still
for fruit it cannot bear.
The small blue Arab stallion dances on the hill
like a glancing breaker, like a storm rearing in the sky,
In his prick-ears,the wind, that wanderer and spy,
sings of the dunes of Arabia, lion-coloured still.
The small blue stallion poses like a centaur-god,
netting the sun in his sea-spray mane, forgetting
his stalwart mares for a phantom galloping unshod;
changing for a heat-mirage his tall and velvet hill.
Now my five senses
gather into a meaning
all acts, all presences;
and as a lily gathers
the elements together,
in me this dark and shining,
that stillness and that moving,
these shapes that spring from nothing,
become a rhythm that dances,
a pure design.
While I'm in my five senses
they send me spinning
all sounds and silences,
all shape and colour
as thread for that weaver,
whose web within me growing
follows beyond my knowing
some pattern sprung from nothing-
a rhythm that dances
[...] Read more
Along the road the magpies walk
with hands in pockets, left and right.
They tilt their heads, and stroll and talk.
In their well-fitted black and white.
They look like certain gentlemen
who seem most nonchalant and wise
until their meal is served - and then
what clashing beaks, what greedy eyes!
But not one man that I have heard
throws back his head in such a song
of grace and praise - no man nor bird.
Their greed is brief; their joy is long.
For each is born with such a throat
as thanks his God with every note.
All things conspire
All things conspire to hold me from you –
even my love,
since that would mask you and unname you
till merely woman and man we live.
All men wear arms against the rebel –
and they are wise,
since the sound world they know and stable
is eaten away by lovers’ eyes.
All things conspire to stand between us –
even you and I,
who still command us, still unjoin us,
and drive us forward till we die.
Not till those fiery ghosts are laid
shall we be one.
Till then, they whet our double blade
and use the turning world for stone.
Once as I travelled through a quiet evening,
I saw a pool, jet-black and mirror-still.
Beyond, the slender paperbarks stood crowding;
each on its own white image looked its fill,
and nothing moved but thirty egrets wading -
thirty egrets in a quiet evening.
Once in a lifetime, lovely past believing,
your lucky eyes may light on such a pool.
As though for many years I had been waiting,
I watched in silence, till my heart was full
of clear dark water, and white trees unmoving,
and, whiter yet, those thirty egrets wading.
The song is gone; the dance
is secret with the dancers in the earth,
the ritual useless, and the tribal story
lost in an alien tale.
Only the grass stands up
to mark the dancing-ring; the apple-gums
posture and mime a past corroboree,
murmur a broken chant.
The hunter is gone; the spear
is splintered underground; the painted bodies
a dream the world breathed sleeping and forgot.
The nomad feet are still.
Only the rider's heart
halts at a sightless shadow, an unsaid word
that fastens in the blood of the ancient curse,
the fear as old as Cain.
The Old Prison
The rows of cells are unroofed,
a flute for the wind's mouth,
who comes with a breath of ice
from the blue caves of the south.
O dark and fierce day:
the wind like an angry bee
hunts for the black honey
in the pits of the hollow sea.
Waves of shadow wash
the empty shell bone-bare,
and like a bone it sings
a bitter song of air.
Who built and laboured here?
The wind and the sea say
-Their cold nest is broken
and they are blown away-
[...] Read more
The Company Of Lovers
We meet and part now over all the world;
we, the lost company,
take hands together in the night, forget
the night in our brief happiness, silently.
We, who sought many things, throw all away
for this one thing, one only,
remembering that in the narrow grave
we shall be lonely.
Death marshalls up his armies round us now.
Their footsteps crowd too near.
Lock your warm hand above the chilling heart
and for a time I live without my fear.
Grope in the night to find me and embrace,
for the dark preludes of the drums begin,
and round us round the company of lovers,
death draws his cordons in.