depth of distance

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“ready for the exile we call a home”….

Leaving the Island
David Whyte

It must have been
the slant of the light,
the sheer cross-grain of rain
against a summer sun,
the way the island appeared
gifted, out of the gleam
and depth of distance,
so that when you turned
to look again,
the scend of the sea
has carried you on,
under the headland
and into the waiting harbour.

And after the pilgrim lanes,
and the ruined chapel,
the lads singing beneath the window,
and the Corn-Crake calling from
a corner of a field,
after the gull cries and the sea-hush
at the back of the island,
it was the way, standing still
or looking out,
walking or even talking
with others in the evening bar,
holding your drink
and laughing with the rest,
that you realized-part of you
had already dropped to its knees,
to pray, to sing, to look-
to fall in love with everything
and everyone again, that someone
from deep inside you had come out
into the sea-light to raise its hands
and forgive everyone in your short life
you thought you hadn’t, and that all along
you had been singing your quiet way
through the rosary of silence
that held their names.

Above all, the way afterwards,
you thought you had left the island
but hadn’t, the way you knew
you had gone somewhere
into the shimmering light
and come out again on the tide
as you knew you had to,
as someone who would return
and live in the world again,
a man granted just a glimpse,
a woman granted just a glimpse,
someone half a shade braver,
a standing silhouette in the stern,
holding the rail,
riding the long waves back,
ready for the exile we call a home.

swerve in the light

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An Almost
David Whyte

An almost,
a something
just beyond me,
a swerve in the light,
and a passing blur
like a peregrine
from a cliff edge,
sometimes a darkness,
a pushing away,
a not wanting,
often a digging in,
a head down
concentration working
against a coal face
of nothing,
a breathing close
and at the same time
a fight for breath.

Many times, a someone
I do not recognize,
a wondering if,
a hand in mine,
pulling me on,
above all, an invitation,
and always in the end
a lovely and difficult surprise,
like silk torn in two,
a rested view from
a high window,
passion followed
by real love,
and like love,
an edge and then
the willingness
for the necessary
but as yet
unannounced
sacrifice.

Always a death,
the passing by
of a grave
on the way
to somewhere else,
my hat dipping
slowly in calm respect,
above the grave
birdsong,
yes, happy birdsong,
then not birdsong,
mourning,
an annunciation
not quite heard,
a frontier
deep in the chest;
most of all,
being called
a sense of great migration
a needing to leave,
a wanting to cross.

Then, that good day,
standing on the threshold
between this world
and the next,
like the crest of a pass,
and the path
going over, through cloud,
about to descend
to the promised land,
the flurry of wind telling me
I’m about to free myself
of an upward way,
my vision a notch in the sky
opening wide,
and above the lark song
filling the living, breathing world,
with its own anticipation,
its own way looking back
at me, and through me,
and like me, always
found in a new light,
always ready to be
wanted again.

effervescent unarticulated

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Newly Married
David Whyte
Awake at midnight
in the darkened
house,
I look up
at the full, bright
white circle
of the moon
and walk aglow
in the pale light,
the frost outside
a perfect reflected
snow of whiteness
edging
my lifted hands,
against the spreading
night, my pointed finger
following, through
a window pane,
a single glittering
star adrift
in a vault
of the black sky,
while around me
the moonlight
paints every single wall
a shade
of silvered white,
outlining
the dark, moving center
of the silhouette
I call a self.

In a life defined
by difficult
passages
I am that
rare tidal
hardly ever
experienced thing,
a walking
glowing, undefined
lamp of anticipatory
happiness, looking
over the roof tops
of an unsuspecting world,
a disturbing
effervescent unarticulated
someone who has
promised something
he has promised
to reflect on
and live through
and come to understand.

Beneath the covers
I hear her
silent breathing
like an unspoken
vow to the luminous
circle of all the seasons,
to the coming and going
of breath and memory,
to the spring before
we knew each other,
to the end of the moist
Irish summer
when we first had met,
and then to that
Italian October
still living in our cells,
when we walked
in Florence
among the
falling leaves.

One thing
I have learned.

How difficult
it is to die
from my disbelief
and kneel
down
to the truer
underlying
font of happiness
waiting to break
the enclosing surface,
to believe
in my body that
I deserve
the full spacious
sense of
not being
thirsty anymore,
of living
a present
contentment.

But this spacious
season,
this cold winter night,
following a mid-winter
wedding,
under the pale white
moon
or the frosted sun,
I am strangely
in the midst
of this happiness,
full of memories
of past happiness,
as if I could hold
each epoch
in my
hands again.

I am full
of clear forgiveness
to what clouded
that happiness
and I am careful
and alert to what
is needed to
keep our present
joy.

I am a groom
to the possibility
my vows expressed
and my hands
and my arms
and my speech
and my thoughts
are shaped
to the care
of that possibility.

She sleeps
and I walk
under the moon
close to her
breath and her body,
not wanting
to wake her,
wanting to wake
and reach for
her sleeping hand
under the covers
to feel that slowly
curling palm
in mine telling me
this happiness is
unutterably ancient,
living at a rested
eternal center
where I have allowed
myself
to come to ground,
and fall,
all at the same time,
which is after all
not only
a foundation
and a falling toward
the other,
but toward
a shared future
never experienced
before,
to become real
on both the inside
and the outside
in the company of another
and I realize
as I take her hand
under the moonlight,
that I have been
newly
married all my life,
courting the
morning
hours since
childhood,
down on my knees
to the possibilities
of the day,
alert, in the ferry line
off the island,
to every
pilgrim possibility
of travel,
committed fully
to the next view
along the road,
to the beckoning
horizon
of everything
that appears
and disappears,
like the
miracle touch
of this palm in mine,
so physical,
so real,
this frosted
silver
evanescent night
amidst
all the
grievous
vanishing.

I want to open
the doors
to the garden
and stride out
into the quiet
neighborhood,
knocking on doors
and waking everyone
from their own quiet
romance with sleep,
shouting,
I am a man
in
love with
possibility,
and most
especially,
most intimately
most surprisingly,
as they stand
there in their
pyjamed
surprised,
wondering
at their
previously sane
neighbor
now pointing
at the
frosted upstairs
windows
of our nearby house,
with that one particular
form of possibility
sleeping so quietly,
so unsuspectingly,
so companionably,
so warmly
beneath
the moonlit sheets.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

self-forgetting

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Just Beyond Yourself
David Whyte

Just beyond
yourself.

It’s where
you need
to be.

Half a step
into
self-forgetting
and the rest
restored
by what
you’ll meet.

There is a road
always beckoning.

When you see
the two sides
of it
closing together
at that far horizon
and deep in
the foundations
of your own
heart
at exactly
the same
time,
that’s how
you know
it’s the road
you
have
to follow.

That’s how
you know
it’s where
you
have
to go.

That’s how
you know
you have
to go.

That’s
how you know.

Just beyond
yourself,
it’s
where you
need to be.

Photo by Penguinuhh on Unsplash

still-lived memory

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Cleave
David Whyte

To hold together and to split apart
at one and the same time,
like the shock of being born,
breathing in this world
while lamenting for the one we’ve left.

No one needs to tell us
we are already on our onward way,
no one has to remind us
of our everyday and intimate
embrace
with disappearance.

We were born saying goodbye
to what we love,
we were born
in a beautiful reluctance,
not quite ready
to breathe in this new world,
we are here and we are not,
we are present while still not
wanting to admit we have arrived.

Not quite arrived in our minds
yet always arriving in the body,
always growing older
while trying to grow younger,
always in the act
of catching up,
of saying hello
or saying goodbye
finding strangely,
in each new and imagined future
the still-lived memory
of a previous,
precious life.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash

wished for something else

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The Well of Grief
David Whyte
Those who will not slip beneath
the still surface on the well of grief,

turning down through its black water
to the place we cannot breathe,

will never know the source from which we drink,
the secret water, cold and clear,

nor find in the darkness glimmering,

the small round coins,
thrown by those who wished for something else.

sweet darkness

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For J.

Sweet Darkness
David Whyte
When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.

When your vision has gone,
no part of the world can find you.

It’s time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.

There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.

The dark will be your home
tonight.

The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.

Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.

Sometimes it takes darkness
and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn

anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive

is too small for you.