Sunday, January 12, 2014

David Whyte: Ten years later

David Whyte has visited this blog earlier, in his poem The Well of Grief, as well as his poem called Faith.

This poem, called Ten Years Later, shares an underlying depth and silence with the other two. This is what most draws me to his writing.

It is in the latter half of this poem that I feel the almost magical depth and quiet when waking at the edge of the unknown is floating up through his words. The first half more serves as preparation and analogy to the latter. Which of course means that it is completely necessary to and part of the depth of the ending, laying the ground for our mind, heart and being to take in the whole.

Let's see the poem first:



TEN YEARS LATER

When the mind is clear
and the surface of the now still,
now swaying water

slaps against
the rolling kayak,

I find myself near darkness,
paddling again to Yellow Island.

Every spring wildflowers
cover the grey rocks.

Every year the sea breeze
ruffles the cold and lovely pearls
hidden in the center of the flowers

as if remembering them
by touch alone.

A calm and lonely, trembling beauty
that frightened me in youth.

Now their loneliness
feels familiar, one small thing
I've learned these years,

how to be alone,
and at the edge of aloneness
how to be found by the world.

Innocence is what we allow
to be gifted back to us
once we've given ourselves away.

There is one world only,
the one to which we gave ourselves
utterly, and to which one day

we are blessed to return.

***

This is a rather long poem if haiku and the like model the way you prefer poetic expression -- understatement and synthesis of language, image and understanding being key terms. Still, if you hold it in your mind, it feels like a haiku. It speaks from the same place throughout, beginning with more earthy expressions and then honing it in to the bone of the (dark) matter.

The aloneness in the centre of the flowers is a trembling, goosebumply beautiful image that almost makes me cry -- certainly shivering. I can understand so well what he means when he says this used to frighten him in youth. Cold yet lovely pearls in the centre of a flowering beauty limited to a short summer, hinting of a great aloneness and a terrific and terrifying beauty. Beauty and innocence can be hard to bear.

And then how the 'I' after a break of all the years until present knows this loneliness from inside. With it a certain nobleness comes, I feel; the nobility of being human, the nobility that lies in humanness. Big, puffy words, perhaps, but this I feel to be true. Being human -- or 'the human condition', if you like, includes the sheerest simplicity, the purest innocence, the deepest aloneness. And in this state of humanness we can sink into the quiet and depth of knowing ourselves from within, which usually is accompanied by the aloneness Whyte refers to.

'How to be alone'. How simple and beautiful these words are, and almost blurred by the surrounding sentences in this poem. "One small thing / I've learned these years, / how to be alone, / and at the edge of aloneness / how to be found by the world." This ending, this rounding up and padding of the central statement 'how to be alone' is so ...simple, clear, gentle. Three words which I find to be connected with 'humanness'. Aloneness is important and necessary in order to know oneself and function from a substantial and personal place, but so also is 'being found by the world' -- particularly important, I think, when you have lowered yourself into that quiet and spacious place of personal knowing and recognition.

The interplay between aloneness and being found by the world. That is paramount in these lives of ours.




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