The Kettle Is Singing

David Whyte

It’s practically my subject, my theme: solitude and community; the weirdness and terrors of solitude: the stifling and consolations of community. Also, the consolations of solitude.

Derek Mahon

Everything Is Waiting For You

by David Whyte

After Derek Mahon

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.


There has always been a link between diplomacy and poetry.   The exultation of a greater community, done beautifully, artistically crosses the boundaries of understanding, the essence of effective politicians and poets.  The list of poet diplomats goes back to Chaucer, Thomas Wyatt and extends to Gabriela Mistral, Saint-John Perse, Pablo Neruda, Czeslaw Milosz, Saint-John Perse and Octavio Paz.  That no contemporary poets are on my list is more a function of my ignorance of modern conflicts and writers, as I am sure there are a host of poets waging diplomacy around the world, at least I hope there are.  War, love and poetry are constants of the human condition.  It’s a bit of rock, paper, scissors, how they are connected, cause and effect, effect and cause, I’ll let you decide which conquers which, but it the art of poetry and art of diplomacy share the same language.

Derek Mahon was born 2 years after W. B. Yeats death.  Mahon left Belfast and studied and worked in England, France, the United States and Canada throughout his life, only returning to Ireland late in life.  These two poems are bookends of the poetic mindset of the quote above.   War has a way of reminding us of the wish to become a hermit at the same time we humbly appreciate the blessing that can be community. 


Spring in Belfast

By Derek Mahon (1941 – 2020)
 
Walking among my own this windy morning
In a tide of sunlight between shower and shower,
I resume my old conspiracy with the wet
Stone and the unwieldy images of the squinting heart.
Once more, as before, I remember not to forget.
 
There is a perverse pride in being on the side
Of the fallen angels and refusing to get up.
We could all be saved by keeping an eye on the hill
At the top of every street, for there it is,
Eternally, if irrelevantly, visible —
 
But yield instead to the humorous formulae,
The spurious mystery in the knowing nod;
Or we keep sullen silence in light and shade,
Rehearsing our astute salvations under
The cold gaze of a sanctimonious God.
 
One part of my mind must learn to know its place.
The things that happen in the kitchen houses
And echoing back streets of this desperate city
Should engage more than my casual interest,
Exact more interest than my casual pity.

After The First Pure Fall

David Whyte

The thing about great poetry is we have no defenses against it.

David Whyte

“Stone” (Thobar Phádraig)

by David Whyte

The face in the stone is a mirror looking into you.
You have gazed into the moving waters,
you have seen the slow light, in the sky
above Lough Inagh, beneath you, streams have flowed,
and rivers of earth have moved beneath your feet,
but you have never looked into the immovability
of stone like this, the way it holds you, gives you
not a way forward but a doorway in, staunches
your need to leave, becomes faithful by going nowhere,
something that wants you to stay here and look back,
be weathered by what comes to you, like the way you too
have travelled from so far away to be here, once reluctant
and now as solid and as here and as willing
to be touched as everything you have found.

 


The Old Wild Place

by David Whyte

After the good earth
where the body knows itself to be real
and the mad flight
where it gives itself to the world,
we give ourselves to the rhythm of love
leaving the breath
to know its way home.

And after the first pure fall,
the last letting go, and the calm
breath where we go to rest,
we’ll return again to find it
and feel the body welcomed,
the body held,
the strong arms of the world,
the water, the waking at dawn
and the thankful, almost forgotten,
curling to sleep with the dark.

The old wild place beyond all shame.