Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Longing (2002)

I sometimes wonder whether longing
can’t radiate out from someone so
powerfully, like a storm, that nothing
can come to him from the opposite
direction. Perhaps William Blake
has somewhere drawn that?

— Rilke, letter, 1912

There is a longing in us which
grows from sigh to starry shriek.
Perhaps comets are charred furies
of that pain, a whirl of frozen fire
which ghostlike tears to God’s porch
and back, insatiable and unanswered.
Perhaps. All I know is that
it’s infinitely perilous to think
that longing has a human end.
In my cups I once believed
a woman mooned for me,
her longing a white welcome
over my million nights alone.
I met and passed her many times
those hard years, blinded by the aura
of her unvowled name.
Surely when two longings touch
it’s like when great waves collide,
the wild sea witched flat.
Our deeper thirst can never sate:
as each draught of booze
was never enough, so each
embrace tides a milkier door.
I recall a young man
walking home drunk on a
frozen night long ago,
his beloved nowhere
to be found in the chalice
he had named. Winds hurled
steel axes through the
Western sky, failing to clear
the cruel foliage of fate.
In his defeat he was greater
than any angel beckoned
by that night: his heart so
hollowed by longing
as to chance in pure cathedral,
her absence the clabber of a bell
shattering the frozen air,
trebling the moon
without troubling a sound.


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