O, but how white is white, white from shadows come,
Sailing white of clouds, not seen before
On any snowfield, any shore;
Or this dense blue, delivered from the tomb,
White of the risen body, fiery blue of sky,
Light the saints teach us, light we learn to adore;
Not space revealed it, but the needle’s eye
Love’s dark thread holding, when we began to die.
It was the leper’s, not the bird’s cry,
Gave back that glory, made that glory more.
I cannot sound the nature of that spray
Lifted on wind, the blossoms falling away,
A death, a birth, a dazzling mystery,
As though each petal stirring held the whole tree
That grew, created on the Lord’s day.
There is no falling now. Yet for time’s sake
These blossoms are scattered. They fall. How still they are.
They drop, they vanish, where all blossoms break.
Who touches one dead blossom touches every star.
So the green Earth is first no colour and then green.
Spirits who walk, who know
All is untouchable, and, knowing this, touch so,
Who know the music by which white is seen,
See the world’s colours in flashes come and go.
The marguerite’s petal is white, is wet with rain,
Is white, then loses white, and then is white again
Not from time’s course, but from the living spring,
Miraculous whiteness, a petal, a wing,
Like light, like lightning, soft thunder, white as jet,
Ageing on ageless breaths. The ages are not yet.
Is there a tree, a bud, that knows not this:
White breaks from darkness, breaks from such a kiss
No mind can measure? Locked in the branching knot,
Conception shudders; that interior shade
Makes light in darkness, light where light was not;
Then the white petal, of whitest darkness made,
Breaks, and is silent. Immaculate they break,
Consuming vision, blinding eyes awake,
Dazzling the eyes with music, light’s unspoken sound,
White born of bride and bridegroom, when they take
Love’s path through Hades, engendered of dark ground.
Leda remembers. The rush of wings cast wide.
Sheer lightning, godhead, descending on the flood.
Night, the late, hidden waters on the moon’s dark side.
Her virgin secrecy, doomed against time to run.
Morning. The visitation. All colours hurled in one.
Struggling with night, with radiancel That smothering glory cried:
“Heavenborn am I. White-plumaged heart, you beat against the sun!”
All recollection sinking from the dazzled blood.
She woke, and her awakened wings were fire,
Darkened with light; O blinding white was she
With white’s bewildering darkness. So that secret choir
Know, in the thicket, and witness more than we,
Listening to early day, dew’s voice, the lightest feet,
As though Saint Francis passing, told who they were,
Fledged of pure spirit, though upheld by air.
I think one living is already there,
So sound asleep she is, her breath so faint,
She knows, she welcomes the footstep of the saint,
So still, so moving, joy sprung of despair,
And the two feasts, where light and darkness meet.
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