Sep 21 2012

Andrew Colliver – Nocturne

Published by at 9:19 am under Poetry

by Andrew Colliver

You are woken in the night
by something that cannot speak
in daylight, that has no purchase
in the hard currency of your life.

Outside is the shallow well
of a sleeping town; electric lights
peek faintly into black space,
and the lithe ghost of the dark

slips into the only house that
bids it welcome. Your husband
lies snoring, dreams of another
world, offers you rough the gift

of aloneness. Know this:
what arrives here cannot
be other than itself, and
has no care for you. It

has no words, and no respect
for yours, so finds your body,
colonises your spine, feeds
you up into the sea of stars. You

may think you are changing,
or hope; but you are simply
failing to forget, allowing
stillness to be recognised.

You are momentarily disappearing,
to enter your own voice, see
with your own eyes, become
the body you gave birth to;

you have returned to
your own faithfulness,
your own unimaginable

– From the unpublished manuscript A Day of Light, by Andrew Colliver

/ Photo by halaquinn-arcadias /

The Autumn Equinox is coming up (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) — a time to to slow down our work, to welcome the coming chill, to see the final splendor of nature’s color, to greet the growing dark. It is a tentative time of transition. We feel fragile while our senses awaken when confronted by the uncertainty of winter. With the shorter days and longer nights, we turn from the outer world and renew our solitary citizenship in the worlds within.

The time calls to mind this poem I recently discovered by Andrew Colliver. A poem that aches with nighttime loneliness, yet it is a poem of awakening.

Some wonderful lines here:

[It] colonises your spine, feeds
you up into the stars…

You are simply
failing to forget, allowing
stillness to be recognised.

You are momentarily disappearing,
to enter your own voice…

And what about that final “unimaginable emptiness” –?

you have returned to
your own faithfulness,
your own unimaginable

The poet doesn’t really suggest that the loneliness has gone, but there seems to be an impression of fulfillment and wholeness in this emptiness, a completion of one’s being in some way.

Why do so many eastern traditions, most especially Buddhism, emphasize emptiness or nirvana? As a teenager I used to wrestle with this question: How could void ever be a goal? It seems so bleak, such a stark negative.

It took a lot of exploration along various pathways before this idea of “emptiness” finally had real meaning for me. The emptiness described is not an absolute vacuum, not a gray lifeless no-place. It is empty only in the sense that it is “thingless,” free from the countless categories of mental objects and fixed definitions. Everything is still there, but it is fluid, no longer disconnected. This “emptiness” is in fact filled, filled with life! It is a great primal pool of potential and expansive awareness. What it is empty of is that most central of things which defines our reality: the little self, the ego. It is empty of the ego’s endless stories about itself. It is empty of the ego’s filtration of reality. There is no “I” in this emptiness (“You are momentarily disappearing.”). Without that “I,” there is finally seeing, but without a fixed point of perception. Without that “I,” there is Being, but not separate beings.

Finally free from the small self’s constant coloring of perception, things are simply as they are (“Know this: / what arrives here cannot / be other than itself…”).

Settling into the wholeness and the life of that “emptiness”… now that’s a nice way to spend a solitary night.

Andrew Colliver

Australia (1953 – )
Secular or Eclectic

Andrew Colliver is a psychiatric social worker working in rural New South Wales in Australia.

His major influences in writing are Mary Oliver and David Whyte, “with a dash of Rumi’s exuberance.”

When asked about the transcendent themes within his poetry, he says, “Poetry has always been a part of my reading, with occasional forays into writing, but for my own eyes only. Then, in 2006, the experience — now happening to thousands across the globe — of consciousness awakening to itself within the human form, began to up-end my life, and also to seek expression in words. Poems suggest themselves from the more profound experiences of awakeness, and what I do is then sculpt and refine them into something that I hope is intelligible to others. Ideas and words come most frequently when I’m in nature, but any setting can be seen at any time for what it is: the expression of undivided consciousness.”

More poetry by Andrew Colliver

7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Andrew Colliver – Nocturne”

  1. janon 21 Sep 2012 at 9:55 am

    hello, Ivan! we, (as a small but strong community of folks that believe there is more to this plane of existence than meets the eye, and i think i may say that without equivocation.. i am but one infinitesimal part of that Whole) are so blessed to have you in this world at this time…sometimes it is as if you are a prism, and the light ( or read: thought) which enters you is refracted out into something wonderful and clear, hidden from daily view…thank you for this poem and your commentary today…


  2. maryann moonon 21 Sep 2012 at 11:07 am

    Dear Ivan, First let me extend my sincerest wishes for a truly tranquil “Day of International
    Peace.” I read that on the calendar next to my desk this a.m. And I love what Jan from the letter above has to say about the light that you are,… or more truly all of us are. In today’s
    HeavenLetter, God says “your vastness fills the whole sky”. We are an extension of God’s thoughts, sent to the world to bring more Light and Love to this wondrous planet. We are
    irresistibly drawn to the poetry that life is. We want our hearts to be more like Mary Oliver’s,
    always noticing somehow that to look into the eyes of any one of our friends or foes
    is to see ourself. It’s then that we realize that anything and anyone is absolutely forgivable.
    I have, by the way, a new grandson, he’s 5 mo. old today, and his eyes tell me he knows
    joy such as most of us have long forgotten. It’s my wish that he and I shall be fast friends for a very long time. (which doesn’t exist either). My favorite line in this Andrew Colliiver
    poem is “Life feeds you up into a sea of stars”. That is surely an intoxicatingly exquisite idea.

  3. Jelenaon 21 Sep 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Happy Equinox Night!

  4. Sylviaon 22 Sep 2012 at 4:54 am

    Wow. What a great poem. Thanks for casting your net wide, introducing me to this poet. And thank you Andrew…

  5. Priscillaon 22 Sep 2012 at 5:24 am

    A beautiful poem to start my day. Thank you

  6. Pegon 22 Sep 2012 at 6:42 am

    Fall seems to more easily bring me to this place of emptiness as Colliver speaks of. This meta-emptiness where I am within my primal body individuated, sovereign. Within the same instant, I am the one expanded beyond all recognition but not. I know myself intimately, as well as trees, insects, flowers, grass, stars, planets, galaxies. I reach for this wisdom each fall, without fail.

    I was born on September 2 and I think that autumn is my first experience within this body. I can’t help but hoard a special place in my heart for this season where it can breathe and live all year.

    Thank you all for your comments and Ivan for sharing this poem.

  7. Kathy Stewarton 25 Sep 2012 at 7:42 pm

    This poem speaks to me of last night’s experience, of being awake for nearly 3 hours and witnessing the vastness of I am. No small self here, but a flowing tranquil out-of-time event in which there was no I that notice that nothing was happening and yet it was so exciting, so exquisite, so precious. Thank you, you always seem to speak directly to my heart. Our heart.
    One heart.

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