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In the same way that the mindless diamond keeps
one spark of the planet's early fires
trapped forever in its net of ice,
it's not love's later heat that poetry holds,
but the atom of the love that drew it forth
from the silence: so if the bright coal of his love
begins to smoulder, the poet hears his voice
suddenly forced, like a bar-room singer's -- boastful
with his own huge feeling, or drowned by violins;
but if it yields a steadier light, he knows
the pure verse, when it finally comes, will sound
like a mountain spring, anonymous and serene.

Beneath the blue oblivious sky, the water
sings of nothing, not your name, not mine.

—Don Paterson

From The White Lie; New and Selected Poetry, 2001
Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minn.

Copyright 1999 by Don Paterson.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota from The White Lie: New and Selected Poetry. Copyright 2001 by Don Paterson. For further permissions information, contact Permissions Department, Graywolf Press, 2402 University Ave., Ste. 203, St Paul, MN 55114,

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Don Paterson (1963- ) is the author of eight poetry collections, including Selected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2012). Paterson is originally from Dundee, Scotland, and left school at 16 and moved to London to pursue music and join the jazz-folk ensemble, Lammas.

Learn more about Don Paterson at The Poetry Foundation