The Bigness of Small Poems – # 5 in a Series – Patrick Lane

Canadian Poet patrick Lane

Canadian Poet Patrick Lane

The White Box

In the white box
you keep hidden away
a white salamander
waits with a flame
in his small hands.

How bright the fire! 
How long his breath
has kept it alive.
But the box is closed.
Why do you keep it closed?

Patrick Lane (1939 - ) from The Collected Poems of Patrick Lane, Harbour Publishing, 2011

Patrick Lane needs little introduction in these pages where I have highlighted his poems frequently! Mentor, teacher, prolific Canadian poet with a career that now spans more than fifty five years, Lane is an important poet not just in Canada but in the world.

When I think of Lane I think most often about his long narrative poems. So it it gives me pleasure to profile a small lyrical poem of his. This one so reflective and confronting. In this way it reminds me of American poet Charles Bukowski’s poem, Bluebird. The image (salamander for Lane, bluebird for Bukowski) of the essence of us we keep hidden. Give it just enough to keep it alive and no more!

Lane, a recovering alcoholic who is very public about his addiction and recovery, has opened his white box so we all can see that flame burning bright in the salamander’s hands. My question today is this: have I opened my box? Have you opened yours?

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