Poems 1972-1982

Poems 1972-1982

by Denise Levertov

ISBN: 9780811214698

Publisher New Directions

Published in Literature & Fiction/Poetry

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Sample Chapter

Chapter One

From a Plane

Green water of lagoons,
brown water of a great river
sunning its muscles along intelligent
rectangular swathes of
other brown, other green,
alluvial silvers.
                 Always air
looked down through, gives
a reclamation of order, revisioning
solace: the great body
not torn apart, though raked and raked
by our claws—


The turnpike, without history, a function
of history, grossly
cut through the woods,

secondgrowth woods without memory,
crowded saplings, bushes entangled,
sparse weedcrop on burned-over sandy embankments.

Brutally realized intentions speed us
from city to city—a driver's world:
and what is a driver? Driven? Obsessed?
These thickarmed men
seem at rest, assured, their world
a world of will and function.


Majestic insects buzz through the sky
bearing us pompously from love to love,
grief to grief,
motes in the gaze of that unblinking eye.

Our threads of life are sewn into dark cloth,
a sleeve that hangs down over
a sinister wrist. All of us.
It must be Time whose pale fingers
dangle beneath the hem ...

Solemn filaments, our journeyings
wind through the overcast.

Knowing the Unknown

Our trouble
is only the trouble anyone,
all of us, thrust from the ancient
holding-patterns, down toward
runways newbuilt,
knows; the strain
of flying wing by wing, not knowing
ever if both of us will land: the planet
under the clouds—
does it want us? Shall we be welcome,
we of air, of metallic
bitter rainbows,
of aching wings? Can we dissolve
like coins of hail,
touching down,
               down to the dense, preoccupied,
skeptical green world, that does not know us?

Chapter Two

In Summer

Night lies down
in the field when the moon
leaves. Head in clover,
held still.

It is brief,
this time of darkness,
hands of night
loosefisted, long hair

Sooner than one would dream,
the first bird
wakes with a sobbing cry. Whitely

dew begins to drift
Leafily naked, forms of the world
are revealed,
all asleep. Colors

come slowly
up from behind the hilltop,
looking for forms to fill for the day,
must rise and
move on, stiff and
not yet awake.

An Ancient Tree

`Can't get that tune
out of my head,'

can't get that tree
out of

some place in me.
And don't want to:

the way it
lifts up its arms,
opens them, and—

patient the way an
elderly horse is patient
crosses them, aloft,

to curve and recross:

the standing, the being
rooted, the look
as of longing.
At each divide,
the choice endured, branches
taking their roads in air.

Glance up
from the kitchen window;
that tree word,
still being said,
over the stone wall.

Fall mornings, its head of twigs
vaguely lifted,
a few apples
yellow in silver fog.
Excerpted from "Poems 1972-1982" by Denise Levertov. Copyright © 2001 by Denise Levertov. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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