Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Morning Reading: "We have the words in our pockets"

Robert Hass cited this poem by Denise Levertov last week.

He was speaking about the recent passing of poet Lucille Clifton.

So when I got home, I hauled out my Levertov collection, those slim paperbacks published by New Directions.

Here it is.

September 1961

This is the year the old ones,
the old great ones
leave us alone on the road.

The road leads to the sea.
We have the words in our pockets,
obscure directions. The old ones

have taken away the light of their presence,
we see it moving away over a hill
off to one side.

They are not dying,
they are withdrawn
into a painful privacy

learning to live without words.
E. P. "It looks like dying"--Williams: "I can't
describe to you what has been

happening to me"--
H. D. "unable to speak."
The darkness

twists itself in the wind, the stars
are small, the horizon
ringed with confused urban light-haze.

They have told us
the road leads to the sea,
and given

the language into our hands.
We hear
our footsteps each time a truck

has dazzled past us and gone
leaving us new silence.
One can't reach

the sea on this endless
road to the sea unless
one turns aside at the end, it seems,

the owl that silently glides above it
aslant, back and forth,

and away into deep woods.

But for us the road
unfurls itself, we count the
words in our pockets, we wonder

how it will be without them, we don't
stop walking, we know
there is far to go, sometimes

we think the night wind carries
a smell of the sea...


Anonymous said...

I have been dipping in and out of your blog in recent weeks and so very much appreciate the poems you have been posting.
Robert Hass
and others
Gifts, all of them.
Thank you
the other L

Rebel Girl said...


It means something to me - I'm glad it does to you too.

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