Saturday, March 24, 2012

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

I'm off to a memorial service today for an old, old friend who knew me back when I was just beginning to read poets like this. She had a friendship via correspondence (the old fashioned kind) with the poet Denise Levertov over the decades. Now they're both gone.

She was the life partner of Peter Carr, poet, artist, beloved professor of Comparative Literature at Cal State Long Beach. Along with Peter and others, she co-founded the Alliance for Survival and was a stalwart voice for peace, justice and the environment, especially in her longtime community of Laguna Beach.

As I grow older and learn my own way to teach and be patient, I am grateful even more for those teachers who patiently taught me what I needed and provided, through the lives of loving engagement they lived, models for me to follow.

This one is for Jeanie Bernstein.

September 1961
By Denise Levertov

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.

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...


(image: detail of fireplace mural painted by Peter Carr, in the Laguna Beach home he shared with Jeanie Bernstein.)



donna hilbert said...

I remember seeing Denise Levertov at CSULB. Lovely poem for the tribute.

Rebel Girl said...

I think the Levertov reading was just before my time, Donna. Andrew remembers it. Thanks for reading - and remembering.

Anonymous said...

So powerful.

Sending you hugs,

the other L

Lou said...

I had a friend who liked to say, "I have a poem in my pocket." And he did.

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