17 July 2011

Denise Levertov

[from Denise Levertov's Collected Earlier Poems, 1940-1960, New Directions. 1979]

Sarnen

Under the harvest sun the heart
ripens on its wall,
under the heat of noon the mind
like a leaf is cool.
The angelus and the goatbell
sway across the grass;
butterflies in blue mid-air
touch and spin apart.
Any attempted dream must fall
to ruin in this light, must pass
before the mocking glance
of idle animals.
There is no need to escape
from the motionless mountain
there is no need to escape
when here the indifferent lake
accepts a nervous image,
demands no affirmation
of innocence or faith.

Switzerland, 1946


A Dream of Cornwall

Footprint of fury quiet, now, on the salt sand
hills couched like hares in the blue grass of the air
water lifting its glass . . .

1946


Kresch's Studio

Easels: a high & bare room:
some with charcoal, one with a brush,
some with loud pens in the silence,
at work. The woman
in taut repose, intent:

under violent light that pulls
the weight of the breasts to answer the long
shadow of thighs,
confronts angles with receding
planes, makes play with elements.

That they work, that she will not move too soon,
opposes (as Bartok's plucked strings oppose)
the grinding, grinding, grinding of lives,
pounding constant traffic.

On paper, on canvas, stroke, stroke: a counterpoint:
an energy opposing
the squandered energy.

New York, early '50's


Tomatlan (Variations)

. . .

iii

The green palmettos of the
blue jungle
shake their
green breasts, their stiff
green hair –
the wind, the sea wind is come
and touches them
lightly, and strokes them, and
screws them, until they
are blue flames,
green smoke, and
screws them again.

iv

At the touch
of the sea wind
              the palms
shake their green breasts, their

              rustling fingers –
flames of desire and pleasure. . . .

Denise Levertov

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