Wednesday, July 15, 2020
“I knew too well what had befallen me,
when one night . . . ”
Denise Levertov died in her late 60s. I miss her, a fiery advocate for global justice and a poet of the sacred mysteries of intimacy. In her later years, she published a wonderful book of poems she titled Evening Train. One of my favorite of her poems appears there about being startled by surprises of the heart in older age.
If you are older, I bet you will breathe in her kindness laced with humor.
If you are younger, she gives you good stuff to look forward to – – – the graces of being surprisable.
Best to read this poem out loud, with pauses, several times.
Have a blest day,
“Ancient Airs and Dances”
I knew too well
what had befallen me
when, one night, I put my lips to his wineglass
after he left–an impulse I thought was locked away with a smile
into memory’s museum.
When he took me to visit friends and the sea, he lay
asleep in the next room’s dark where the fire
rustled all night; and I, from a warm bed, sleepless,
watched through the open door
that glowing hearth, and heard,
drumming the roof, the rain’s
Greyhaired, I have not grown wiser,
unless to perceive absurdity
is wisdom. A powerless wisdom.
Shameless heart! Did you not vow to learn
stillness from the heron
quiet from the mists of fall,
and from the mountain–what was it?
You have forgotten already!
And now you clamor again
like an obstinate child demanding attention,
interrupting study and contemplation.
You try my patience. Bound as we are
together for life, must you now,
so late in the day, go bounding sideways,
trying to drag me with you?
Denise Levertov – Evening Train
(b. 24 October 1923 d. 20 December 1997)