In the Japanese tongue of the mind’s eye one two syllable word tells of the fringe of rain clinging to the eaves and of the grey-green fronds of wild parsley. ~ Denise Levertov, “Grey Sparrow Addresses the Mind’s Ear”
Here are a few of Ohara Hale’s illustrations of Denise Levertov’s poems as part of a Brain Pickings collaboration with 92Y:
Listen to Denise Levertov read her poems:
Your beauty, which I lost sight of once
for a long time, is long,
not symmetrical, and wears
the earth colors that make me see it.
A long beauty, what is that?
that can be sung over and over,
long notes or long bones.
Love is a landscape the long mountains
define but don’t
shut off from the
In fall, in fall,
your trees stretch
their long arms in sleeves
of earth-red and
sky-yellow, a little
lop-sided. I take
long walks among them. The grapes
that need frost to ripen them
are amber and grow deep in the
the way your beauty grows in long tendrils
half in darkness.
The ache of marriage:
The ache of marriage:
thigh and tongue, beloved,
are heavy with it,
it throbs in the teeth
We look for communion
and are turned away, beloved,
each and each
It is leviathan and we
in its belly
looking for joy, some joy
not to be known outside it
two by two in the ark of
the ache of it.
The killings continue, each second
pain and misfortune extend themselves
in the genetic chain, injustice is done knowingly, and the air
bears the dust of decayed hopes,
yet breathing those fumes, walking the thronged
pavements among crippled lives, jackhammers
raging, a parking lot painfully agleam
in the May sun, I have seen
not behind but within, within the
dull grief, blown grit, hideous
concrete facades, another grief, a gleam
as of dew, an abode of mercy,
have heard not behind but within noise
a humming that drifted into a quiet smile.
Nothing was changed, all was revealed otherwise;
not that horror was not, not that killings did not continue,
but that as if transparent all disclosed
an otherness that was blessed, that was bliss. I saw Paradise in the dust of the street.
Perhaps one day I shall let myself
approach the mountain—
hear the streams which must flow down it,
lie in a flowering meadow, even
touch my hand to the snow.
Perhaps not. I have no longing to do so.
I have visited other mountain heights.
This one is not, I think, to be known
by close scrutiny, by touch of foot or hand
or entire outstretched body; not by any
familiarity of behavior, any acquaintance
with its geology or the scarring roads
humans have carved in its flanks.
This mountain’s power
lies in the open secret of its remote
apparition, silvery low-relief
coming and going moonlike at the horizon,
always loftier, lonelier, than I ever remember.
They have refined the means of destruction,
abstract science almost
it is so highly polished. Immaterial weapons
no one could ever hold in their hands
streak across darkness, across great distances,
threading through mazes to arrive
at targets that are concepts—
But one ancient certainty
means blood spilling from living bodies,
means severed limbs, blindness, terror,
means grief, agony, orphans, starvation,
prolonged misery, prolonged resentment and hatred and guilt,
means all of these multiplied, multiplied
means, death, death, death and death.
At sixteen I believed the moonlight
could change me if it would.
I moved my head
on the pillow, even moved my bed
as the moon slowly
crossed the open lattice.
I wanted beauty, a dangerous
gleam of steel, my body thinner,
my pale face paler.
diligently, as others sunbathe.
But the moon’s unsmiling stare
kept me awake. Mornings,
I was flushed and cross.
It was on dark nights of deep sleep
that I dreamed the most, sunk in the well,
and woke rested, and if not beautiful,
filled with some other power.
Wanting The Moon
Not the moon. A flower
on the other side of the water.
The water sweeps past in flood,
dragging a whole tree by the hair,
a barn, a bridge. The flower
sings on the far bank.
Not a flower, a bird calling
hidden among the darkest trees, music
over the water, making a silence
out of the brown folds of the river’s cloak.
The moon. No, a young man walking
under the trees. There are lanterns
among the leaves.
Tender, wise, merry,
his face is awake with its own light,
I see it across the water as if close up.
A jester. The music rings from his bells,
gravely, a tune of sorrow,
“Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “When I Am Among Trees”
Thursday afternoon. Sunny and mild. Night thunderstorms moved out the heat and humidity.
Woke up early this morning with massive migraine, nausea, extreme light sensitivity, but the weather is beautiful . . .
Corey is scheduled to leave port on Saturday. He plans to stay on for the full run, which may take him to Antigua (obvious envy) and a few other islands, as well as Brazil. I am simply overcome with jealousy. If he does the full run, he’ll be getting back just in time for le bébé, which will be nice.
It has been to nice to have him home even though he has to work during the day. Brett made homemade pizza for dinner last night as he wanted to cook for Corey, which was sweet. Both boys are glad to have him home, as are the pups. I think that everyone will be massively sad when he has to go again, but I’m so glad that they made port here first.
He is liking his job very much, and his co-workers all seem to like him. He said that he is bothered by things on the boat less than some guys, probably because he is used to working for a dysfunctional shipping company. But he assures me that the ship is safe, which is my primary concern. He took some pictures off the coast of Dover and also got some nice shots of Klaipeda, the town in Lithuania that he visited while in port there. I hope to post some of the pictures soon, but I cannot open Photoshop on this computer or it will freeze indefinitely. I know that some of you can relate.
“We are faithful only to the imagination. What the imagination seizes as beauty must be truth. What holds you to what you see of me is that grasp alone.” ~ Denise Levertov, from “Everything That Acts Is Actual”
So, shall I share with you a funny story?
I read somewhere, don’t remember, that turmeric was a natural astringent, and this actress said that she mixes a small amount of it in with her moisturizer to get a natural glow. So I thought, why not?
Yellow. The color of curry yellow. I had to laugh out loud when I looked in the mirror. I might have had a very bad case of jaundice. It took three scrubbings to get all of the yellow off—no lie, and in between washings, I wiped my face with a paper towel that turned . . . yellow.
Who are these people who can get a nice healthy glow with turmeric? They must have no yellow tint in their melanin, that’s certain.
Oh well, so much for natural . . . It really is a shame, though. I used to hate the color yellow, probably because of my skin, but now I love it, but I simply cannot wear it anywhere near my face. I mean, I could wear yellow in a skirt, but a yellow blouse? No, nope, never. I turn this wonderful shade of squash. Totally unflattering.
“ . . . there’s this vast dangerous garden, waiting out there, undiscovered, unexplored.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, “At the Bay”
Let’s see, what else is noteworthy? Oh, another somewhat funny story: Yesterday, I drove Eamonn to his eye doctor’s appointment. On the way home, he wanted to stop by 7/11. As he came out, he opened the Rodeo door right into his head, creating an instant bump. That’s not the funny part.
He got in the car and said, “Pull out fast. I’m so embarrassed.”
I told him to put his cold drink on his forehead to keep it from swelling. He was so concerned with how it would look that he decided that he would tell anyone who asked that . . . and this is the outrageous part . . . I accidentally hit him in the head with the door. Oh yes, Eamonn, that’s so much better than admitting that you accidentally hit yourself in the forehead. Make me out to be the abuser. And you know what? He actually did it. He told his girlfriend that I gave him the bump. Love it.
My children (probably not cool to refer to them that way as they are all adults . . . yeah, right)—always good for a chuckle.
“The sea lies in its bed wet and naked
in the dark. Half a moon glimmers on it
as though someone had come through
a door with the light behind.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Adults”
Speaking of adulthood, I remember when I got out of graduate school (the first time) and started my first real job. I was so adamant that I not be referred to as a girl, mostly because of my traditional feminist sensibilities which point out that calling a grown woman a girl is akin to calling a grown man a boy, and no man wants to be called a boy, but everyone refers to younger women as a girl. Does that make sense?
Anyway, I worked for a government contractor with a bunch of retired military guys, and I was always trying to enlighten them. When I look back on that now I have to chuckle to myself. But you know what, they actually stopped using the word girl. I think that I kind of intimidated them. Well, actually, I know that I intimidated them as I found that out later from this 6’7″ former Navy Captain.
I just find the whole thing so humorous now, but it was deadly serious to me then. We so want to be considered mature adults when we are in our 20’s. It’s more of that foresight versus hindsight thing. If only we had the hindsight of our 40’s while still in our 20’s. I really think that argument can be made for living life backwards, starting it with the knowledge we glean from experience and age, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of all of that angst we suffer in our youth.
“The invisibility and intangibility of that which moves us remained an unfathomable mystery . . .” ~ W.G. Sebald,The Rings of Saturn
So tomorrow night is date night for Corey and Me, to celebrate our anniversary, for which he will not be here. We’re going to eat sushi and go to a movie, our usual date. I had a hankering to go sing karaoke, but he would rather go to a movie, which is fine as I just want to have an evening out with him.
I’ve been mulling over going to karaoke by myself like I used to. I would go early in the evening, before all of the drunks, and sit by myself, write in my journal, and sing a few songs. I was usually home by 9. Alexis used to tell me that going out on a Friday night did not mean being home by 9, but I was fine with it. So I’ve thought that I might try that again, just to try to get my voice back into shape, not that I have people banging my door for a singing contract or anything like that, but I have noticed that when I do sing along in the car, I sound, shall we way, icky.
I watched an episode of RHofOC, and Gretchen did a sting with the Pussycat Dolls in Las Vegas in which she was supposed to sing “Fever.” I say supposed to because I’m not really sure what in the hell she sang, but it did not resemble “Fever.” Poor, poor Peggy Lee was doing somersaults in her grave, I’m sure. Now “Fever” is a song that I can/used to sing as it’s the perfect key for my voice. Unfortunately, if I were to attempt it now, I would probably sound like Gretchen, which is just depressing.
I really don’t know why I still watch that show as it’s not even entertaining any more, too predictable. It’s the only one of the franchise that I still watch, but I will admit to “Bethenny Ever After,” as Bethenny is my twin sister (I wish). I mean she says exactly what’s on her mind, consequences be damned, and her poor spouse appears to be more befuddled than anything by her attitude. It’s very early in their marriage, so they’re just getting used to each other and the idea of being married, and it kind of reminds me of Corey and me in the early days, except that we’re not worth over $100 million. Just that tiny difference.
“No, my soul is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,
its eyes wide open
far off things, and listens
at the shores of the great silence.” ~ Antonio Machado
Speaking of this POS computer—which I was a couple of sections ago (keep up)—yesterday I designed the content for Alexis’s baby shower invitation. Granted there isn’t a low of content, just the who, what, when stuff, but you would think that I was trying to get this computer to insert graphics into a 300-page manuscript.
Fortunately, the invitations that I bought had a website on which I could download a template so that the measurements were exact, but I had wanted to use a special font, and boy was that a nightmare. I use the dafonts.comwebsite, which is a site of downloadable free fonts. The only problem is that some of the script fonts that look good on the site do not translate well into Microsoft. I would have used Adobe InDesign to create the invitation, but this computer does not recognize real programs . . .
Anyway, I asked Brett’s opinion on my font choice, and he was so helpful. His reply (which really, really reminded me of my dad): “It’s a font.” Why do I bother?
So I finished the design and printed a sample. I had chosen a custom color to match the border, but the printer decided that everything should print in Navy. Why??? This means that I need to buy new ink cartridges before attempting to print the invitations as I really don’t want to be in the middle of printing only to have half of them turn out faded, with indecipherable text. That would put me over the edge, definitely.
But I’m happy with the finished product. Now I just have to find those poet stamps that I read about (doubt if my post office will have them as that would be too easy).
My trials and tribulations. It could be worse. That’s all for now.
More later. Peace.
(*Images by Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 – December 28, 1950), German, identified as Impressionist, but he did not like that categorization. These oil on canvas still lifes very different from his other work.)
By the time I get myself out of bed, my wife has left
the house to take her botany final and the painter
has arrived in his van and is already painting
the columns of the front porch white and the decking gray.
It is early June, a breezy and sun-riddled Tuesday
that would quickly be forgotten were it not for my
writing these few things down as I sit here empty-headed
at the typewriter with a cup of coffee, light and sweet.
I feel like the secretary to the morning whose only
responsibility is to take down its bright, airy dictation
until it’s time to go to lunch with the other girls,
all of us ordering the cottage cheese with half a pear.
This is what stenographers do in courtrooms,
alert at their dark contraptions catching every word.
When there is a silence they sit still as I do, waiting
and listening, finger resting lightly on the keys.
This is what Samuel Pepys did too, jotting down in
private ciphers minor events that would have otherwise
slipped into the heavy, amnesiac waters of the Thames.
His vigilance paid off finally when London caught fire
as mine does when the painter comes in for coffee
and says how much he likes this slow, vocal rendition
of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and I figure I will
make him a tape when he goes back to his brushes and pails.
Under the music I can hear the rush of cars and trucks
on the highway and every so often the new kitten, Felix,
hops into my lap and watches my fingers drumming out
a running record of this particular June Tuesday
as it unrolls before my eye, a long intricate carpet
that I am walking on slowly with my head bowed
knowing that it is leading me to the quiet shrine
of the afternoon and the melancholy candles of evening.
If I look up, I see out the window the white stars
of clematis climbing a ladder of strings, a woodpile,
a stack of faded bricks , a small green garden of herbs,
things you would expect to find outside a window,
all written down now and placed in the setting
of a stanza as unalterably as they are seated
in their chairs in the ontological rooms of the world.
Yes, this is the kind of job I could succeed in,
an unpaid but contented amanuensis whose hands
are two birds fluttering on the lettered keys,
whose eyes see sunlight splashing through the leaves,
and the bright pink asterisks of honeysuckle
and the piano at the other end of this room
with its small vase of faded flowers and its empty bench.
So convinced am I that I have found my vocation,
tomorrow I will begin my chronicling earlier, at dawn,
a time when hangmen and farmers are up and doing,
when men holding pistols stand in a field back to back.
It is the time the ancients imagined in robes, as Eos
or Aurora, who would leave her sleeping husband in bed,
not to take her botany final, but to pull the sun,
her brother, over the horizon’s brilliant rim,
her four-horse chariot aimed at the zenith of the sky.
But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.
~ Billy Collins
(Aside: I need to get a collection of Billy Collins poems as I am really liking him.)