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.
Like a stunned piano, like a bucket
of fresh milk flung into the air
or a dozen fists of confetti
thrown hard at a bride
stepping down from the altar,
the stars surprise the sky.
Think of dazed stones
floating overhead, or an ocean
of starfish hung up to dry. Yes,
like a conductor’s expectant arm
about to lift toward the chorus,
or a juggler’s plates defying gravity,
or a hundred fastballs fired at once
and freezing in midair, the stars
startle the sky over the city.
And that’s why drunks leaning up
against abandoned buildings, women
hurrying home on deserted side streets,
policemen turning blind corners, and
even thieves stepping from alleys
all stare up at once. Why else do
sleepwalkers move toward the windows,
or old men drag flimsy lawn chairs
onto fire escapes, or hardened criminals
press sad foreheads to steel bars?
Because the night is alive with lamps!
That’s why in dark houses all over the city
dreams stir in the pillows, a million
plumes of breath rise into the sky.
~ Edward Hirsch
Poem on a Line by Anne Sexton, ‘We are All Writing God’s Poem’
Today, the sky’s the soft blue of a work shirt washed
a thousand times. The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step. On the interstate listening
to NPR, I heard a Hubble scientist
say, “The universe is not only stranger than we
think, it’s stranger than we can think.” I think
I’ve driven into spring, as the woods revive
with a loud shout, redbud trees, their gaudy
scarves flung over bark’s bare limbs. Barely doing
sixty, I pass a tractor trailer called Glory Bound,
and aren’t we just? Just yesterday,
I read Li Po: “There is no end of things
in the heart,” but it seems like things
are always ending—vacation or childhood,
relationships, stores going out of business,
like the one that sold jeans that really fit—
And where do we fit in? How can we get up
in the morning, knowing what we do? But we do,
put one foot after the other, open the window,
make coffee, watch the steam curl up
and disappear. At night, the scent of phlox curls
in the open window, while the sky turns red violet,
lavender, thistle, a box of spilled crayons.
The moon spills its milk on the black tabletop
for the thousandth time.
“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books. I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” ~ Hermann Hess, from Demian
I had that dream again, the one in which I am moving/living in the old apartment. This time, it’s much bigger, and my mother has sold her home and we are all going to live together. A friend of ours is helping us to unpack, and there are so many Christmas decorations tucked away in strange places. And then I’m looking at the special pieces that I have gotten from the woman at the museum, the one who gave me my pick of her collection for taking care of everything for her. And some of my favorite pieces are missing, like a gilded punch bowl.
My mother is putting things in the wrong place, and I’m trying not to snap. Then I look in one of the bathrooms and find that it is filthy, that someone has used it like a public restroom, and I am looking for gloves and old towels so that I can clean it. In my mind, I am confused as to whether or not I am with Corey or my ex or my Catholic boyfriend. I’m mostly confused because my ex is acting like he lives there, and I am so confused.
And then I remember the dogs, the ones that I always forget to feed in the dream. When they appear in the dream they are in various stages of illness, and it distresses me, mostly because it’s my fault that I have forgotten that they are in the back yard. But, and this always happens when they appear, I stop to ask myself if anyone has told me about the dogs . . .
“This shaking keeps me steady. I should know. What falls away is always. And is near. I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I learn by going where I have to go.” ~ Theodore Roethke, from “The Waking”
I dreamed I was Marilyn Monroe, not about her, but I was her. Very, very strange. It was a full-blown story with other people interacting, and my mother, who was MM’s mother, and she was just as weird to MM as she is to me. In fact, most of the people in the dream treated me as MM with a great deal of disdain, and I spent a lot of time trying to convince people that I wasn’t stupid.
I think the dream probably had that slant because of all of the images of Marilyn reading books that show up on my tumblr dash. Apparently she was an avid reader, but I have to wonder if perhaps this belief wasn’t something perpetuated by her publicist so that people would take her more seriously, only in the 50’s and 60’s, blond bombshells weren’t supposed to be taken seriously, so maybe she actually did like to read? Hmm . . .
My world today has been enriched by three incredible poems that I found on my tumblr dash: Michael Lee‘s “Pass On,” Sierra DeMulder‘s “Ninety-Five Grievances to God: Abridged,” and Mark Strand‘s “Eating Poetry.” I plan to use each of them in upcoming posts.
Apparently, there is a blue theme running in the background of my day, hence, most of the accompanying images by my latest discovery—Granville Redmond. Such lovely hues of blue running through his work.
“You hold an absence at your center, as if it were a life.” ~ Richard Brostoff, from “Grief”
I began this post two days ago, maybe three. I honestly don’t remember. The end of the week seemed to be compressed into a few hours. On Thursday, Corey went to do his shift on the ship, only to be told that they were leaving port that afternoon at 4 p.m., which meant that the two days we still thought that we had did not in fact exist. Lots of rushing around, doing last-minute things.
I had planned to watch Olivia on Thursday so that Corey could spend some time with her, so I also had to fit that in, along with getting Brett to campus. Lots of rushing created lots of stress.
On Friday, Brett, Em, and I did more running around, trips to two different Wal Marts, Sally’s Beauty supply for some new nail polish, and a trip to the international market for more of the mochi ice cream that is not my favorite addiction, and by Friday night I was exhausted, but apparently not exhausted enough not to spend all of Saturday afternoon cleaning. I had planned to make French toast and bacon for dinner last night, but that didn’t happen. I ended up eating cheese puffs and trail mix. So healthy.
I guess I’ll do the French toast tonight, that is if I don’t crawl back into the bed and just read.
“I walk slowly into myself through a forest of empty suits of armor.” ~ Tomas Tranströmer, from “Postludium,” trans. Robin Fulton
Anyway, outside of the home front, major things afoot. I watched the live news feed on Friday night of what looked like every cop and FBI agent in Boston as they surrounded this one house in Watertown, waiting to take down the other bombing suspect. It was one of those can’t-look-away scenarios, and then suddenly it was over, and people were pouring into the streets to celebrate.
I kept hearing commentators saying that this kind of takedown wasn’t possible with the Oklahoma City bombings or after the first WTC bombing, but now all first responders are using the same communications network so that everyone can hook into everyone else. Seems odd when you realize just how much technology has advanced the hunting of criminals, making it possible to go from a major catastrophic event on one day to a resolution (as far as capture) just five days later.
I mean seriously—camera footage, cell phone images, the ability to isolate the two perpetrators through a process of elimination, identifying the perpetrators, plastering every possible media source with their pictures, locking down one of the country’s biggest cities and surrounding suburbs, and then, voila. Well, not really voila, but you get my drift.
I guess I’m just amazed when I look at everything that happened so quickly, amazed and relieved, like so many other people.
“I begin now to write down all the places I have not been— starting with the most distant.
I build houses that I will not inhabit.” ~ Keith Waldrop, from “Poet”
Even though I began this post days ago, the blue theme is still fitting, so I’m not going to change the images I had planned.
One thing I’ve been trying to decide whether or not, or how much to write about is my mother’s health. On Wednesday, her doctor’s office called and told her that they wanted to do another CT scan to repeat what was done when she was in the ER. On Thursday morning she went in to have that done. As of yet, we still have not heard anything. She is downplaying it. I had asked her if she wanted me to go with her on Thursday for the scan, and she said no, that it was no big deal.
On Friday, I called to see if she had heard from her doctor and she said that she hadn’t, but that he had lots of patients. I bit my tongue and didn’t say what I was thinking, which is that I don’t care how many patients he has, this is serious, and we need to know what is going on, but I said nothing because to let on how worried I am would only worsen things.
I don’t know what’s going to happen; I don’t know what is wrong with her, perhaps nothing, perhaps something. I only know that when my dad’s doctor called and said that he needed to go in for follow-up tests, he was told he had six months to live, and he lived for less than two. I try not to think of these things, but I do. Of course I do.
I’ll keep my thoughts to myself when I’m talking to my mom, but perhaps I can share them with you?