Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wanting the Moon

A poem by Denise Levertov (1923 -- 1997)

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,

I dance to it on my riverbank.

I wonder why this poem has such an effect on me? I wonder why, in contrast, all those poems I read today on the webpage of Poetry Magazine sucked and made me want to smash chunks of granite on my head? Made me want to bite my own teeth off? God...they were awful. This poem is so wondrous that I don't know what I'm going to do. Except read it over and over until I go blind.

There is such an openness to these lines. Such a welcoming volume of aesthetic suspense and wonder. An evening tableaux quivers equivocally, with images sliding into tenuous emotions, then back again into natural forms. I won't fall into lazy reading and call this a dream. This poem is pitched in a different key. Into a tone of language-as-art...and emotion creating a world. This poem does not collapse the telling-space into a boring self-absorption. It opens out. It opens out. There is such room here for the reader to live and breathe.

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