Paul's Corner: Denise Levertov

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Denise Levertov

ILLUSTRIOUS ANCESTORS

The Rav
of Northern White Russia declined,
In his youth, to learn the
language of the birds, because
the extraneous did not interest him; nevertheless
when he grew old it was found
he understood them anyway, having
listened well, and as it is said, 'prayed
          with the bench and the floor.'  He used
what was at hand--as did
Angel Jones of Mold, whose meditations
were sewn into coats and britches.
          Well, I would like to make,
thinking some line still taut between me and them,
poems direct as what the birds said,
hard as a floor, sound as a bench,
mysterious as the silence when the tailor
would pause with his needle in the air.

— DENISE LEVERTOV