by Denise Levertov (1923-1997)
'Your river is in full flood,' she said,
'Work on - use these weeks well!'
She was leaving, with a springy step, a woman
herself renewed, her life risen
up from the root of despair she'd
bent low to touch,
risen empowered. Her work now
could embrace more: she imagined anew
the man's totem tree and its taproot,
the woman's chosen lichen, patiently
composting rock, another's
needful swamp, the tribal migrations -
swaying skeins rotating their leaders,
pace unflagging, and the need
of each threatened thing
to be. She had met
with the council
of all beings.
'You give me my life,'
she said to the just-written poems,
long-legged foals surprised to be standing.
The poet waving farewell
is not so sure of the river.
Is it indeed
strong-flowing, generous? Was there largesse
for alluvial, black, seed-hungry fields?
Or had a flash-flood
swept down these tokens
to be plucked ashore, rescued
only to watch the waters recede
from stones of an arid valley?
But the traveler's words
are leaven. They work in the poet.
The river swiftly
goes on braiding its heavy tresses,
brown and flashing
as far as the eye can see.
The poem above is from The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov (New Directions, 2013). The poem in the picture captions is from Mary Oliver: New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1 (Beacon Press,2004). All rights reserved by the Levertov and Oliver estates.