Denise Levertov

A Sequence


A changing skyline.
A slice of window filled in
by a middle-distance oblong
topped by little
moving figures.
You are speaking
flatly, ‘as one drinks a glass of

milk’ (for calcium).
               Suddenly the milk
spills, a torrent of black milk hurtles
through the room, bubbling and
seething into the corners.


‘But then I was another person!’
The building veiled
in scaffolding. When the builders leave,
tenants will move in, pervading
cubic space with breath and dreams.
Odor of newmade memories
will loiter in the hallways,
noticed by helpless dogs and young children.
That will be other, another 


I had meant to say
‘only, ‘The skyline’s changing
the window’s allowance of sky is
           but more
intensely designed, sprinkled
with human gestures.’

That’s not enough.
Ah, if you’ve not seen it
it’s not enough.
It’s true.

is ever enough. Images
split the truth
in fractions. And milk
of speech is black lava. The sky
is sliced into worthless
glass diamonds.


Again: middle of a night.
Silences lifting
bright eyes that brim with
smiles and painful
stone tears.
                  Will you believe it,
in this very room
cloud-cuckoos unfledged themselves,
shedding feathers and down,
showed themselves small,
paltry in death?
In the dark
when the past lays its hand on your heart,
can’t you recall that hour of
death and new daylight?


But how irrelevantly
the absurd angel of happiness walks in,
a box of matches in one hand,
in the other a book of dream-jokes.
I wake up laughing, tell you:
‘I was writing an
ad for gold—gold cups,
gold porridge-bowls—Gold,
beautiful, durable— While I mused
for a third adjective, you were
preparing to leave for
three weeks—Here’s the check. And
perhaps in a week or so
I’ll be able to send you a
pound of tomatoes.’ Then
you laugh too, and we clasp
in naked laughter, trembling
with tenderness and relief.
Meanwhile the angel,
dressed for laughs as a plasterer,
puts a match to whatever’s
lying in the grate: broken scaffolds, 
empty cocoons, the paraphernalia
of unseen change.
Our eyes smart from the smoke but
we laugh and
warm ourselves.