Denise Levertov

A Solitude

A blind man. I can stare at him
ashamed, shameless. Or does he know it?
No, he is in a great solitude.

O, strange joy,
to gaze my fill at a stranger’s face.
No, my thirst is greater than before.

In his world he is speaking
almost aloud. His lips move.                
Anxiety plays about them. And now joy

of some sort trembles into a smile.
A breeze I can’t feel
crosses that face as if it crossed water.

The train moves uptown, pulls in and
pulls out of the local stops. Within its loud
jarring movement a quiet,

the quiet of people not speaking,
some of them eyeing the blind man,
only a moment though, not thirsty like me,

and within that quiet his
different quiet, not quiet at all, a tumult
of images, but what are his images,

he is blind? He doesn’t care
that he looks strange, showing
his thoughts on his face like designs of light

flickering on water, for he doesn’t know
what look is.
I see he has never seen.

And now he rises, he stands at the door ready,
knowing his station is next. Was he counting?
No, that was not his need.

When he gets out I get out.
‘Can I help you towards the exit?’
‘Oh, alright.’ An indifference.

But instantly, even as he speaks,
even as I hear indifference, his hand
goes out, waiting for me to take it,

and now we hold hands like children.
 His hand is warm and not sweaty,
the grip firm, it feels good.

And when we have passed through the turnstile,
he going first, his hand at once
waits for mine again.

‘Here are the steps. And here we turn
to the right. More stairs now.’ We go
up into sunlight. He feels that,

the soft air. ‘A nice day,
isn’t it?’ says the blind man. Solitude
walks with me, walks

beside me, he is not with me, he continues
his thoughts alone. But his hand and mine
know one another,

it’s as if my hand were gone forth
on its own journey. I see him
across the street, the blind man,

and now he says he can find his way. He knows
where he is going, it is nowhere, it is filled
with presences. He says, I am.