Denise Levertov

Six Variations

We have been shown
how Basket drank—
and old man Volpe the cobbler
made up what words he didn’t know
so that his own son, even
laughed at him: but with respect.

Two flutes! How close
to each other they move
in mazing figures,
never touching, never
breaking the measure,
as gnats dance in
summer haze all afternoon, over
shallow water sprinkled
with mottled blades of willow—
two flutes!

Shlup, shlup, the dog
as it laps up
makes intelligent
music, resting
now and then to
take breath in irregular

When I can’t
strike one spark from you,
when you don’t
look me in the eye,
when your answers 
          slowly, dragging
their feet, and furrows
change your face,
when the sky is a cellar
with dirty windows,
when furniture
obstructs the body, and bodies
are heavy furniture coated
with dust—time
for a lagging leaden pace,
a short sullen line,
of heavy heart and
cold eye.

The quick of the sun that gilds
broken pebbles in sidewalk cement
and the iridescent 
spit, that defiles and adorns!
Gold light in blind love does not distinguish
one surface from another, the savor
is the same to its tongue, the fluted
cylinder of a new ashcan a dazzling silver,
the smooth flesh of screaming children a quietness, it is all
a jubilance, the light catches up
the disordered street in its apron,
broken fruitrinds shine in the gutter.

Lap up the vowels
of sorrow
               transparent, cold
water-darkness welling
up from the white sand.
Hone the blade
of a scythe to cut swathes
of light sound in the mind.
Through the hollow globe, a ring
of frayed rusty scrapiron,
is it the sea that shines?
Is it a road at the world’s edge?