Denise Levertov

Skew Lines

Ugly look, close to tears, on a man’s face—
           hath compassion
           no name for it?
Look not unlike a fearful animal’s
snarl as the hunter backs him up,
           but here
           no bite showing,
           the lips drawn down not back.

Drawn down, sweet lips
           of a man
as if Laurel were about
to cry-compassion
           turns in on itself
biting its tongue, unable to cry out
           or give it a name.