Denise Levertov

Five Poems from Mexico

i The Weave

The cowdung-colored mud
baked and raised up in random
walls, bears the silken
lips and lashes of erotic
flowers toward a sky of
noble clouds. Accepted
sacramental excrement
supports the ecstatic half-sleep
of butterflies, the slow
opening and closing of brilliant
dusty wings. Bite down
on the bitter stem of your nectared
rose, you know
the dreamy stench of death and fling
magenta shawls delicately
about your brown shoulders laughing.

ii Corazón

When in bushy hollows between
moonround and moonround of hill, white clouds
loiter arm-in-arm, out of curl,
and sheep in the ravines
vaguely congregate, the heart
of Mexico sits in the rain
not caring to seek shelter,
a blanket of geranium pink drawn up
over his silent mouth.

iii The Rose
(for B.L.)

In the green Alameda, near the fountains,
an old man, hands
clasped behind his shabby back
shuffles from rose to rose, stopping
to ponder and inhale, and I
follow him at a distance, discovering
the golden rose, color of bees’ fur, odor of honey,
red rose, contralto, roses
of dawn-cloud-color, of snow-in-moonlight,
of colors only roses know,
but no rose
like the rose I saw in your garden.

iv Canticle

Flies, acolytes
of the death-in-life temple
buzz their prayers

and from the altar
of excrement arises
an incense

of orange and purple
petals.       Drink,

stain with ferment
the blinding white that clothes
your dark body.

v Sierra

Golden the high ridge of thy back, bull-mountain,
and coffee-black thy full sides.
The sky decks thy horns with violet,
with cascades of cloud. The brown hills
are thy cows.        Shadows
of zopilotes* cross and slowly cross again
thy flanks, lord of herds.