Denise Levertov

In Abeyance

      No skilled hands
      caress a stranger’s flesh with lucid oil before
a word is spoken
                           no feasting
before a tale is told, before
the stranger tells his name.

The ships come and go
along the river and
in and out of the Narrows
and few among us know it

we are so many

      and many within themselves
travel to far islands but no one
asks for their story

nor is there an exchange of gifts, stranger
      to stranger
nor libation
nor sacrifice to the gods

and no house has its herm.

a herm is a squared stone pillar with a carved head on top (typically of Hermes), 
used in ancient Greece as a boundary marker or a signpost.