Denise Levertov

Variation and Reflection on a Theme by Rilke

The Book of Hours, Book I, Poem 7


If just once the swing of cause and effect,
                                        cause and effect,
would come to rest; if casual events would halt,
and the machine that supplies meaningless laughter
ran down, and my bustling senses, taking a deep breath
fell silent
and left my attention free at last…

then my thought, single and multifold,
could think you into itself
until it filled with you to the very brim,
bounding the whole flood of your boundlessness:

and at that timeless moment of possession,
fleeting as a smile, surrender you
and let you flow back into all creation.


There will never be that stillness.
Within the pulse of flesh,
in the dust of being, where we trudge,
          turning our hungry gaze this way and that,
the wings of the morning
brush through our blood
as cloud-shadows brush the land.
What we desire travels with us.
We must breathe time as fishes breathe water.
God’s flight circles us.