Denise Levertov

The Postcards: A Triptych

The Minoan Snake Goddess is flanked by a Chardin still-life, somber 
and tranquil, and by Mahommedan angels 
brilliantly clothed and with multicolored wings, 
who throng round a fleshcolored horse with a man's face 
on whose back rides a whiteturbaned being without a face, 
merely a white, oval disk, and whose hands too are unformed, or 
in blue sleeves. 
                         Are the angels bringing attributes 
        to this unconscious one? 
Is he about to be made human? 
                                                       One bends to the floor of heaven in 
one brings a bowl (of water?), another a tray (of food?); two 
point the way, one watches from on high, two and two more 
indicate measure, that is, they present 
limits that confine the way to a single path; 
two debate the outcome, the last 
prays not bowed down but looking 
level towards the pilgrim. 
Stars and the winding 
ceintures of the angels surround
the gold cloud or flame before which he rides; heaven itself 
is a dark blue. 
                      Meanwhile the still-life offers, makes possible, 
a glass of water, a wine-bottle made of glass so dark it is 
almost black yet not opaque, half-full of 
perhaps water, and beside these, two courgettes
with rough, yellow-green, almost reptilian skins, 
       and a shallow basket 
of plums, each almost cleft 
with ripeness, the bloom upon them, their skin 
darker purple or almost crimson where a hand 
touched them, placing them here. Surely 
this table, these fruits, these vessels, this water 
stand in a cool room, stonefloored, quiet. 
And the Goddess? 
                              She stands 
between these worlds. 
                                   She is ivory, 
her breasts bare, her bare arms 
braceleted with gold snakes. Their heads 
uprear towards her in homage. 
Gold borders the tiers of her skirt, a gold hoop 
is locked round her waist. She is a few inches high. 
And she muses, her lips are pursed, 
beneath her crown that must once have been studded with gold 
she frowns, she gazes 
at and beyond her snakes as if 
not goddess but priestess, waiting 
an augury. 
                 Without thought I have placed these images 
over my desk. Under these signs I am living.