Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Denise Levertov

Age of Terror

Between the fear
of the horror of Afterwards
and the despair
in the thought of no Afterwards,
we move abraded,
each gesture scraping us
on the millstones.

In dream 
there was an Afterwards
      the unknown device--
            a silver computer as big as a
            block of offices at least,
            like Magritte's castle on its rock, aloft
            in the blue sky--
      did explode,
                                 there was
            a long moment of cataclysm,
of a subdued rose-red suffused
all the air before
a rumbling confused darkness ensued,
I came to,
               face down,
                                and found
my young sister alive near me,
and knew my still younger brother
and our mother and father
                                       were close by too,
and, passionately relieved, I
comforted my shocked sister,
                                    still not daring
to raise my head,
only stroking and kissing her arm,
afraid to find devastation around us
though we, all five of us,
seemed to have survived--and I readied myself
to take rollcall: 'Paul Levertoff? Beatrice Levertoff?'

And then in dream--not knowing
if this device, this explosion, were radioactive or not,
but sure that where it had centered
there must be wreck, terror,
fire and dust--
the millstones
commenced their grinding again,
and as in daylight
again we were held between them, cramped,
scraped raw by questions:

perhaps, indeed, we were safe; perhaps
no worse was to follow?--but . . .
what of our gladness, when there,
   where the core of the strange
              roselight had flared up
              out of the detonation of brilliant
   angular silver,
there must be others, others in agony,
and as in waking daylight,
the broken dead?

--Denise Levertov

fr. Candles in Babylon
[New York: New Directions, 1982]

in Poems for the Millenium, Vol. Two
[Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1998]


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