Ah, Grief, I should not treat you like a homeless dog who comes to the back door for a crust, for a meatless bone. I should trust you. I should coax you into the house and give you your own corner, a worn mat to lie on, your own water dish. You think I don’t know you’ve been living under my porch. You long for your real place to be readied before winter comes. You need your name, your collar and tag. You need the right to warn off intruders, to consider my house your own and me your person and yourself my own dog.
by Denise Levertov
Just when you seem to yourself nothing but a flimsy web of questions, you are given the questions of others to hold in the emptiness of your hands, songbird eggs that can still hatch if you keep them warm, butterflies opening and closing themselves in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure their scintillant fur, their dust. You are given the questions of others as if they were answers to all you ask. Yes, perhaps this gift is your answer
After the argument, all things were strange. They stood divided by their eloquence Which had surprised them after so much silence. Now there were real things to rearrange. Words betokened deeds, but they were both Lightened briefly, and they were inclined To be kind as sometime strangers can be kind. It was as if, out of the undergrowth, They stepped into a clearing and a sun, Machetes still in hand. Something was done, But how they did not fully realize. Something was beginning. Something would stem And branch from this one moment. Something made Them both look up into each other’s eyes Because they both were suddenly afraid And there was no one now to comfort them.
Both Levertov and Stallings draw inspiration from their families, each with a personal voice and poetic vision, but in very different forms. Stallings has the ability to craft highly structured poems that read smoothly, the rhyme and structure doesn’t feel forced or artificial. This is extremely hard to do and I find the craft of Stallings work remarable. No less skilled though is Levertov’s ability to create emotion through simplicity. Levertov picks her words with care and places them with a deft touch. Each of these poems come at the reality of partnership/marriage that is at once both uncomfortable as it is beautiful. A reminder that love moves along all the spectrums of emotion and not just in one direction.
The Ache Of Marriage
by Denise Levertov
The ache of marriage:
thigh and tongue, beloved, are heavy with it, it throbs in the teeth
We look for communion and are turned away, beloved, each and each
It is leviathan and we in its belly looking for joy, some joy not to be known outside it
A voice from the dark called out,
“The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.”But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses. . . .
A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.