by Denise Levertov

Page 4

The last heavy fairy tale in which one lays one's heart bare before the knife

The room is small, the table plain
white pine well-scrubbed.
the house is deep in the forest.
Each comes alone, but watched,
carefully holding in two hands
that heart which till now
was drumming and drumming away
in its own interior anteroom-
comes to center it, bare and still beating,
on the plain table
in the small room
where the knife will appear, new-sharpened, held

'The holy one, blessed be he, wanders again,' said Jacob. 'He is wandering and looks for a place where he can rest.'

Between the pages
a wren's feather
to mark what passage?
Blood, not dry,
beaded scarlet on dusty stones.
A look of wonder
barely perceived on a turning face-
what, who had they seen?
Here's the cold inn,
the wanderer passed it by
searching once more
for a stable's warmth,
a birthplace.

She wept and the women consoled her

The flow of tears ebbed,
her blouse began to dry.
But the sobs that
took her by the shoulders and
shook her came back
for unknown reasons
and shook her again, like soldiers
coming back when everyone had gone.
History's traffic had speeded up and
smashed into gridlock all around her;
the women consoled her but she couldn't get out.
Bent forward as she was,
she found herself looking at her legs.
They were old, the skin
shiny over swollen ankles,
and blotched. They meant nothing to her
but they were all she could see.
Her fallen tears had left their traces
like snail-tracks on them.

They day longs for the evening.

The zenith longs for the banal horizon.
The north wind longs for the south,
and the trudging clouds are
searching, searching for that land
of glowing fruit, of polished marble;
but the wind that drives them
is bitter, they bring winter with them.
What is that promised evening?
The day, the day knows
in spite of everything,
that evening will not fail,
the ancient evening,
luminous evening.

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