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Posts tagged ‘denise levertov’

What Kinds of Annuniciations Have You Experienced?

This is an excerpt from the poem “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov. I read this poem last advent when on a wonderful Advent Retreat with Michael Fish, OSB Cam, at Santa Sabina Center in San Rafael, CA. The poem can be found on the Education for Justice website.

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn, Greece, VIC

We know the scene: the room, variously
furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of
great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or
hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one
mentions
courage.
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
God waited.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
More often
those moments
   when roads of light and storm
   open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
Source: “Annunciation” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997
Let not the gate close

Let not the gate close

Beginners

Today’s Easter Poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov

So much is in the (poppy) bud!

So much is in the (poppy) bud!

Beginners
(Dedicated to the memory of Karen
Silkwood and Eliot Gralla)

“From too much love of living,
Hope and desire set free,
Even the weariest river
Winds somewhere to the sea—“

But we have only begun
To love the earth.

We have only begun
To imagine the fullness of life.

How could we tire of hope?
—so much is in bud.

How can desire fail?
—we have only begun

to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision

how it might be
to live as siblings with beast and flower,
not as oppressors.

Surely our river
cannot already be hastening
into the sea of nonbeing?

Surely it cannot
drag, in the silt,
all that is innocent?

Not yet, not yet—
there is too much broken
that must be mended,

too much hurt we have done to each other
that cannot yet be forgiven.

We have only begun to know
the power that is in us if we would join
our solitudes in the communion of struggle.

So much is unfolding that must
complete its gesture,

so much is in bud.

Source: Selected Poems Denise Levertov, by
Denise Levertov, New York: New Directions,
2003. p. 137

O Taste and See

tangerinesToday’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.

O Taste and See

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

Source: “O Taste and See” from O Taste and See by Denise Levertov. New
York: New Directions, 1964.

The Feast of the Annunciation

annunciationMarch 25th, nine months before Christmas – the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus, is celebrated this day in Lent. So today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is
Annunciation by Denise Levertov.

This year, because we are in the midst of Holy Week,  the feast has been transferred to April 8th. But I don’t mind celebrating twice! 😉

Annunciation

‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’ From the Agathistos Hymn,
Greece, VI

We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book;
always the tall lily.

     Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.

But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
courage.

     The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
                                                           God waited.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
____________________________

Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?

     Some unwillingly
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
uncomprehending.
                                   More often
those moments
                 when roads of light and storm
                 open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.

Ordinary lives continue.

                                  God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
______________________________

She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child – but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.

Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
                               only asked
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
perceiving instantly
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb

Infinite weight and lightness; to carry in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power –
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.

                             Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love –

but who was God.

Source: “Annunciation” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov.
New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis

bologna_crossToday is Palm Sunday, and our Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.

Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis

Maybe He looked indeed
much as Rembrandt envisioned Him
in those small heads that seem in fact
portraits of more than a model.
A dark, still young, very intelligent face,
a soul-mirror gaze of deep understanding, unjudging.
That face, in extremis, would have clenched its teeth
in a grimace not shown in even the great crucifixions.
The burden of humanness (I begin to see) exacted from Him
that He taste also the humiliation of dread,
cold sweat of wanting to let the whole thing go,
like any mortal hero out of his depth,
like anyone who has taken a step too far
and wants herself back.
The painters, even the greatest, don’t show how,
in the midnight Garden,
or staggering uphill under the weight of the Cross,
He went through with even the human longing
to simply cease, to not be.
Not torture of body,
not the hideous betrayals humans commit
nor the faithless weakness of friends, and surely
not the anticipation of death (not then, in agony’s grip)
was Incarnation’s heaviest weight,
but this sickened desire to renege,
to step back from what He, Who was God,
had promised Himself, and had entered
time and flesh to enact.
Sublime acceptance, to be absolute, had to have welled
up from those depths where purpose
drifted for mortal moments.

Source: “Salvator Mundi: Via Crucis” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by
Denise Levertov. New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997

The Avowal

bolinas_december_2011_061Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.

The Avowal

As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

Source: “The Avowal” from The Stream and the Sapphire, by Denise Levertov.
New York: New Directions Publishing, 1997.

To Live in the Mercy of God

muir_woods_jan_2013_024Today’s Lenten poem from Education for Justice is by Denise Levertov.

To Live in the Mercy of God

To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
before ribs of shelter
open!

To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
as salt water
would hold you,
once you dared.

To live in the mercy of God.

To feel vibrate the enraptured

waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.
To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?
Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
flung on resistance.

Source: “To Live in the Mercy of God” from Sands from the Well, by Denise
Levertov. New York: New Directions, 1996.