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To Denise Levertov
1923 – 1997
by Glenna Cook


Your letter advised,
don't try to write a poem,
wait and be ready.

Yet, you put your whole self
into forming yours.
No line-break or punctuation,
no "rhyme, chime, echo, repetition,"
escaped your careful craft.

Whether ant, bird or shadow,
moon, cloud or mountain,
myth or memory,
you used what you found
as tesserae in your mosaic of metaphor.

You farmed your poems, organically,
planting seeds of language in rich
alluvial soil, harvesting their abundance
in the ripeness of time.


You traveled wide, your "head a camera,"
your ears attuned to the world's truth.

You flew to Viet Nam (It was forbidden.)
to know who we were bombing,
to know their faces, their rice paddies,
their gentle way of living.
They shared their meals with you
when they learned you had come in peace.

Back home, following news of continuing
carnage, your first-hand knowledge–
missing limbs, shattered eyes, burned flesh–
left you open to a bruised heart,
while angry Americans lit a match
to your poems of witness.

Mercifully, you died before 9/11
and the two useless wars that it spawned.
How cruel it would have been
to put you through all that, again.

Be at rest, dear prophet.

You gave it all you could.
Each new generation
must learn for itself
how to love.


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