Two girls discover the secret of life in a sudden line of poetry. I who don't know the secret wrote the line. They told me (through a third person) they had found it but not what it was not even what line it was. No doubt by now, more than a week later, they have forgotten the secret, the line, the name of the poem. I love them for finding what I can't find, and for loving me for the line I wrote, and for forgetting it so that a thousand times, till death finds them, they may discover it again, in other lines in other happenings. And for wanting to know it, for assuming there is such a secret, yes, for that most of all.
By Denise Levertov, from Poems 1960-1967. Copyrightt © 1966, 1964 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.
Fully occupied with growing—that's
the amaryllis. Growing especially
at night: it would take
only a bit more patience than I've got
to sit keeping watch with it till daylight;
the naked eye could register every hour's
increase in height. Like a child against a barn door,
proudly topping each year's achievement,
goes each green stem, smooth, matte,
traces of reddish purple at the base, and almost
imperceptible vertical ridges
running the length of them:
Two robust stems from each bulb,
sometimes with sturdy leaves for company,
elegant sweeps of blade with rounded points.
Aloft, the gravid buds, shiny with fullness.
One morning—and so soon!—the first flower
has opened when you wake. Or you catch it poised
in a single, brief
moment of hesitation.
Next day, another,
shy at first like a foal,
even a third, a fourth,
carried triumphantly at the summit
of those strong columns, and each
a Juno, calm in brilliance,
a maiden giantess in modest splendor.
If humans could be
that intensely whole, undistracted, unhurried,
swift from sheer
unswerving impetus! If we could blossom
out of ourselves, giving
nothing imperfect, withholding nothing!
By Denise Levertov, from This Great Unknowing: Last Poems. Copyright © 1998 by The Denise Levertov Literary Trust, Paul A. Lacey and Valerie Trueblood Rapport, Co-Trustees. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. Used with permission.