Walking to the subway one recent morning, I saw a torn bit of plastic lying in the gutter: a common sign, found in any hardware store, made for routine use. This one had a jet-black background from which angry orange letters glared. It originally commanded “NO PARKING,” but all that remained (of insubstantial plastic) was just one corner, turned about, and no longer scolding.
It proclaimed, instead, “ON”.
“I like to find,” Denise Levertov wrote in Pleasures,
what’s not found
at once, but lies
within something of another nature,
in repose, distinct.
Of joy this we know — it is often concealed; always pending; ever ON.
She marvels at a variety of discoveries: the fragile bones of a squid (“Gull feathers of glass”); the resolute sturdiness of mamey — peel, fruit, seed; and “butteryellow glow” — the sun trumpeting from within each morning glory flower.
All the most delicate items carry a message and invite closer scrutiny; discoveries await.
We hardly need worry; in the course of some journeys, we never stop.
Across a storied career that spanned a half-century, Denise Levertov (1923-1997) published more than thirty books of and about poetry. Her final work has been collected posthumously in This Great Unknowing: Last Poems. The University of California Press has just released the “first full-length biography” of this poet and activist, artist and humanist: A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov, by Donna Hollenberg.