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Two Threnodies and a Psalm

Two Threnodies and a Psalm


It is not approaching.
It has arrived.
We are not circumventing it.

It is happening.
It is happening now.
We are not preventing it.
We are within it.

The sound of its happening
is splitting other ears.
The sight of its happening
is searing other eyes.
The grip of its happening
is strangling other throats.

Without intermissions it spins,
without cessation we circle its edge
as leaf or crumb will float circling
a long time at the other rim
before centripetal force
tugs it down.


The body being savaged
is alive.
It is our own.
While the eagle-vulture
tears the earth's liver,
while the heart-worm burrows
into earth's heart.

Extremities, we are in
unacknowledged extremis.
We feel only
a chill as the pulse of life

We don't beat off the devouring beak,
the talons. We don't dig out what burrows
into our core. It is not
our heart, we think
(but do not say).
It is the world's, poor world, but I
am other.


Our clear water
one with the infested water

women walk miles to

each day they live.

One with the rivers tainted with detritus

of our ambitions,

and with the dishonored ocean.
Our unbroken skin
one with the ripped skin of the tortured,

the shot-down, bombed, napalmed,

the burned alive.

One with the sore and filthy skin of the destitute.

We utter the words
we are one
but their truth
is not real to us.

Spirit, waken
our understanding.
Out of the stasis
in which we perish,
the sullen immobility
to which the lead weight of our disbelief
condemns us,
only your rushing wind
can lift us.

Our flesh and theirs
one with the flesh of fruit and tree.

Our blood
one with the blood of whale and sparrow.

Our bones
ash and cinder of star-fire.

Our being
tinder for primal light.

Lift us, Spirit, impel
our rising
into that knowledge.

Make truth real to us,
flame on our lips.
Lift us to seize the present,
wrench it
out of its downspin.

- Denise Levertov