Somebody Trying

By Denise Levertov 1923–1997 Denise Levertov
‘That creep Tolstoy,’ she sobbed.
‘He. . . He. . . couldn’t even. . .’
Something about his brother dying.

The serfs’ punishments
have not ceased to suppurate on their backs.
Woodlots. People. Someone crying

under the yellow
autumn birchgrove drove him
wild: A new set of resolves:

When gambling, that almost obsolete fever,
or three days with the gypsies
sparked him into pure ego, he could,

just the same, write home, ‘Sell them.’
It’s true. ‘Still,’ (someone who loved her said,
cold and firm while she dissolved,

hypocrite, in self disgust, lectrice)
‘Still, he kept on. He wrote
all that he wrote; and seems to have understood

better than most of us:
to be human isn’t easy. It’s not
easy to be a serf or a master and learn

that art. It takes nerve. Bastard. Fink.
Yet the grief
trudging behind his funeral, he earned.’

Denise Levertov, “Somebody Trying" from Poems 1968-1972. Copyright © 1970 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Poems 1968-1972 (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 2002)

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Poet Denise Levertov 1923–1997

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Arts & Sciences, Reading & Books, Social Commentaries, Class