To Live in the Mercy of God

By Denise Levertov 1923–1997 Denise Levertov
To lie back under the tallest
oldest trees. How far the stems
rise, rise
               before ribs of shelter
                                           open!

To live in the mercy of God. The complete
sentence too adequate, has no give.
Awe, not comfort. Stone, elbows of
stony wood beneath lenient
moss bed.

And awe suddenly
passing beyond itself. Becomes
a form of comfort.
                      Becomes the steady
air you glide on, arms
stretched like the wings of flying foxes.
To hear the multiple silence
of trees, the rainy
forest depths of their listening.

To float, upheld,
                as salt water
                would hold you,
                                        once you dared.
         
                  .

To live in the mercy of God.

To feel vibrate the enraptured

waterfall flinging itself
unabating down and down
                              to clenched fists of rock.
Swiftness of plunge,
hour after year after century,
                                                   O or Ah
uninterrupted, voice
many-stranded.
                              To breathe
spray. The smoke of it.
                              Arcs
of steelwhite foam, glissades
of fugitive jade barely perceptible. Such passion—
rage or joy?
                              Thus, not mild, not temperate,
God’s love for the world. Vast
flood of mercy
                      flung on resistance.

Denise Levertov, “To Live in the Mercy of God” from Sands from the Well. Copyright © 1996 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Sands from the Well (1996)

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Poet Denise Levertov 1923–1997

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Religion, God & the Divine

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Denise  Levertov

Biography

During the course of a prolific career, Denise Levertov created a highly regarded body of poetry that reflects her beliefs as an artist and a humanist. Her work embraces a wide variety of genres and themes, including nature lyrics, love poems, protest poetry, and poetry inspired by her faith in God. "Dignity, reverence, and strength are words that come to mind as one gropes to characterize . . . one of America's most respected . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Religion, God & the Divine

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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