In California: Morning, Evening, Late January

By Denise Levertov 1923–1997 Denise Levertov
Pale, then enkindled,
light
advancing,
emblazoning
summits of palm and pine,

the dew
lingering,
scripture of
scintillas.

Soon the roar
of mowers
cropping the already short
grass of lawns,

men with long-nozzled
cylinders of pesticide
poking at weeds,
at moss in cracks of cement,

and louder roar
of helicopters off to spray
vineyards where braceros try
to hold their breath,

and in the distance, bulldozers, excavators,
babel of destructive construction.

Banded by deep
oakshadow, airy
shadow of eucalyptus,

miner’s lettuce,
tender, untasted,
and other grass, unmown,
luxuriant,
no green more brilliant.

Fragile paradise.

         .   .   .   .

At day’s end the whole sky,
vast, unstinting, flooded with transparent
mauve,
tint of wisteria,
cloudless
over the malls, the industrial parks,
the homes with the lights going on,
the homeless arranging their bundles.

         .   .   .   .

Who can utter
the poignance of all that is constantly
threatened, invaded, expended

and constantly
nevertheless
persists in beauty,

tranquil as this young moon
just risen and slowly
drinking light   
from the vanished sun.

Who can utter
the praise of such generosity
or the shame?

“In California” By Denise Levertov, from A Door in the Hive, copyright © 1989 by Denise Levertov. Used by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.

Source: A Door in the Hive (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1989)

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Poet Denise Levertov 1923–1997

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Subjects Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Money & Economics

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 Activities, Jobs & Working, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Money & Economics

SCHOOL / PERIOD Black Mountain

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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