A Time Past

The old wooden steps to the front door   
where I was sitting that fall morning   
when you came downstairs, just awake,   
and my joy at sight of you (emerging   
into golden day—
                         the dew almost frost)
pulled me to my feet to tell you   
how much I loved you:

those wooden steps
are gone now, decayed
replaced with granite,
hard, gray, and handsome.   
The old steps live
only in me:
my feet and thighs
remember them, and my hands   
still feel their splinters.

Everything else about and around that house
brings memories of others—of marriage,
of my son. And the steps do too: I recall
sitting there with my friend and her little son who died,   
or was it the second one who lives and thrives?
And sitting there ‘in my life,’ often, alone or with my husband.
Yet that one instant,
your cheerful, unafraid, youthful, ‘I love you too,’   
the quiet broken by no bird, no cricket, gold leaves   
spinning in silence down without
any breeze to blow them,
                                    is what twines itself
in my head and body across those slabs of wood   
that were warm, ancient, and now
wait somewhere to be burnt.

Denise Levertov, “A Time Past” from The Freeing of the Dust. Copyright © 1975 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.
Source: The Freeing of the Dust (1975)
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