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Come into Animal Presence

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Come into animal presence.
No man is so guileless as
the serpent. The lonely white
rabbit on the roof is a star
twitching its ears at the rain.
The llama intricately
folding its hind legs to be seated
not disdains but mildly
disregards human approval.
What joy when the insouciant
armadillo glances at us and doesn't
quicken his trotting
across the track into the palm brush.

What is this joy? That no animal
falters, but knows what it must do?
That the snake has no blemish,
that the rabbit inspects his strange surroundings
in white star-silence? The llama
rests in dignity, the armadillo
has some intention to pursue in the palm-forest.
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

Denise Levertov, “Come into Animal Presence” from Poems 1960-1967. Copyright © 1961 by Denise Levertov. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.
Source: Poems 1960-1967 (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1983)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 1960 issue of Poetry magazine

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Come into Animal Presence

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