A Shimmering of Wind in the Blue Leaves

Spiritual Sunday

In her poem “Of Being,” Denise Levertov acknowledges that our moments of happiness may seem only provisional.  After all, even when the “looming presences” of great suffering and fear withdraw, they withdraw “only into peripheral vision.” Always there is a threatened return.

But that being said, there is something ineluctable about spirit, made manifest in the “shimmering of wind in the blue leaves” and in the “flood of stillness widening the lake of sky.”  Ineluctable also is “this need to dance, this need to kneel: this mystery.” Suffering and fear cannot command center stage the way that the shimmering can.

I can’t think of any other poems (though I’m sure they exist) that end in a colon.  Levertov takes her poem up to the edge of mystery but then acknowledges that language can go no further.

My apologies for this website’s formatting of the poem, which doesn’t honor some of the indentations:

Of Being

By Denise Levertov

I know this happiness
is provisional:

the looming presences —
great suffering, great fear —

withdraw only
into peripheral vision:

but ineluctable this shimmering
of wind in the blue leaves:

this flood of stillness
widening the lake of sky:

this need to dance,
this need to kneel:
this mystery:


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  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

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