Flickering Mind and Losing Track

Denise Levertov (1923–1997) is one of my favourite poets.

Levertov’s conversion to Christianity came in 1984. In 1997 she put together her selection of poems on religious themes — drawn from seven earlier collections — The Stream and The Sapphire. In the foreword she says the book traces her “own slow movement from agnosticism to Christian faith”. She put the book together “as a convenience to those readers who are themselves concerned with doubt and faith”.
These two poems portray the elusive nature of relationship with God.

Flickering Mind

                                                                         Image from here

Lord, not you,
it is I who am absent.

At first
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
stealing alone
into sacred places:
a quick glance,

and away—and back,

I have long since uttered your name
but now
I elude your presence.

I stop
to think about you, and my mind
at once
like a minnow darts away,
into the shadows, into gleams that fret

the river's purling

and passing

Not for one second
will my self hold still, 

but wanders
everywhere it can turn. 

Not you,
it is I am absent.

You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow,
you the unchanging presence, 

in whom all
moves and changes.

How can I focus my flickering, 

at the fountain's heart
the sapphire

I know is there?

                                                          Image Pier Posts Seal Beach USA from here

Losing Track

Long after you have swung back
away from me
I think you are still with me:

you come in close to the shore
on the tide
and nudge me awake the way

a boat adrift nudges the pier:
am I a pier
half-in half-out of the water?

and in the pleasure of that communion
I lose track,
the moon I watch goes down, the

tide swings you away before
I know I'm
alone again long since,

mud sucking at gray and black
timbers of me,

a light growth of green dreams drying.

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