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By Denise Levertov

Pale, then enkindled,




summits of palm and pine,

the dew


scripture of


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,


no green more brilliant.

Fragile paradise.

         .   .   .   .

At day’s end the whole sky,

vast, unstinting, flooded with transparent


tint of wisteria,


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


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)

  • Activities
  • Nature
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Denise Levertov
Although born in England, Denise Levertov's long residence in the United States and her allegiance to the nativist vision and organic, open-form procedures of William Carlos Williams make her a distinctly American writer. Levertov came here in 1948, and was soon associating with the Black Mountain poets Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley. Her quietly passionate poems, attuned to mystic insights and mapping quests for harmony, became darker and more political in the 1960s as a result of personal loss and her outrage at the Vietnam War. See More By This Poet

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