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LEVERTOV, Denise



What Wild Dawns There Were


What wild dawns there were

in our first years here

when we would run outdoors naked

to pee in the long grass behind the house

and see over the hills such streamers

such banners of fire and blue (the blue

that is Lilith to full day’s honest Eve) –

What feathers of gold under the morning star

we saw from dazed eyes before

stumbling back to bed chilled with dew

to sleep till the sun was high!


Now if we wake early

we don’t go outdoors – or I don’t –

and you if you do go

rarely call me to see the day break.

I watch the dawn through glass: this year

only cloudless flushes of light, paleness

slowly turning to rose,

and fading subdued.

We have not spoken of these tired

risings of the sun.


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.