Levertov, Denise

British/United States, (1923-1997)

Song for Ishtar

  1. The moon is a sow
  3. and grunts in my throat
  4. Her great shining shines through me
  5. so the mud of my hollow gleams
  6. and breaks in silver bubbles
  8. She is a sow
  9. and I a pig and a poet
  11. When she opens her white
  12. lips to devour me I bite back
  13. and laughter rocks the moon
  15. In the black of desire
  16. we rock and grunt, grunt and
  17. shine.

© estate of Denise Levertov. O Taste and See: New Poems. New York: New Directions (1964).

Her Judgement

  1. I love my own Humans and their friends,
  2. but let it be said,
  3. that my litters may heed it well,
  4. their race is dangerous.
  6. They mock the race of Swine, and call
  7. “swinish” men they condemn.
  8. Have they not appetites? Do we
  9. plan for slaughter to fill our troughs?
  11. Their fat ones, despised, waddle large-footed,
  12. their thin ones hoard
  13. inedible discs and scraps
  14. called “money.” Us they fatten,
  15. us they exchange for this;
  17. and they breed us not that our life
  18. may be whole, pig-life
  19. thriving alongside dog-life, bird-life,
  20. grass-life, all
  21. the lives of earth-creatures,
  23. but that we may be devoured. Yet,
  24. it’s not being killed for food
  25. destroys us. Other animals
  26. hunt one another. But only Humans,
  28. I think, first corrupt their prey
  29. as we are corrupted, stuffed with temptation
  30. until we can’t move,
  32. crowded until we turn on each,
  33. our name and nature abused.
  35. It is their greed
  36. overfattens us.
  37. Dirt we lie in
  38. is never unclean as their minds,
  39. who take our deformed lives
  40. without thought, without
  41. respect for the Spirit Pig.

© estate of Denise Levertov. Pig Dreams: Scenes from the Life of Sylvia. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press (1981).

Her Secret

  1. In the humans’ house
  2. fine things abound:
  3. furniture, rugs by the hearth,
  4. bowls and pitchers, freezer and fridge,
  5. closets of food, baskets of apples,
  6. the Musical Saw on which
  7. my He-human plays
  8. the songs I dream…
  10. In my neat A-fram
  11. they think there is nothing,
  12. only the clean straw of my bed.
  13. But under the floor I gather
  14. beautiful tins, nutshells, ribbons,
  15. shining buttons, the thousand baubles
  16. a pig desires.
  18. They are well hidden.
  19. Piglets shall find one day
  20. an inheritance of shapes,
  21. textures, mysterious substances —
  23. Rubber! Velvet! Aluminum! Paper!
  25. Yes, I am founding,
  26. stick by stick,
  27. wrapper by wrapper,
  28. trinket, toys —
  29. Civilization!

© estate of Denise Levertov. Pig Dreams: Scenes from the Life of Sylvia. Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press (1981).

About the Poet

Denise Levertov, (1923-1997) was a British born poet who became a naturalized US citizen in 1956. She wrote in a style that has been described by some as “deceptively matter-of-fact.” Her poetry often voiced concerns with activism, feminism, social issues and her inclination towards humanitarianism.

Levertov was, for a time, poetry editor of both The Nation magazine and Mother Jones Magazine. From 1982 to 1993, she taught at Stanford University. [DES-6/03]

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