Sunday, January 08, 2012

Poem of the Week 1/8/2011: Beyond the End

Beyond the End

In 'nature' there's no choice --
swing their heads in the wind, sun & moon
      are as they are. But we seem
almost to have it (not just
      available death)

It's energy: a spider's thread: not to
'go on living' but to quicken, to activate: extend:
      Some have it, they force it --
with work or laughter or even
      the act of buying, if that's
all they can lay hands on--

             the girls crowding the stores, where light,
                  color, solid dreams are - what gay
             desire! It's their festival,
                  ring game, wassail, mystery.

It has no grace like that of
the grass, the humble rhythms, the
falling & rising of leaf and star;
it's barely
a constant. Like salt:
take it or leave it

The 'hewers of wood' & so on; every damn
craftsman has it while he's working
                            but it's not
a question of work: some
shine with it, in repose. Maybe it is
response, the will to respond--('reason
can give nothing at all/like
response to desire') maybe
a gritting of teeth, to go
just that much further, beyond the end
beyond whatever ends: to begin, to be, to defy.

Denise Levertov

"Beyond the end" announces its subject right away: the matter of choice. Levertov does not present a cosmology or a model of the mind so much as an expansive call to action, to energy - exuberance is beauty, blake says, and this poem seems to say so as well. In her zeal to extend energy everywhere, the poet even includes girls shopping as an expression of will, some kind of old English wassail, festival.

The poem addresses the question: is there something that makes humans more than natural, more than flowers swaying to some stimulus, rooted and planted? Perhaps, she suggests, we should rather be as unattached as a spider flying on its thread, flinging ourselves into the blue. And then to refine that image, carry forward "the will to respond," a kind of readiness, or axis perhaps, that holds one together inside. Water pressure inside, the power of oceans concentrated, fiercely joyfully waiting.