Levertov’s Mountain is My Mountain

It used to be that all I did and didn’t do took place inside the wide open north-reaching arms of the Mountain. Its invitation drew me all my life to the window, the porch, the yard, the shore to accept or refuse. Many times the Mountain hid in the clouds or the smog or even once, in smoke and ash, but the arms never folded onto themselves, they never tucked back to armor the heart.

In 1989 when poet Denise Levertov moved to Seattle, I did not know her work, and she did not know my mountain, at least not the marrow-deep way that I did. But both things changed: I found her poetry, she found the peak. Now when I read Levertov, I know that my mountain became her mountain, that kinships are forged in shared silences and in eruptions of voice.

The mountain’s daily speech is silence

The mountain’s daily speech is silence.
Profound as the Great Silence
between the last Office and the first.
Uninterrupted as the silence God maintains
throughout the layered centuries.
All the mountain’s moods,

frank or evasive,
its whiteness, its blueness,

are shown to sight alone.
Yet it is known
that fire seethes in its depths
and will surely rise one day, breaking open
the mute imperturbable summit. Will the roar of eruption be
the mountain’s own repressed voice,
or that of the fire? Does the mountain
harbor a demon distinct from itself?

Denise Levertov
(In This Great Unknowing: Last Poems)

Photo credit: Andrew Larsen, November 15, 2008

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