Thursday, April 15, 2010

Taste & See

O Taste and See
by Denise Levertov(1923 - 1997)
British-born American Poet

The world is
not with us enough
O taste and see

the subway Bible poster said,
meaning The Lord, meaning
if anything all that lives
to the imagination’s tongue,

grief, mercy, language,
tangerine, weather, to
breathe them, bite,
savor, chew, swallow, transform

into our flesh our
deaths, crossing the street, plum, quince,
living in the orchard and being

hungry, and plucking
the fruit.

Verbs: active and ambitransitive. Levertov's list of verbs -- "To breathe them, "bite, savor, chew, swallow, transform" -- reminds me of what Terry Tempest Williams calls a "faith of verbs":

"This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, argue, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek. To seek: to embrace the questions, be wary of answers."
Terry Tempest Williams (b 1955)
American author, naturalist and environmentalist

Nouns: abstract and concrete. We are separated from Nature: "tangerine, weather . . . plum, quince." And also from Imagination: "grief, mercy, language." But we needn't be. We can open our senses, take the time to taste and see, cross that busy street, visit the orchard, retrieve our hearts. Levertov suggests an alternative version of Communion and Paradise: "living in the orchard and being hungry and plucking the fruit." It seems so straightforward, yet we have so often been warned against it that we must retrain our senses in order to embrace the world enough.

For more on this poem and others, see
my fortnightly literary blog
of connection and coincidence

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