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by Denise Levertov

I am growing mine
though I have regretted yours.

        She says, ‘Sure I saw him: he wanted
        to run, the Guardia Civil
        shot him before he reached the patio wall.
        Do I understand “subversive”? Yes,
        the word means
        people who know their rights,
        if they work but don’t get enough to eat
        they protest. He was
        a lay preacher, my father,
        he preached the Gospel,
        he was subversive.’

        She is 12.

My shell is growing
nicely, not very hard, just
a thin protection but it’s
better than just skin. Have you
completed yours? It seems
there will be chinks in it though,
the cartilaginous
plates don’t quite meet, do yours?

        A 9 year old boy whose father has ‘disappeared’ three weeks now,
        asked how he feels, says
        with the shrug of a man of sixty,
        'sad.’ He nods. ‘Yes; sad . . . ’

That burning, blistering glare
off the world’s desert
still pushes in; oh, filter it, grow faster,
hide me in shadow,
        my carapace!


Denise Levertov’s most recent book was Oblique Players (New Directions, 1984). Recently, she has been writing poems about St. Julian of Norwich. (1986)

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