The photo is of a burn running off Glen Dye, filled with melted snow water, and peaty brown. Had I taken time I'd probably have seen some small fish in it, but standing on the bridge looking down I was simply captivated by the play of light on water, the sound of water on stones, and the wild freedom of tumbling water as a sacrament of life and the extravagant brilliance of grace.
Which brings me to Denise Levertov once more. It's always presumptuous to say more than we know, even if we are getting carried away with our admiration and enthusiasm. I wouldn't dare suggest this is Denise Levetov's best poem, nor that it is the one which captures most faithfully her own search for that elusive inner acknowledgement we might call faith. But it is a poem she chose to begin her essay exploration of poetry as 'Work that Enfaiths'. And it is the poem that her biographer suggests has a clear autobiographical reference to her own faith journey. (Dana Greene, p 185).
In any case it is a poem which gives words to those recurring moments of fleeting uncertainty, that follow on the occasional encounter with God, and in which recognition, awareness and captured attention come as a gift for which we are unprepared. Second thoughts and rationalisations, the onward push of life's circumstances and the busyness of our inner lives, and the sheer elusiveness of the transcendent when we seek to recapture it, make such heightened joy hard to maintain over time. Perhaps because olrdinary experience tells us such extraordinary joy is too good to be true, whatever true means.
Few poets I have read combine Levertov's honest searching, persistent longing and determined doubting as a complex intersection of themes as Levertov does in her later poetry. And this poem, speaks to that condition when, in our most honest moments we confess, "Lord I believe, help thou mine unbelief". The question which ends the poem, in its poignancy and possibility, is Levertov's version of what the author of The Colud of Unknowing meant by 'the dart of longing love.'
This is a beautiful poem.
Lord, not you,
it is I who am absent.
belief was a joy I kept in secret,
into sacred places:
a quick glance, and away -- and back,
I have long since uttered your name
I elude your presence.
to think about you, and my mind
like a minnow darts away,
into the shadows, into gleams that fret
the river's purling and passing.
Not for one second
will my self hold still, but wanders
everywhere it can turn. Not you,
it is I am absent.
You are the stream, the fish, the light,
the pulsing shadow,
you the unchanging presence, in whom all
moves and changes.
How can I focus my flickering, perceive
at the fountain's heart
the sapphire I know is there?