The poetry of Denise Levertov has long been a valued companion. Six years ago I wrote why that has been so. Interested readers may find that post here, with three more Levertov poems.
The question "Why?" has it's origins in the very beginnings of our learning language. Children are fascinated and delighted by their growing capacities to speak their mother tongue, their mother's tongue, their parents' tongue — in fortunate families, such as that of my great-grandaughter, their parents tongues (plural).
My great-grandaughter lives with her parents in a small house on the outskirts of Quito, Ecuador. From infancy she has learned both Spanish and English. In her still small world, her still small voice, the voice we used to attribute to God, she pimarily speaks Spanish. Her father, my grandson, was born in Edinburgh, but now speaks Spanish better than he speaks English (or Scottish). We tend to forget languages we don't often use, just as we may forget — at least until we are next stirred by the mystery of memory — much about people we no longer see.
For example, I have forgotten my mother's voice. She did not leave me a recording or poems, but she left me a great deal for which I am grateful.
The reader by now will be accustomed to my habit of periphrasis and my incurable attachment to serendipity, the aptitude for making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident. The word was used by Horace Walpole in the mid-1700s. Walpole said he took it from a Persian fairy tale, "The princes of Serendip," whose heroes, he said, "were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of." For those determined to find origins (like Eric Partridge), Serendip was the Arab name for Sri Lanka, from the Arabic word serendib, roughly speaking, golden island.
I wish accident and sagacity would always go together. They often don't.
C.G Jung probably adapted serendipity (serendipitously, as it were) in coming upon his concept of synchronicity, which has found its way into English usage. Something is not sought, but it's found, and we then come to feel it was meant to come, or may have been there all along without our recognition, thus causing a shiver of pleasure or wonder. Denise Levertov knew such experiences.
Denise Levertov, 1923-1997
With that introduction, here is a poem of Denise Levertov.
All which, because it was
flame and song and granted us
joy, we thought we'd do, be, revisit,
turns out to have been what it was
that once, only; every invitation
did not begin
a series, a build-up: the marvelous
did happen in our lives, our stories
are not drab with its absence: but don't
expect to return for more. Whatever more
there will be will be
unique as those were unique. Try
to acknowledge the next
song in its body -- halo of flames as utterly
present, as now or never.
Yes, the next song to appear will not — not clearly, not at once — maybe, as Levertov suggests, not at all, come from the last song you knew, or heard, or sang.
At least, your next song will be more likely to grace you with its presence, its joy, if you are prepared to imagine it 'in its own body" — and in yours, not in some other body, nor in your closet of ready-to-wear songs.