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A Woman Alone by Denise Levertov

Woke up with a sadness I can’t explain. Went to a bookstore and walked around to make it go away. It usually works, but not today. Went home, took a nap. Dreamt I was underwater again. My lover was drowning. He has no face. I couldn’t save him. I woke up with a woman’s voice in my head: your sadness, it’s chemical. Had dinner at nine. Lying on my bed now, feeling my way around my body that I can’t seem to recognize tonight.

A Woman Alone
Denise Levertov

When she cannot be sure
which of two lovers it was with whom she felt
this or that moment of pleasure, of something fiery
streaking from head to heels, the way the white
flame of a cascade streaks a mountainside
seen from a car across a valley, the car
changing gear, skirting a precipice,
When she can sit or walk for hours after a movie
talking earnestly and with bursts of laughter
with friends, without worrying
that it’s late, dinner at midnight, her time
spent without counting the change…
When half her bed is covered with books
and no one is kept awake by the reading light
and she disconnects the phone, to sleep till noon…
self-pity dries up, a joy
untainted by guilt lifts her.
She has fears, but not about loneliness;
fears about how to deal with the aging
of her body—how to deal
with photographs and the mirror. She feels
so much younger and more beautiful
than the looks. At her happiest
—or even in the midst of
some less than joyful hour, sweating
patiently through a heatwave in the city
or hearing the sparrows at daybreak, dully gray,
toneless, the sound of fatigue—
a kind of sober euphoria makes her believe
in her future as an old woman, a wanderer
seamed and brown,
little luxuries of the middle of life all gone,
watching cities and rivers, people and mountains,
without being watched; not grim nor sad,
an old winedrinking woman, who knows
the old roads, grass-grown, and laughs to herself…
She knows it can’t be:
that’s Mrs. Doasyouwouldbedoneby from The Water Babies,
no one can walk the world any more,
a world of fumes and decibels.
But she thinks maybe
she could get to be tough and wise, some way,
anyway. Now at least
she is past the time of mourning,
now she can say without shame or deceit,
O blessed Solitude.

Comments (3)

  • S

    This both comforts and terrifies me.

  • Sydney W

    I think that this poem is the epitome of what our society revolves around today. We live in the “fast and furious” mindset of take what you can, have sex when it’s hot, no worries until you’re out of college mindset. Then, it hits us around 30 when the first wrinkles start to show or when the weight isn’t so easy to keep off. We wonder what will come next. But this woman finds Solitude and Bliss in the midst of it.

  • Oh my… she read my soul years ago to warn me. I’m just now getting the message. Thank you kindred Sister.


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