Denise Levertov
Zeroing In (1964)


"I am a landscape," he said,


"a landscape and a person walking in that landscape.


There are daunting cliffs there,


and plains glad in their way


of brown monotony. But especially


there are sinkholes, places


of sudden terror, of small circumference


and malevolent depths."


"I know," she said. "When I set forth


to walk in myself, as it might be


on a fine afternoon, forgetting,


sooner or later I come to where sedge


and clumps of white flowers, rue perhaps,


mark the bogland, and I know


there are quagmires there that can pull you


down, and sink you in bubbling mud."


"We had an old dog," he told her, "when I was a boy,


a good dog, friendly. But there was an injured spot


on his head, if you happened


just to touch it he'd jump up yelping


and bite you. He bit a young child,


they had to take him to the vet's and destroy him."


"No one knows where it is," she said,


"and even by accident no one touches it:


It's inside my landscape, and only I, making my way


preoccupied through my life, crossing my hills,


sleeping on green moss of my own woods,


I myself without warning touch it,


and leap up at myself--"


"--or flinch back


just in time."


"Yes, we learn that


It's not terror, it's pain we're talking about:


those places in us, like your dog's bruised head,


that are bruised forever, that time


never assuages, never."