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

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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

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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

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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

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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:

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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--"

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"--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,

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that are bruised forever, that time

 

never assuages, never."