Denise Levertov Poems
What Were They Like?
Did the people of Viet Nam
use lanterns of stone?
Did they hold ceremonies
to reverence the opening of buds?
Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
Did they use bone and ivory,
jade and silver, for ornament?
Had they an epic poem?
Did they distinguish between speech and singing?
Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
It is not remembered whether in gardens
stone gardens illumined pleasant ways.
Perhaps they gathered once to delight in blossom,
but after their children were killed
there were no more buds.
Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned ...
Elves are no smaller
than men, and walk
as men do, in this world,
but with more grace than most,
and are not immortal.
Their beauty sets them aside
from other men and from women
unless a woman has that cold fire in her