February Evening in New York
by Denise Levertov
As the stores close, a winter light
xxopens air to iris blue,
xxglint of frost through the smoke
xxgrains of mica, salt of the sidewalk.
As the buildings close, released autonomous
xxfeet pattern the streets
xxin hurry and stroll; balloon heads
xxdrift and dive above them; the bodies
xxaren’t really there.
As the lights brighten, as the sky darkens,
xxa woman with crooked heels says to another woman
xxwhile they step along at a fair pace,
xx“You know, I’m telling you, what I love best
xxis life. I love life! Even if I ever get
xxto be old and wheezy—or limp! You know?
xxLimping along?—I’d still … ” Out of hearing.
To the multiple disordered tones
xxof gears changing, a dance
xxto the compass points, out, four-way river.
xxProspect of sky
xxwedged into avenues, left at the ends of streets,
xxwest sky, east sky: more life tonight! A range
xxof open time at winter’s outskirts.
SOURCE: ”February Evening in New York” by Denise Levertov, from COLLECTED EARLIER POEMS 1940-1960, copyright ©1960 by Denise Levertov . Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corp.
PHOTO: The blue hour, New York City, New York. Photo by Matthew Omojola, used by permission.
NOTE:The blue hour is the period of twilight (in the morning or evening, around the nautical stage) when the Sun is at a significant depth below the horizon and residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue shade, which differs from the one visible during most of a clear day, which is caused by Rayleigh scattering. The blue hour occurs when the Sun is far enough below the horizon so that the sunlight’s blue wavelengths dominate due to the Chappuis absorption caused by ozone. Since the term is colloquial, it lacks an official definition similar to dawn, dusk, and the three stages of twilight. Rather, it refers to a state of natural lighting that usually occurs around the nautical stage of the twilight period (at dawn or dusk). The blue hour lasts for about 30-40 minutes each day.
PHOTO: Midtown, Manhattan, New York City, during the blue hour. Photo by Dschwen, used by permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Denise Levertov was born during 1923 in London, England, and educated at home by her mother. Her formal education ended at age 12, though she studied ballet for a time and was a lifelong autodidact and student of the arts, literature, and languages. Her first book of poems, The Double Image, was published by Cresset Press, London in 1946, and in 1948 she came to the U.S. as the wife of Mitchell Goodman, who had been studying in Europe on the G.I. Bill. Levertov was introduced to the American reading public through The New British Poets, an anthology edited by Kenneth Rexroth. From the early 1950s, she and her husband were political and antiwar activists. Levertov taught at University of Massachusetts, Boston, Tufts University, Brandeis, and Stanford University. Along with the Elmer Holmes Bobst Award in poetry and the Lannan Prize, she won the 1996 Governor’s Writers Award from the Washington State Commission for the Humanities. She died in Seattle, Washington, on December 20, 1997. Levertov published more than 30 books with New Directions.