Sunday Night Journal, February 4, 2018
Sunday Night Journal, February 11, 2018

52 Poems, Week 6: The Servant Girl At Emmaus (Denise Levertov)

When I came across this poem by Denise Levertov (1923–1997), I was surprised because I’d assumed her work was only on secular themes. I didn’t know she’d become a Catholic late in her life and that she’d written poems about her faith.


The Servant-Girl At Emmaus
(A Painting by Velázquez)

She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his---the one
who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her? Had spoken as if to her?

Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he'd laid on the dying and made them well?

Surely that face---?

The man they'd crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this
     morning, alive?

Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don't recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen, absently touching
     the winejug she's to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening,

swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.

—Marianne lives in New Zealand.


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I like the poem, but I may like the painting even better.

Something weird is going on with the comments.

I like them both very much. This morning I didn't notice that you could see Jesus through the opening.

I was not familiar with this poet.


I'm not really familiar with Levertov's work either, just had a vague remembrance of her being one of the anti-war poets in the 1970s, and also that her work was well thought of.

I sort of remember her being one of the poets published by New Directions in the '50s and '60s, which would tend to put her on the beat/avant/experimental end of the literary spectrum. If so it's interesting that she became Catholic. Well, it's interesting anyway.

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