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Illustrious Ancestors

 The Rav
of Northern White Russia declined,
in his youth, to learn the
language of birds, because
the extraneous did not interest him; nevertheless
when he grew old it was found
he understood them anyway, having
listened well, and as it is said, 'prayed
with the bench and the floor.
' He used what was at hand--as did Angel Jones of Mold, whose meditations were sewn into coats and britches.
Well, I would like to make, thinking some line still taut between me and them, poems direct as what the birds said, hard as a floor, sound as a bench, mysterious as the silence when the tailor would pause with his needle in the air.

by Denise Levertov
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