The 182 lines of this poem (its subtitle identifies its subject—“Olga Levertoff, 1914-1964”) are divided into six major sections that range in length from fourteen to forty-seven lines. The two longest sections are further divided; section 3 has three numbered parts and section 5 has two. The poem begins with a recollection of the poet and her sister in an early domestic scene: The older sister kneels before a gas fire, undressing while her seven-year-old sister watches from her bed. The memory of Olga’s physical maturity is followed by an image of Olga now: “bones and tatters of flesh in earth.”
Section 2 shifts to a vision of Olga active in a political cause, wanting “to shout the world to its sensesto browbeat” as she reacted to the slum conditions she had seen as a child. The memory ends with Denise Levertov addressing Olga as the “Black one,” a (dark-complected?) political activist whose heart was alight with the white candle of her political commitment.
The third section is divided into three glimpses of the politically committed Olga. The first returns to a time when Olga, muttering “Everything flows,” attacks “human puppets.” The poet, a child still, felt “alien” to her sister’s muttered words but also felt a link between them and lines from a hymnal they both loved. Next, Olga is with her sister “in the gardenwe thought sometimes too small for our grand destinies.” Even then Olga’s passion for reform was active, aroused by her “dread” of “the rolling dark/ oncoming river.” Olga’s “bulwarks” against it were to perform trivial chores, write verses, pick “endless arguments,” and press on to “change the course of the river.” Olga’s “rage for order” disordered her “pilgrimage” and drove her to “hide among strangers,” still determined to “rearrange all mysteries in a new light.” In the third image, Olga is...
(The entire section is 785 words.)