The final poem of Levertov's I'll cite is, once again, evocative of Rilke.
Variation on a Theme by Rilke
(The Book of Hours, Book I, #15)
With chips and shards, rubble of being,
not You but our hope of You.
We say - we dustmotes in the cosmos -
'You dome, arching above us!':
as if You were the sanctuary
by which we seek to define You.
Our cities pulverize, proud technologies
spawn catastrophe. The jaws of our inventions
snap down and lock.
Their purpose will be forgotten;
Time is aeons
and we live in minutes,
flies on a windowpane.
Who can conceive the span of You,
great vault, ribbed cauldron slung beneath the abyss,
cage of eternity?
Metaphors shatter, mirrors of poverty.
But something in us, while the millenia
hungers to offer up
our specks of life as fragile tesserae
towards the vast mosaic - temple, eidolon;
to be, ourselves, imbedded in its fabric,
as if, once, it was from that we were broken off.
Levertov tries to use language to capture some small inkling of the Divine (not You but our hope of You - even the hope of the Divine is almost impossible to construct with our inadequate language and imagination, let alone the Divine itself). This process is difficult, but Levertov carries on nevertheless. She admits metaphors shatter when faced with the span of You, yet she continues with her poem, with her metaphors, as these are all she has: great vault, ribbed cauldron slung beneath the abyss, / cage of eternity?
She notes in apocalyptic fashion the insubstantiality of human empires and the destructive power of some modern technologies (Levertov was a passionate anti-war and anti-nuclear campaigner), and is acutely aware of how small and feeble we are in the context of Time and the Universe.
Yet those wonderful last two stanzas reinforce the human hunger and hope we all have, the leitmotif which runs through all of Levertov and Rilke: even if our specks of life are mere fragile tesserae, we long for wholeness and to be a part (again?) of the vast mosaic.
Through a transforming imagination we can find a path (unclear as it may be) to spirit; poetry (and prayer) can provide a link - weak as it may be - to the inexpressible mystery.