(24 October 1923 – 20 December 1997 / Ilford, Essex)

Goodbye To Tolerance

Genial poets, pink-faced
earnest wits—
you have given the world
some choice morsels,
gobbets of language presented
as one presents T-bone steak
and Cherries Jubilee.
Goodbye, goodbye,
I don’t care
if I never taste your fine food again,
neutral fellows, seers of every side.
Tolerance, what crimes
are committed in your name.

And you, good women, bakers of nicest bread,
blood donors. Your crumbs
choke me, I would not want
a drop of your blood in me, it is pumped
by weak hearts, perfect pulses that never
falter: irresponsive
to nightmare reality.

It is my brothers, my sisters,
whose blood spurts out and stops
because you choose to believe it is not your business.

Goodbye, goodbye,
your poems
shut their little mouths,
your loaves grow moldy,
a gulf has split
the ground between us,
and you won’t wave, you’re looking
another way.
We shan’t meet again—
unless you leap it, leaving
behind you the cherished
worms of your dispassion,
your pallid ironies,
your jovial, murderous,
wry-humored balanced judgment,
leap over, un-
balanced? ... then
how our fanatic tears
would flow and mingle
for joy ...

by Denise Levertov

Comments (4)

Choice morsels! ! Thanks for sharing this poem with us.
Diatribes are known for their intolerance- - makes it difficult to tolerate them
then how our fanatic tears would flow and mingle for joy. an intriguing write, not easy to comprehend. Thanks for sharing.
I don't know how this poem makes me feel. The narrator is certainly angry. And amidst some very powerful versus lay a bunch of tripe. For example, tolerance, what crimes have been committed in your name.... What a non-stop timeless phrase... But it's surrounded by crap like cherished worms of your dispassion.... I give it a B+