by Denise Levertov

As the stores close, a winter light

    opens air to iris blue,

    glint of frost through the smoke

    grains of mica, salt of the sidewalk.

As the buildings close, released autonomous   

    feet pattern the streets

    in hurry and stroll; balloon heads

    drift and dive above them; the bodies   

    aren’t really there.

As the lights brighten, as the sky darkens,

    a woman with crooked heels says to another woman   

    while they step along at a fair pace,

    “You know, I’m telling you, what I love best   

    is life. I love life! Even if I ever get

    to be old and wheezy—or limp! You know?   

    Limping along?—I’d still … ” Out of hearing.   

To the multiple disordered tones

    of gears changing, a dance

    to the compass points, out, four-way river.   

    Prospect of sky

    wedged into avenues, left at the ends of streets,   

    west sky, east sky: more life tonight! A range   

    of open time at winter’s outskirts.

“February Evening in New York” from Collected Earlier Poems 1940-1960. Copyright © 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1979 by Denise Levertov, available at

Photo: “Chelsea, New York City” by Ludovic Betron, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED