Harriet Levin


Your Words

                                               Anthony Carbajal

                                               Anthony Carbajal

 

Parcel to this fall’s assemblage,

             your words, bitter and cruel,

                           dismiss bark and reject limbs.

 

Your words amass in slow release through my brain

               and I hear them

             crunching under heels cold and severed.

 

Savage words,

              no longer stone

             but rubble no longer wood but ash

 

no longer earth but sludge sheltering pane glass

               as rain rushes and rumbles.

              Your words and phrases pile up

 

on a bar deck during Oktoberfest,

              everyone having put down their drinks

                            night-time, the far away moon,

 

while on the creek below,

           a kayaker dips a paddle

             in the water: your stirred up words.

 

Your words are screeching, honking,

             rattling, flapping, whirling.

             I look up at the sky for ducks,

 

for iridescence baring itself,

               long necks twisting and craning.

              But the thing that’s making this tremendous clamor,

 

this approaching onslaught so close

                                that I get down on my knees

                and bow my head,

 

is only a landscaper’s flatbed,

                   two men in the cab poking their elbows

                      out the windows, it’s clattering engine,

 

shovels and shears that lurch forward

                      then slide back to back.

                        A migration this raucous

 

far off in the crystalline

                      cloud-cover rife with cacophony.

                        Words inscribed with these:

 

 simple instruments,

                      grass stained, dull with use. A single cut

                        releases the dying

 

limp and oozing,

                      half buried and bruised as the truck,

                        an old rusted pick-up veers

 

away, breaking down and emitting blame,

                      leaking oil and black exhaust

                        in feathery flumes.


Your Mind

 

I can read your mind, its static reaching me like downed cable wire hanging off a pole,    

sputtering in an upside down caricature of compulsion.

I can read your mind, its loose leaf binder rings holding a sheaf in its clasp, shackling

            words to the page, black ink expanding the margins.

I can read your mind, its deteriorating tree looming within the circumference of its

            range, toppling onto the roof of a house, crashing through its walls.

I can read your mind cordoning off the water behind its towrope, the taut strands speciously separating the

shallow end of the ocean from its enormity.  

I can read your mind, its Moreno glass bubbling over a flame, blown into a preconceived shape, unwilling

to risk amorphousness.

I can read your mind, its black brush strokes winding down from the top, its craggy hills and figments of

 streams foregrounded in a Chinese painting.

I can read your mind, its signature confined to a corner, a jagged scrawl authenticating the macabre

             shape of your aura.

I can read your mind, its sullen alphabet, like the incomplete circle of the letter C, about to, poised,

            nearness exaggerated.

I can read your mind, its swimmer bowing its head then lifting it as its breaststrokes sling it from

            wall to wall.

I can read your mind, its whelk inside a shell, its shoulders stuck in the process of twisting, like an

 ammonite fossil 70 million years old reconstructed to show the comparison between the

 living and the extinct.

I can read your mind, its hand carrying a duffel bag filled with rifles to be fired in exchange for

 separatism, its beard unshaven, its beret askew.

I can read your mind, its disturbed hornet’s nest releasing its swarm in cartoon-like revenge, darting

 out of a hollow—needling through my core.


Ishtar

           

You made me seek sleek alligator advances,

made me sleep, made me slough through

my own deep brown hair more machine than flesh,

the road washed out by rain all winter seeping.

Your hand on my knee sets off alarms,

guards wielding pistols, dragging you to a dark

damp cell where you do not emerge walking

upright until after four million years to build

a dug-out canoe and mudbrick, your ears

trembling with vibrations no one else can detect,

thinking you know all the meaning in the world

from featherweights in a ring, a camel’s hump,

butimen leaking to the surface of a bubbling tar pit.

You take such big breaths when you climb on top of me,

your lips demanding my commandeered head,

or you make me stand in a soundproof room,

no one hearing the noise I make to melt a glacier

and expose a sea shelf. You cannot imagine that rocky place.

It could have been different. You could have stopped

shocking me into life as you paced the carpet.

You barefoot and me forced

to wear heels, my legs chafed, my hamstrings torn.

I hate it when you call me Galetea,

hand-feed me candy corn left over from Halloween

shaped like a bullet grazing my head.

A night can be backfire’s tambour or an argument

no one’s willing to towel off. Times I walk the creek

and cup chameleons, proof of what defenses

nature gives lungs. Give me this: sea currents,

sea cliffs, a plunge so deep I reach the dead.

I know how you’d mourn for me.

Your sculptures bring in cash,

six or eight of them at a time, me stuck in your studio

with my breasts exposed scavenging for food,

another invertebrate without a backbone,

my arms hollow-feeling, covered in spines.

If I didn’t pose for you, you’d find someone else

with smoother skin to worship and become your lover,

while I stand at the seventh gate, denied my birth

in sea foam. You who have spilled crude,

I believed at first to be accidental, then lies,

absorbing infrared like those grotesque frogs

spawned in excess nitrogen no one will ever kiss.

I stand in your steamy breath’s red tide.

Unlike those gaudy rubies you threw at me,

I cannot pawn its fumes rubbing the shore

to live. It destroys everything.

I wait for light cast in translucence,

a single stem in a glass, the long gestation

further delayed, until it flowers.


Harriet Levin is the author of two books poetry and one forthcoming. Her debut book, The Christmas Show, won the Barnard New Women Poets Prize and the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is also the author of a novel, How Fast Can You Run, a novel based on the life of Michael Majok Kuch, which will be released October 28, 2016 and has been chosen as a Charter for Compassion Global Read: (http://myaccount.maestroconference.com/conference/register/V3GPGNS1II8KL) to take place on Feb 22, 2017. She holds a MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and directs the program in writing and publishing at Drexel University.