Three Poems by Judith Ann Levison
I promised you my soul, thinking that
It was a milky luminous ball I could
Throw into the grandness of space.
A tangible spirit, it would return.
But it is like a kite crazy at the string, or an old
Woman, pressing hand to heart, when death dissolved
Her beloved, now in mist she cannot touch.
If a soul cannot be seen, perhaps it is like faith,
In the end, if forgiven, it will dissolve back into place.
Or my soul promised might travel back as a meteorite,
And hit me with its impact, hard and grey.
My father is in a turquoise boat.
The mist holds his ghost back
As the boat is cradle rocked
By hands anxious for his peace.
The cliffs’ black crags are a silhouette
Against the sharp mauves of a
Sky filled with tangled ribbons.
His fishing line stings the water
And radiates the ethereal ripple
Of something lost, over and over again.
Now eighty, he has cheated death, outrun
The bravest and can pluck from his friends’
Grave last wishes, words he now can not utter.
Before a sun-gilded light house, he remembers
A rebirth, when as a boy, he jumped the
The moss-glazed rocks, then flung himself
Like a starfish upon the sand.
Now he stares inward and his turquoise boat crawls
In the same water the shaggy pines spill blue into.
Noon, the sun is a sword pinching his head.
When he finally yanks a vase-shaped bass into the boat,
For the first time, its speckled and textured iridescence,
Transfixes and troubles him.
He feels the ghost flop twice, enter his body.
Emily Rose was the best one to take over and keep the shop’s cold white
Manikins properly layered for spring. She bit her lip and never giggled,
Always at work in the folds of satin and taffeta. Her mother collected
Violets in her apron and told her each one was a memory, and that
You never knew when you’d need all of them the most.
She’d allow the girls out to the black balustrade at lunch. Now courageous
Above the town, they would lean in and link arms, their sandals half-laced.
Men threw up curses or petals and eventually they all dispersed.
Her childhood was blank. She could take anyone’s album and say it was hers.
If she had a wedding day, she wanted no cake in honor of the starving.
The church bell might ring different songs; she was not particular, only in handling
Lace, fringe and velvet so dark she could fall into them.
Once on a breathless spring day she was forced to breathe in. There was
One lover whose laughter startled her, then a butterfly flew and landed
Like a folding pin on the shoulder of her dress.
She wanted it there forever and wanted the lover to go.
Judith Ann Levison