“Instructions for the Day After” by Julia B. Levine

Julia B. Levine


Let us start with the difficult miracle of being,

  the wild ravening of a creek
    singing the falsetto and minor keys

    through a million throats of gravel
      and flint,

  the alders turning towards a sharper green.

Now let us pause a moment
  on this bench, beside the trail

        and look across the lagoon
        to those boys at play in sand.

Sound travels so perfectly over water,

      but tell me, is it Farsi or Hebrew
        they are speaking?

Six gulls, white as tombstones, fly overhead.

      After all these epochs,
  in the salt light of January, elk and deer grazing
      on this new green after rain,

let us consider that we are still walking
    over the leach fields of slavery and genocide.

Now let us take inventory of our terror:

  our longing as a lyric violence,
      our flesh as shroud and veil.

    How last night, in pitch black,
      the coyotes were not just calling,

            but keening
        for something deeply torn.

Today, let us consider repair.

      How the smaller of the two boys
      kneels at the mirror of the dark water,

  like the congressman who spent the night on his knees,
  picking up glass and bullet casings from the rotunda floor.

Let us remember that old story about god
        shattering his own perfection
  to make room for this world.

As for giving up on America, do you hear it too—
    that young boy calling to his brother—

      how, in the mouth of a young child,
    every language sounds like water
        leaping, tumbling into song?

from Poets Respond
January 17, 2021


Julia B. Levine: “Already the January 6th violent attack on the Capitol has been added to Wikipedia. There is a mystic belief in god’s perfection that needed to be shattered in order for this world to appear. Our job is to try and repair it the best we can. This helps.”

Rattle Logo