Ordinary Psalm with Errant Joy and Devastation
Julia B. Levine

Ordinary Psalm with Errant Joy and Devastation

I’m outside eating a bag of cold cherries,
my lips bloodied with ripeness.

Sealight christens the grass
where the dog we’ve named after you

lies down low in a ditch.
My daughter steps inside our abandoned cottage,

three of the five windows shattered,
a hummingbird dead on the floor.

This morning, before we drove out here,
my neighbor hurried after me with a poem

he’d transcribed from refrigerator magnets.
Not sure what he wanted, I can still hazard a guess.

Because what is a poem if not the intention
to pin the river we are becoming down before dinner?

Already the evening’s first bats work the sky’s trapeze.
The dog is a whisk dipped in mud,

so that wherever I touch him, I darken.
Now my daughter lays the tiny bird in her palm

and looks close at the delicate overlay of plumage,
the iridescent rust and emerald wings,

a stippling on the throat’s underside.
Only the orbitals empty. And why not believe

it was you that set this miraculous corpse here;
that has visited us again, but this time to speak clearly

to the devastation the poem calls a heart,
and the heart calls a poem,

neither knowing exactly how to keep alive
anything wild and doomed.

Julia B. Levine

is the author of Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight (LSU Press), winner of the Northern California Book Award in poetry; Ask, winner of the Tampa Review Prize; and Practicing for Heaven, winner of the Anhinga Poetry Prize. The recipient of a Discovery/The Nation award, she lives and works in Davis, California.