When I finally reached them, a young father 
was trying to teach his daughter how to cast. 
She flicked her wrist, overshot, found the motion 
the second time around. I’d run four miles 
to get here & didn’t think I’d make it, then sat 
awhile attempting to be still, to regard the teenagers 
stripping down to their suits with recognition, 
kindness, & not my usual judgment aimed inward. 
Yesterday, an ecologist was explaining how 
so much in nature forms from loss—take beaches, 
he’d said, damage the desired state for a certain 
kind of growth. On the walk home my feet hurt, 
I came across a turtle in the road, flies attaching 
to its split shell, & waited for someone else 
to move it. Like how she’d told me I needed 
to open, but how? I mean it literally: I can’t figure 
out the mechanics. Online another poet vows 
not to collude anymore with modes of despair
But what about the opposite, what it would mean 
to shelter despair like a child or childhood pet? 
This is me trying to make an opening. For some-
thing unformed to enter. A new kind of noticing. 
The willingness to risk failure for the possibility
of love. On the dunes, a dark-haired woman walking 
barefoot along the shoreline smiled as she passed. 
I smiled back. Farther out now, the teenagers 
splashed in the waves, & as I listened to the pitch 
of their voices could tell they weren’t teenagers 
at all but somewhere in the middle of their lives.

From So Long (Four Way Books, 2023) by Jen Levitt. Copyright © 2023 by Jen Levitt. Used with the permission of the publisher.