Instructions for Stopping

Say Stop.

Keep your lips pressed together
after you say the p:


(soon they’ll try
and pry

your breath out—)

Whisper it
three times in a row:

Stop Stop Stop

In a hospital bed
like a curled up fish, someone’s

gulping at air—

How should you apply
your breath?

List all of the people
you would like
to stop.

Who offers love,
who terror—

Write Stop.
Put a period at the end.

Decide if it’s a kiss
or a bullet.

More by Dana Levin

Styx

You put a bag around your head and walked into the river.
You

walked into the river with a bag around your head and you were
never dead 

game on the banks of your
mental styx

for the double
audience

of smoke—


               —


You pressed a coin into his palm and stepped across the water.
You

stepped across the water with a hand on his arm and he was
silent and kind as you
               shoved off, toward the smoky coils

of the greek-seeming dead—
You’d been trying to sleep.

Found yourself here
in the mythocryptic land—

The river


               —


had widened to a lake. You were anchored
in the shallow boat 

by his faceless weight—
And on the green shore you could see their vapored

residue, how they could
smell it, those two―if you 	

slit your wrist you could make them speak.

If you


               —


slit your wrist you might be able to sleep.

Grief. 
Grief. 
Handing you back

your coin.

Ars Poetica (cocoons)

Six monarch butterfly cocoons
      clinging to the back of your throat—

      you could feel their gold wings trembling.

You were alarmed. You felt infested.
In the downstairs bathroom of the family home,
      gagging to spit them out—
            and a voice saying Don’t, don’t—

Letter to GC

I say most sincerely and desperately, HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Having rowed a little farther away from the cliff

Which is my kind of religion

Adrift in the darkness but readying oars

How can there be too many stars and hands, I ask you

                               —

I would be disingenuous if I said "being understood" were not important to me 

Between the ceiling of private dream and the floor of public speech 

Between the coin and the hand it crosses

Mercantilists' and governors' and preachers' alike

The imagination and its products so often rebuff purpose

And some of us don't like it, and want to make it mean

I would never shoot you, even if you were the only meat around

                               —

Anyway, I empathize with your lower division semester (which sounds
         kinda Dante, to me)

Snow-bound sounds gorgeous and inconvenient

Like the idea of ending on the internal rhyme of psychics and clients

Though I too privilege the "shiny" 

And of course, I want to be approved of, so much 

Despite the image I've been savoring, the one of the self-stitching wound
 
Yes, I want to write that self-healing wound poem, the one with
         cocoon closed up with thorns

We are getting such lovely flourishes from our poets

Fathomless opportunities for turning literacy into event

It's the drama of feeling we find such an aesthetic problem, 
         these days

Related Poems

Vespers

In your extended absence, you permit me 
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report 
failure in my assignment, principally 
regarding the tomato plants.
I think I should not be encouraged to grow 
tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold 
the heavy rains, the cold nights that come 
so often here, while other regions get 
twelve weeks of summer. All this 
belongs to you: on the other hand, 
I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots 
like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart 
broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly 
multiplying in the rows. I doubt
you have a heart, in our understanding of 
that term. You who do not discriminate 
between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence, 
immune to foreshadowing, you may not know 
how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,
the red leaves of the maple falling
even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible 
for these vines.