in memory of Jean Blecker Levin
Not a trace, those days, not a sign
On a map of where you were from,
That farm greener than green
Rolling hills, hay high as a barn
Under skies without end, joy
Rolling too, the way it used to.
Now that you’re gone,
The name of the place reappears.
Not a map in the world
Will show where you are,
Now that you are long gone
Under the glowing ground,
Lending yourself to the grass,
Joined at last by Joe, who cried,
As they lowered you down,
“Jenny my love, my life.”
Wherever you are, being
Nowhere, show me a way
To be here, you who are gone
Into bottomless loam: ivy
Climbing the walls of waking,
The walls of sleep, show me to
Two on a porch waiting
To see the flesh of their flesh.
Copyright @ 2014 by Phillis Levin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on August 20, 2014.
“As a child, one of the first questions I asked my paternal grandmother, Jean Blecker Levin, was ‘Where are you from?’ Her answer, ‘Lithuania,’ was my first introduction to geopolitics. Though she could describe her early memories of her family’s small farm, she could not point out her birth country on a map or globe because by then Lithuania was part of the Soviet Union. At the age of three her family emigrated to Reading, Pennsylvania (the hometown of Wallace Stevens) and began to run another small farm. There she met her husband-to-be, Joseph Levin, a Reading native. Her romance with my paternal grandfather lasted until her death.”