The Living Teaching

You wanted to be a butcher
but they made you be a lawyer.

You brought home presents
when it was nobody’s birthday.

Smashed platters of meat
she cut against the grain.

Were a kind
             of portable shrine—

             I was supposed to cultivate a field of bliss,
             then return to my ordinary mind.
                                                     

You burned the files
and moved the office.

Made your children fear
a different school.

Liked your butter hard
and your candy frozen.

Were a kind
             of diamond drill, drilling a hole
             right through my skull―

             quality sleep, late November.


What did it mean, “field of bliss”―

A sky alive “with your greatest mentor”―

I wore your shoes, big as boats,
             flopped through the house―

             while you made garlic eggs with garlic salt, what

             “represents the living teaching”―

Sausages on toasted rye with a pickle,
and a smother of cheese, and
frosting
             right out of the can without the cake―

You ruled
             with a knife in one hand and a fork in the other, you raged
             at my stony mother, while I banged

             from my high chair, waving
             the bloodied bone

             of something slaughtered―I was
             a butcher’s daughter.


So all hail to me―

             Os Gurges, Vortex Mouth, I gap my craw
             and the bakeries of the cities fall, I

             stomp the docks―spew out a bullet-stream
             of oyster shells, I’ll

             drain the seas―the silos
             on every farm, the rice

             from the paddy fields, the fruit
             from all the orchard trees, and then I’ll

             eat the trees―
                                   
             I’ll eat with money and I’ll eat
             with my teeth until the rocks
                 
             and the mountains curl
             and my blood sings―
                 
             I’m such a good girl
                 
             to eat the world.

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