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Chanukah Lights and other poems

in Poetry by

Three poems by American poet Richard Levine selected for this issue by Djelloul Marbrook:

Portraits of Unrequited Love

What of the woman on the park bench,
staring up, her face an inflated tear?
Of all the mild beasts in our community,
her story grieves me.  I think heartbreak.
I think loss.  In my mind, I write her biography
of unrequited love.  I don’t know anything,
but writing hers keeps me from wishing
I was happier with my own heart’s chapters.

In that way, at least, she is so good to me.
I see the age-sag of her breasts.  Other than that,
what can I know of or hope for her?  I jog
by, but she doesn’t notice me noticing her.
How can she know how much she has
meant to me, or what I’m running from?

Chanukah Lights

Because your father once walked into an ambush
in a war, and on other walks in his life, he measures
every step against the horizon, the landscape
between, the slant of sun- and moonlight,
and checks that all shadows lay down
in the same direction.  Like the miracle
lights of Chanukah, his vigilance has burned
far longer than expected.

You’ve seen him burn with disappearance,
his eyes vacant, his body still in the room.
I am that ambushed father, you that child,
and I will not teach you to celebrate destroying
life’s temple, nor guide your hand and that candle,
flickering in the eyes of soldiers dancing over the dead.

Once Upon a Grimm Time …

A circus train of clouds crosses the setting sun
and the child in me boards. In the dining car sits
a blue-eyed parrot on an alligator’s back, a lion,
a giraffe, and a dancing bear wearing a hat.
But an unseen wind misshapes my amusement
and renders extinct all the animals of my fancy.

The sky turns dark as a cloud filled with fright
and more lurk than one might check for in closets,
under beds or in the news: here weather that earth
and seas mete out wrecks a train, there mud slide-
oceans wash away a bridge and move houses, too;
even migration’s memory fails! … and so we go
off the tracks along with the animals and clowns.
It’s true, Henny Penny, the sky is falling.

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Richard Levine is a retired teacher, Working Family Party activist, and the author of The Cadence of Mercy (Finishing Line Press, 2014), A Tide of a Hundred Mountains (Bright Hill Press, 2012), That Country’s Soul (Finishing Line Press, 2010), A Language Full of Wars and Songs (Pollack Press, 2004), and Snapshots from a Battle (Headwaters Press, 2001). Publications (recent and forthcoming): Adirondack Review,, Blueline, Chaffin Review, Comstock Review, Main Street Rag, North American Review, So It Goes, Sow’s Ear, Stone Canoe, The Same. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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