Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight: Poems
Julia B. Levine
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"A polished poet of extraordinary skill...Levine is caught between wholehearted love of the world's beauty and sorrow at its unavoidable misery and suffering." —Library Journal
With an astonishing grasp of language and detail, Julia Levine enacts a visceral, lyric experience that slips wildly between and within tragedy and grace. In Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight, her fourth collection, Levine offers far-ranging subjects, including poems about a friend's suicide and the poet's own interactions with traumatized children, as well as a series of revision poems that question the imagination's infinite possibilities for creation. In Strolling in Late April, a woman with dementia wanders in a park filled with springtime beauty, while in Tahoe Wetlands, the speaker recalls a rape at gunpoint through the merciful distance of time.
At times humorous, ironic, and even redemptive, these poems are infused with lush images of the natural and physical world. Levine's work pries apart small places that exist within the spaces between beauty and trauma in an ordinary life. Ultimately, the poems affirm our human resilience, made possible by the presence and help of others: "carrying something of the unbearable / between us until it could be borne."
need, the boy in your office, face down in the carpet, screaming, I’m starving, help me, help me!, the wind outside your windows whipped into a firmament, a fiery snow of leaves driven down. Surely there is something more than endurance to believe in, something more sanctified than a child throwing his hard skull into your chest, something larger than one body soothing another until his terror slows and he laps milk from a bowl underneath your desk. Months later his grandmother will tell
you how she found him in a trailer, covered in his mother’s blood. Awake and mute in the dead woman’s arms. You want so much to say God bless you, and know what the hell it means. Even now, trash plowed into gutters, you walk past a grape arbor alive with sound, and except for a yellow flash, a wincing shadow, the moment’s aria is invisible, the choral exultation scattershot and winged. Finally, there are entire moments in which you glance at the huckleberries, blue and salted among the
thoughts entering mine like rain just before it arrives. Our body. You would have died without the operation, they argued. Failed zygotic separation, parasitic metabolism. But perched on my skull, the heaviness of her was solace, a burrow fitted perfectly to loneliness. Your body, she hums now into the veins where they untied her. Our soul. There is an intricate translation in her refusal. The way she stands in a field across from the house where we once lived. One lamb is missing, she mutters
critiques on His cruelty and arrogance, or the outright lies about His homophobia and pro-life agendas, you have no idea how often He cries at night when He thinks I’m asleep, poring over His species, weeping for the laughing owl, Cuban holly, or Xerces, the last blue butterfly. Just reading the Times, He can take a millennium over the lists of Iraqi dead, touching each name as if fingering an original spark blundered into darkness. On Sundays, He stares out the window at our unmowed lawn,
roll up their blankets. Take up their corner posts. I give money to the first that asks so that I never have to choose. Like the day you told me, Don’t come, I’ll be fine, so I unpacked my clothes, put up my suitcase, and then you died. Now the fruiting plums bud young and pink. The sky festers with jays and crows. Listening, you might think that spring was just another assault on eternity, what with all those snowbells stringing pearly mines, a blood-hot seething of the tulips. Tomorrow wiring