the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2008



Richard Levine

Equating Love

Despite all the evidence
of unrequited love, mathematicians tell us
you can't cross a line and arrive at zero.
Maybe Euclid could calculate the distance
between any two points by measuring
how far each is from a common ground,
but he didn't know you or where we stand.

Doppler, too, knew math
could describe the escalating path of an approaching
train's whistle, but had no pretense
that his equations could plumb the depth
and frequency of loneliness, when distance
shrank and consumed that train, and the rails
trembled and rang like some sad song

fading into a silence that reduced
two moon-polished tracks to one.



The boy making a snowball
does not know his life
will one day be like this,

in his hands, turning,
compressing, turning,
compacting, hefting,

until his fingers grow so cold
fingering objects of desire
he cannot feel what he holds.



Though the equivalent of zero, one
extinction is too big for my mind

to hold: suddenly, a hole exists
where a whole lived, and while

not readily known — like a dead
star whose light I still see — it will

fill the universe with more dark,
more distance, more loneliness.


Believe This

All morning, doing the hard, root-wrestling
work of turning a yard from the wild
to a gardener's will, I heard a bird singing
from a hidden, though not distant, perch;
a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding
like, Can you believe this, believe this, believe?
Can you believe this, believe this, believe?

And all morning, I did believe. All morning,
between break-even bouts with the unwanted,
I wanted to see that bird, and looked up so
I might later recognize it in a guide, and know
and call its name, but even more, I wanted
to join its church. For all morning, and many
a time in my life, I have wondered who, beyond
this plot I work, has called the order of being,
that givers of food are deemed lesser
than are the receivers. All morning,
muscling my will against that of the wild,
to claim a place in the bounty of earth,
seed, root, sun and rain, I offered my labor
as a kind of grace, and gave thanks even
for the aching in my body, which reached
beyond this work and this gift of struggle.



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