the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Richard Levine


One does not meet oneself until one catches the reflection
from an eye other than human.

                    — Loren Eisley, The Unexpected Universe

The forest was a messy mix
of mud and ice, and long fallen
leaves made a slick, mysterious,
muddle of decay and miracle

underfoot. I followed tracks
on and off trails, marked the evidence
of scat and chewed bark,
until three deer snapped

to attention at my slogging
approach to the clearing
where they grazed.
Through tree trunks,

a steady, feathery snow,
and the steam streaming
from their muzzles,
their eyes took hold of me.

None of us were able
to move or let go in that
dense, suspenseful medium,
until one snorted.

The other two turned,
leaped and bounded away.
Then, something else changed.
The eyes of the remaining deer —

born of the forest,
chestnut black and brown,
acorn round — blazed darkly
and blinkless, and would not

release me. My stare was just
as stubborn. I didn't know what
more the moment might want,
or why beauty is so fearsome.

(from Richard Levine's chapbook, That Country's Soul, Finishing Line Press, 2010)


If I Were Thich Nhat Hahn

a walk in a wood might stop
at the first tree, where I'd sit
breathing with it until I could see,
or by some other sense know,
the alchemy in spires, in roots, in air.

I'd sit until there was no I,
and light began to withdraw,
swallowing dusk, and inhaling
me into its night lung,
with the trees, mosses, grasses,
mountains, and the moistening air.

I'd sit there in the still
until I was the myth of a man
become a tree, a home to creatures,
with water and a magic to feed
the world flowing through me.

(from Richard Levine's chapbook, That Country's Soul, Finishing Line Press, 2010)



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