the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Richard Levine

In a Blue Wood

The faceless couple in Van Gogh's blue wood, is walking
where there is no path, amid tall,
seemingly branchless blue and pink trees. The tree crowns
are beyond the frame, reaching up into our mind's eye —
because we know where trees go and that they are full
of wind and a thousand softly stirring
machines that are alive. Equally out of sight,
nests of intricately woven strength and fragility hang
like proofs that there are no diagrams or maps
for life's most important journeys. The horizon
at the couple's back, between the trees, is black.
They walk toward relative light. Crowds of waist-high flowers,
on thick-leaved stalks, sing in stout slurries of pink and white.

The couple cannot think of anything good
ever coming from anger, so they are more happy than not.
That could be true. Maybe I want it to be
true of me, of us. And like us, they may have worn paths
to the most forest-deep secrets in each other's lives.
Or, perhaps they are only now on their way to the place
where they will become lovers, the excitement of their flesh
through their clothes singing, making them careless,
giddy, and light as birds in flight.

Of course, we can't know any of this. Perhaps, even Van Gogh
didn't know anything about them,
maybe that's why he didn't give them faces:
so many unseen possibilities lived in a blue wood, so like ours.


In Stone

Like a roiling gravity,
water slides and tumbles, falls
on itself, veers, churns, foams
around rocks and over plateaus,
wearing thin the skin of toppled trees,
and the etched outlines of ancient,
brachiated lives that achieved little
more than survival. And here they are,

clutched in your hand and holding
their own shapes and stories in place in stone
the way you hoard worry, expecting any day
the force of life to tear you from all your cherished
misery and sweep you away, as sure
as if you fell from this craggy gorge-trail
into the turbulent wonder just below.

And when that time arises, like a moon
trawling a tide over a beach,
what songs will the shells you leave
teach seekers to sing
amid the retreating spume
of generations and stars beyond?

(Reprinted from A Tide of a Hundred Mountains, Bright Hill Press, 2012)



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