AFTER LEVINE

What does it mean to write
a poem that is angry? Little fox
raising a stone to his head-height
threatening lords and ladies 
on the path. This morning I rose 
into a feeling, a kind of dampness
despite the nice weather, a cold 
dark cloth draped over my head,
stuffed in my guts. Last night, 
in haste, I pulled open a bag 
of chamomile, spilled its seeds 
over my cup, drank it anyway, 
without filter. Nothing angry there.
Except my haste was to avoid
another feeling. I knew what
I was brewing up. Knew what
was coming, or wasn’t. What 
would not. Oh to feel as clear
and sharp and sure as I felt in the room
overlooking the old streetcars,
certain that it was a crime I be made
to clean up a mess that wasn’t 
mine—my earliest memory
a toddler’s anger, mildly Byronic
I sometimes think—the self-
importance, someone who doesn’t
know the world is any bigger
than what he is able to see. Doesn’t
understand that the injustice
doesn’t extend beyond his self

DOMOVOI

Helpless I watch the sun trace
across the asphalt—my voice speaks
when they are sleeping—
they do not know why I beg for bread
and salt—what feelings 
are mine and what belongs to them—
when I arrived it was without 
blood of chicken or goat—they did not sprinkle 
the four corners of this one bedroom—
didn’t speak my name or say their prayers—
let the dog disturb me in his haste
to shout at the glass—he is
the only one who knows—snarling, 
suspicious—the fur raised 
around his slim neck—should feel 
instead weight beyond cunning—terror—
what he cannot know—what, 
if abused,
could destroy him. Sometimes pain is felt
in one place but found elsewhere—
sometimes the sun when it moves
becomes something living

I WILL GO WITH YOU AND I WILL HOLD YOUR HAND

to reset I used to go to the art gallery, search for a painting that would arrest
no specific feeling—I wanted to be either surprised or held
I’d carry a little notebook with me and sometimes leave my phone at home
or else mostly ignore it or only take pictures—now M
wants to go to the art gallery. we all do. I told her this afternoon
that I was running towards the blue, an imagined blue screen that hung in front of me
like something I would never reach—the Aegean, I said, mourning
the dead recast as heroes, or not heroes exactly but figures of tragedy, ancient 
consequence, betrayed mores—I’d downloaded the audio from a movie that I’d watched
the previous night, listened to it with headphones—she said in her next message
that my voice sounded different than it did elsewhere—
I liked what she said, more alive to itself, something like that—while she searched
for the word I thought immediately and without hesitation it was “open”
something that in this quarantine I have sometimes struggled to do—
tonight I read a book that surprised me, then I got out of bed to fulfill a promise
I kept making and breaking—to smoke weed on the back deck
let myself feel or concentrate on the action—to take deep and slow breaths
back in bed a sound is coming out of my throat
except it is noiseless—full and round and like a kiss on the neck

Susan Stewart: “in listening I am listening to the material history
your connection to all who have been impressed upon you
living or dead, the voice as with the eyes holds the life
of the self”—as we move from one app to another you say 
imagine this is the part where I am inching my chair 
a little closer, ordering dessert—I have become used to 
pacing my apartment, dictating to some future version 
of yourself—maybe like me you play the voice notes several times
both because they are long and because it is easy
to get lost in the trail of your materiality, caught 
in your impressions’ grooves—and once sent rarely go back
as if what is before us is all that is living, what will be caught 
and rendered and cut off, mingled with the sound of your dogs
coughing, the streetcar, music playing gently in another room—
I know these rooms now—the kitchen, the red room, and 
the bed—Stewart again: “the voice in poetry is the voice 
of the lover”—she tells a story about a man who smashes rocks
on the weekend (amateur geologist) and gases butterflies 
in cyanide, an unknowing tribute to his grandmother’s lover
who in a concentration camp broke rocks and died 
by gas—how we return to what we don’t even know
—what is yours and what doesn’t belong to you—at a funeral 
a distant uncle or an older second cousin, this was eight or nine
years ago, said my voice was like that of a doctor, which I took
to mean: cold, circling—a history of this—but now realize
he didn’t specify—a voice can mean many things—who did 
I love, how did it come to me, what was impressed, what was I
wrestling with, what did it mean, and what do you hear now

A GEOGRAPHY

meditating felt like I was pushing through sludge—some final 
resistance, some difficulty—held in the body but not in the brain, or 
in the brain but bodily—passing their house, desire to explain—
what needs to be explained?—light of the sun on the facing buildings, 
neighbours passing in and out, with groceries—on the front lawn a sign
free, cat deceased—easier to throw out than have to speak 
to the street, to keep record—what needs to be explained, what needs to 
illuminated, what needs to be brought—what is the new responsibility, 
what is carried—how can I be sure that what is called up in me is only
muscles or footsteps, vibrations and jarring—something apart from love 
apart from desire, apart from need? know now I’m drawing a boundary:
at the conclusion of this poem whatever it is will be released

turns in the forest—tired of the same loop—the trees
shedding their bark, devastated by bore holes decades after
it was fashionable—remember stomping here through
June & July, talking to you for hours on the phone—we 
hadn’t figured out that the pronoun no longer belonged to us
or at least I hadn’t—once we had tried to clear this patch 
of land—bridge blocked by fallen trees—paths to nowhere
a rotted trunk I push—it topples—early August I was out there
with a machete—full of rage—trimming the tree ends—they
always brushed us when we passed—remember thinking—
boiling—of the two of you—couldn’t let it go—I had grasped
too hard—was still grasping—thought that it was mine to keep—
somehow lost the blade—flew from my hands—into the deepest
muck of the creek—bent low to the water—tried to find it—swished
a stick uncertain through the bed of rotted leaves—nothing—
called Neil and told him—how poetic—appropriate—a lesson
I still needed to learn—hadn’t learned then—still haven’t—
now turning back, walking along the frozen creek—find it 
handle-first in the midst of a bed of weeds—dull blade waving 
in the air—growing there—must have passed it who knows how many
pull it out—dust off—trace its blade—gently now—in the snow
lines as thin as possible