Poetry by Dana Levin

“Like a Braid” by Eric Kim / erickim-comeaugust.com



As If

I had a lot of time
               on my hands.

So many minutes I couldn’t
               give them away. 

My natural sloth had ceased meaning. 
               So I turned to domestic 


Tidying the pantry at midnight. I had 

six boxes of gluten free penne. I had enough 
               rice and beans—

I’d had enough life, hadn’t I?
               It was good to take stock, just in case.

I had enough scraps, of poems that went nowhere—I had enough 

And there they were, the two Labs, on Mount Atalaya—
               twenty years ago, maybe.

Black and yellow, stranger dogs without collar—
               when I started hiking back down, they appeared.

Black sun and gold moon.

One on the left of me and one on the right. 

Neither lagging much nor leaping ahead—

Sometimes they’d cross and re-cross in back 
               and in front of me, til it seemed we flowed down 
                              like a braid.

And the male was the color of the deep well, and the female 
               the color of dry grass by its mouth—

               Waiting, when I got to my car, panting and wagging—

               As if I would take them to the water bowl, to the safe 

I’d been hiking Atalaya—“watchtower" in Spanish. 

Once, someone camped up there, looking for signs—

The smoke that meant fire. 

The dust kicked up by the hooves of invaders. 

The steam of a train stopped by men
               turning the infected away—

The black dog behind me, nudging my legs.

As if I were a person who took care of other beings. Trust
               like a terrible grace.

Santa Fe 2000 / Saint Louis 2020 
From Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic (Knopf 2020).


Dana Levin’s fourth book is Banana Palace (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), a finalist for the Rilke Prize. Previous books include In the Surgical Theatre, Wedding Day, and Sky Burial, which The New Yorker called “utterly her own and utterly riveting.” Her fellowships and awards include those from the National Endowment for the Arts, PEN, the Witter Bynner Foundation and the Library of Congress, as well as from the Lannan, Rona Jaffe, Whiting and Guggenheim Foundations. Levin currently serves as Distinguished Writer in Residence at Maryville University in St. Louis, where she lives. danalevinpoet.com