Friday 21 June 2024

Four Poems by Richard Levine





There are thoughts I keep mostly to myself, 

the way day and night mind their own business. 


Would it surprise you to learn 

how easily my mind can be  

turned round by flesh? 


I once moved my life across three state lines, 

as purposefully as a bird being 


lured by migration’s silent  

bell, to live with a woman  

I did not know, but for the charm  


of her nakedness taking  

wing on a song or slant of light 


that blinded me with too much sight.




Light *


on holding my first grandchild for the first time on Fathers’ Day 


I hold you as if handed an egg  

but what broke between us was light 


the light that rides the rail 

that sets all life in motion 

between two stations 


What more might 

might be asked of a moment



* Appeared in October Light Magazine and Now in Contest (Fernwood Press, 2023) 




More Light * 


I like the days that follow easy  

as ceiling fan blades, guiding warm air 

into gravity’s arms, and that way 

we find and turn each other.  Days when, 

though I’d welcome company, I’m content 

as a heron alone on a log, 

one leg tucked up while meditating 

over a pond of fish and summer wine. 


At any moment, that heron might 

slowly unfold its miracle  

of flight, and stir the hypnotic tide 

of quiet surrounding us, until  

all we want is what Goethe called  

for with his dying breath “More light.” 


* Appeared in Vox Populi and Now in Contest (Fernwood Press, 2023)




Dear Walt Whitman,  


My granddaughter manipulates trucks and dolls  

and farm animals in and out of conflicts  

at my feet, as I read your poetry aloud.  

You said that all poets are writing just one,  

long poem, just as all the hairs on your face  

composed your young and old man beards, and all  

the lifetimes of all the lonely men, women  

and children you loved into your America,  

are just one hopeful daguerreotype of eternity. 


And I assume, all the birds, feeding in flocks  

to leave this northern hemisphere on this late  

September morning in 2023 

comprise just one migration, and that any one 

feather falling from that flight assumes all 

any autumnal leaf assumes, pirouetting down  

colourful as I am in my waning, silver sliver of time.   


Putting down your book, I look out a window 

and watch children board a yellow school bus,  

eager for play before their minds are occupied  

for the day, with lessons and tests and thinking 

about death – how can they not as they practice  

Active Shooter Drills?  I look back to see my pre-school  

granddaughter, safely singing “Old McDonald,”  

and animating each toy animal as their turn comes round. 


O Walt Whitman, O captain, my captain, I worry 

that the dark gathering close around us is us. 


Richard Levine, a retired NYC teacher, is the author of Now in Contest, Selected Poems, Contiguous States, and five chapbooks.  An Advisory Editor of, he is the recipient of the 2021 Connecticut Poetry Society Award, and was co-editor of “Invasion of Ukraine 2022: Poems.”  His poetry has appeared in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry column and can be found on the Poetry Foundation and the American Academy of Poets websites.  In addition, his work is archived in LaSalle University’s Special Collections Library.  A Vietnam veteran, he recently reviewed “The Best of Medic in the Green Time: Writings from the Vietnam War and its Aftermath,” for American Book Review.  website:

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