On the Vireo Nest Atop Your Wire Brush
When you find it between boxes
on a shelf beside the house,
woven with hair and shoelace and twigs,
I am in the garden, watering lettuce
we planted in August, green spears of romaine
translucent in November’s side-lit sun.
Wet, the soil smells like spring,
like the months before your diagnosis,
when we didn’t yet know the exact nature
of our sorrow. As for this small galaxy
anchored on top of your steel brush,
with its wild knit and mud-slicked hollow,
its sprung locket of a summer brood,
we study how softness floats over spikes.
What I think I know about birds
is the sunlight they swallow,
so that the dark tunnels they enter
will not be difficult,
their wings stirring gravity into air.
This is the beginning
of the end of our days.
I can no longer find a single moment
that is not perilous and sweet.
That is not schooled in a world
where beauty was designed
to be replaced.
If we stand here long enough
our hands will touch. Venus will appear,
there just above the elm,
its leaves falling red and slow.
Julia B. Levine’s many awards for her work include the Pablo Neruda Prize in Poetry, the Bellevue Literary Review Poetry Prize, and the Northern California Book Award in Poetry for Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight (LSU, 2014). Her work has appeared widely in anthologies and journals, including The Southern Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and The Nation. Her fifth collection, Ordinary Psalms (LSU), was published in 2021. She lives in Davis, California, where she serves as the current poet laureate.