Today's poem is by Jeffrey Levine

The Comfort of Strangers

Through the half-open shutters the setting sun
casts a rhomb of Etruscan light
thin bars bared against the kitchen walls.

A week goes by and your breathing returns to normal
so normal, this could be the afterlife in the flesh,
as they have failed to put you together again
from the offerings of donors, spare hearts and orchids,
an exotic variety of subarctic tulip, warmed back to life,
permitted to die then rubbed into a powder, that
into your heart, that accelerating into the curvature
the heartís unadorned walls, no matter—
a louvered door stands open.

You sit frozen in the corner of the room
trying to imagine how to set the table.
The matter is, each of us houses within what was
at heart, a pietá
tearing itself to life as—
out of Chaos, the mud still caked on our loins—
the humble sons of emperors
the mothers of the universe
the valley as it begets rivers
the grasses loving other grasses

you might say, concentrate all of your breathing
and what else then but to save yourself
with the infinitely multilayered fictions of science—
where things collapse into other things
with endless yawning, like a perfect symbol
of a personal suffering, and yet

and yet what saves us
isnít our skill on an abacus or
the dresser topped with incense and charms
or the wide wall hung with African masks,
the mixed familiar sounds of cutlery and dishes,
or even the fierce beauty of tigers—

somehow the symphony within the unadorned walls—
its susurrus of cicadas and bullfrogs,
that tattered constellation of bowstrings
and the splashing of buckets in the well
and the magicians as they work beneath the arch

keep, as it were,
the movement of cloud shapes that caused those banded bars
to fade
and blur, then brighten into focus.

Copyright © 2006 Jeffrey Levine All rights reserved
from The National Poetry Review
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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