Introducing the June 2010 Readers – 3. Phillis Levin

Phillis Levin is the author of four collections of poetry: Temples and Fields (University of Georgia Press, 1988), The Afterimage (Copper Beech Press, 1995), Mercury (Penguin, 2001), and May Day (Penguin, 2008). She is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Grand Street, The Nation, The New Republic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Paris Review, Agni, PN Review, and Poetry London, and have been published in many anthologies, including The Best American Poetry (1989, 1998, and 2009 editions) and Poetry 180. Translations of her poems have been published in Peru, Argentina, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary, Israel, and China. Her honors include an Ingram Merrill grant, the Poetry Society of America’s 1988 Norma Farber First Book Award, a 1995 Fulbright Scholar Award to Slovenia, the 1999 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship, a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2006 Richard Hugo Prize from Poetry Northwest, and a 2007 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She lives in New York City and is a professor of English and Poet-in-Residence at Hofstra University.

As Long as There Is Wind in the Trees

They happen to be beside each other, and so they touch
For no apparent reason. Reason enough. They happen

To be beside each other. So they touch. For us
It is not like this, though timorous shadows tell

An arm to move, a head to turn, sensing something
Near, someone who may be one of the ones who,

For no apparent reason, will move away or turn,
Stirring a storm, giving it room to toil, one for whom,

For a time everlasting or brief, you will be the leaf,
The bole, the bee, the light, and the other way around

If you are lucky: if you happen to be in town,
Out of change, by a brook, in the mood, near a shop

Proclaiming a host of spices in a tongue without
An alphabet, a tongue whose sound is the changing

Shade of a cloud, the scent of iron rising after rain,
Curtains of rain opening, pouring down.

[published in May Day (Penguin Books, 2008); originally published in The Kenyon Review]

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