Ordinary Psalm with Expulsion by Julia B. Levine


We stood then in a hotel room
before the open window of a waterfall,

the vast braid of that glacier torn apart and falling,

and it sounded everywhere like a stampede
thundering over cliffs.

Say that we never wanted to leave.

That above us, there were mountains erupting into sky,
goatbells and wild delphinium, black lakes reflecting starlight.

Everything alive inside, but who can stand forever?

Eventually we sank into the red armchairs
set before that window and took up our novels.

In mine, a girl wandered into a palace created by a frozen cascade
and died.

Think of her glittering inside ice
the way the printed word pockets time.

Think of the gunshot of spring’s calving floes,
her body slipping out, carried silently away.

Reader, this far in, its already too late.

Say that we enter the story’s infinite collision and collapse
by way of the just before, the just below,

where the river empties out to sea
and a trace of us remains, pressed against the sun-warmed dock.

A cruise liner bellows before swallowing its passengers.
Gulls skate traceries behind the vanishing stern.

The afternoon grows suddenly, beautifully empty,

but for a girl and boy behind us,
laughing at their flung hiss of pebbles,

the green fjord opening its doors of spunlight,
closing its older doors of dark.


Julia B. Levine has won numerous awards for her work, including the 2015 Northern California Book Award in Poetry for her latest collection, Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight, (LSU press 2014) as well as the 2003 Tampa Review Prize for her collection, Ask; the 1998 Anhinga Poetry Prize and bronze medal from Foreword magazine for her first collection, Practicing for Heaven, as well as a Neruda Award from Nimrod, and a Discovery/The Nation award. Widely published, her work has been anthologized in The Places That Inhabit Us, The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, and The Bloomsbury Anthology of Contemporary Jewish American Poetry. She received a PhD in clinical psychology from UC Berkeley, and lives and works in Davis, California.