Psalm with Lung Cancer by Julia B. Levine

Because I don’t know how to pray, I carry you with me into summer,
beside the creek this evening, the wrens and whippoorwills amped up,
blackberry blossoms trellised white across the stream. Mary, do you know
those buckeyes candled with pollen are toxic to honeybees? That a coyote
took down a fawn last week, and yesterday the doe wandered onto my deck
and stared inside? These days, I worry that your every last pleasure
sharpens into a barb¬¬¬¬– a bowl of black raspberries, a hummingbird brushed
against your cheek, the delta wind set loose at sunset, while above us,
winged cells collect poison that will sicken the whole body of the hive.
Oh God, it’s rushing in like a firestorm—I can feel the heat, you wept one afternoon
last week. Same disease that killed your father, though you never smoked.
We were sitting on your porch, staring at a red-tail hawk perched on
your neighbor’s spruce, when you confessed it was all you could do
not to think of the year your father lay in a hospital bed under the kitchen
crucifix, his teeth gritted, praying, If Jesus could bear it, then so can I.
Julia B. Levine’s fifth collection, Ordinary Psalms, will be published in February 2021 with LSU press. Her previous poetry collection, Small Disasters Seen in Sunlight, (LSU press 2014) was awarded the 2015 Northern California Book Award in Poetry. Widely published, her work has been anthologized in many collections. She lives and works in Davis, California.