The Cortland Review


Miriam Levine
An interview and poetry. J.M. Spalding talks with poet and writer Miriam Levine.

Douglas Thornsjo
Writers on Writing 2: Four More Authors You Should be Reading.

Miriam Levine

Interview | Poetry


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Anniversary, March 21
for John

Thirty years—you give me:
A pen colored black and yellow like a money cat.
A music box that plays the Wedding March,
    fast the beginning, slow at the end.
Dinner at the Harvest, greens and scallops, garlic
    mashed potatoes.
A bunch of mammoth roses.
Oatmeal scones plumped with raisins at Pentimento.
Sleep at the Embassy, a morning view of the rain      
    swollen Charles, our old river, the first we saw

I have nothing to give back—
A streak of snow melting into black dirt.
The torn lace of snow on new grass.
The smudge of cat paw-prints on the warm hood
    of my car.
The clouds of dust that rise along the roadside.
Bare spring light under the maples before the trees
    leaf in.
Heat that shakes me awake.
Night sweat inside my sheets.
Burn in my nipples.
The taste of cold water I just swallowed.
Smile on my mouth cool from water.
White crocuses burning themselves away.




Two windows drive
in yellow light.
On a bright blue plate—
cheap Japonaise—
two red filets,
dark as dahlias.
Viv tests the heat.
Her wrist just clears
the pan-rim. The meaty
back of her hand humps up.
Pink-tipped fingers curve
downward and spread
tight-spanned across
the black cast-iron,
close as she can get
without burning. She lays
down the steaks and waits.
Time and Heat.
How much, how long
will sear and blacken,
so that, when she cuts,
the juice runs.



In the Provinces

I leave the character in my novel asleep
in the temple of the twice-blooming
roses of Paestum and walk on the bike path
in the violet dusk that blows up from Hills Pond.
We are back lit—the blond girl roller blading
toward me, joints covered in plastic, long hair
loose under the shining insect-black helmet.
A brown haired woman steps into a yellow-
lit window, leans on the sill; her lined face
tilts up, grieving and full. Another window
and another woman, older still—permed, humped,
bare-armed—briskly makes her bed.
The red-faced man is screaming:
"Shelia, Shelia, Shelia. Son of a Bitch."
When he reaches his blond retriever
wagging her tail, nose to nose with a mutt,
he talks softly to the owner. He lights up
and the smoke drifts to where the asphalt peters out
    to dirt.



2002 The Cortland Review