Poem of the Week

Dunes

Jen Levitt

When I finally reached them, a young father

was trying to teach his daughter how to cast.

She flicked her wrist, overshot, found the motion

the second time around. I’d run four miles

to get here & didn’t think I’d make it, then sat

awhile attempting to be still, to regard the teenagers

stripping down to their suits with recognition,

kindness & not my usual judgment aimed inward.

Yesterday, an ecologist was explaining how

so much in nature forms from loss—take beaches,

he’d said, damage the desired state for a certain

kind of growth. On the walk home my feet hurt,

I came across a turtle in the road, flies attaching

to its split shell, & waited for someone else

to move it. Like how she’d told me I needed

to open, but how? I mean it literally: I can’t figure

out the mechanics. Online, another poet vows

not to collude anymore with modes of despair.

But what about the opposite, what it would mean

to shelter despair like a child or childhood pet?

This is me trying to make an opening. For some-

thing unformed to enter. A new kind of noticing.

The willingness to risk failure for the possibility

of love. On the dunes, a dark-haired woman walking

barefoot along the shoreline smiled as she passed.

I smiled back. Farther out now, the teenagers

splashed in the waves, & as I listened to the pitch

of their voices came to see they weren’t teenagers

at all but somewhere in the middle of their lives.

Jen Levitt is the author of The Off-Season. Her second collection is forthcoming with Four Way Books in 2023.
Originally published:
July 14, 2021

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