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Ordinary Psalm with Near Blindness

Julia B. Levine, 2020 BLR Poetry Prize Winner


The world mostly gone, I make it what I want:
from the balcony, the morning is a silver robe of mist, 

I make a reckless blessing of it— the flaming,
flowering spurge of the world, the wind 

the invisible birds make as they flock and sing.
Edges yes, the green lift and fall of live oaks, 

something metal wheeling past,
and yet for every detail alive and embodied—  

the horses with their tails switching back and forth,
daylilies parting their lobes to heat,

the pond splintered into rain—
I cannot stop asking sparrow or wren? Oak 

or elm?  Because it matters
if the grey fox curled in sleep 

is a patch of dark along the fenceline,
or if the bush hung with fish kites 

is actually a wisteria in flower.  Though
even before my retinas bled and scarred 

and bled again, I wanted everything
different, better.  And then this afternoon, 

out walking the meadow together,
you bent to pick a Bleeding Heart.  Held it close

as I needed to see what I could—
its delicate lanterns, the shaken light. 


Deer, you say, our car stopped in traffic.
and since I can’t see them, I ask, Where?

Between the oaks, you answer
and since I can’t see the between, 

I ask, In the dappling?

You take my hand and point
to the darkest stutter in the branches

and I see a shadow

in the sightline of your hand, your arm,
your blue shirt with its clean scent of laundry,

my hand shading my eyes from glare.
There!, you say, and I can see

the dark flash of them
leaping over a fence (or is it reeds?),

one a buck with his bony crown,
and one a doe, and one smaller, a fawn, 

but by then it seems they’ve disappeared

and so I ask, Gone?
and you nod.  

We’re moving again,

and so I let the inner become outer

become pasture and Douglas firs
with large herds of deer, elk, even bison, 

and just beyond view, a mountain lion


auburn-red, like the one we saw years before,
hidden behind a grove of live oaks,