Alexander Levering Kern


The Riven Life

Far from the frantic world I am 
not much good, to tell you the truth
(I say with only a half tongue in cheek)
My work is in the highways and byways
the broken streets, the little mud puddles 
where children play, the long great
tongue of marchers chanting 
George Floyd, say his name
Breonna Taylor, say her name.
Yes, friend, if I am honest with you 
I live between the ever-frantic wilderness
and the still small room above the world 
of Somerville where the locust and linden 
pat the breeze on the back, as if to say
Quiet, your race is not done.

I live in the nebulous in-between
the shout and the whisper, the rage and ruin,
and the slow mindful work of repair.
And so, dear friend, when evening comes 
in her robe of scarlet, violet, and orange
I’ll lay down in wonder, remembering
my brown eyes beating their hasty retreat
from a world of care - of bullet and germ -
only to dream, to dream, of a world on fire,
wildfires until the autumn rains come 
and I wake, gasping, grief and hope
my constant bedside companions.


note: the first line of this poem is drawn from ee cummings’
“i am a little church(no great cathedral)”


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