Poems and Texts

“BRAID” by Lauren Levin


And then Lindsey and I talk about vulnerability and what it means
To say we want our work to be vulnerable when we’re the ones who make it
and making a surface and our own surface is ongoing in anything artful

At least once a day I saw the police stop cars and search them
My friend talks about Charades drunk and stoned:
out of your mind, you look at a friend and teammate

and say “I know you know what I mean!”And they don’t know,
but at that moment you feel them in your mind
and time approaches a love that can’t be read or written

While my friend talks, I’m already like that, scrambled;
I can’t tell what’s in my mind from what’s in yours already
I think you’ll just know when I say “on the Danziger Bridge”

Between myself and where everyone is
Under Mirabeau Bridge the river slips away between where my body stops and the world begins
It doesn’t have to be chronological, though she was born

If that’s the space, the braid weaves around a space impossible to fill
in that emptiness I watch time drift in her, accumulate, while elsewhere
It doesn’t build up, it drifts and is sold

I think I feel her also, washing or retreating on the tides of her sleep
Love’s body, which is the body of peace anxiously sought
Or on something crackling, aloof, or a warm field – the life-like field of her moderating, crackling                              alertness

She’s interested in a cat – the neighbor’s cat Monkey –
an orange cat. It drapes over the neighbor’s arm, limp & boneless
The ferret, flexible spine for going down burrows, could be folded in half

and she was afraid of the ferret…her fear is that she turns away and says ‘buh buh buh’ –
A baby also lives with the neighbors; the baby is named Mabel
Alejandra is 11 months and 3 weeks, the baby Mabel is 3 and a half weeks,

These two people will always be separated by this distance of time, this pad of air
traveling together at a small distance in time
a stream of air aimed at the ceiling

“your property lines are suspended above the earth”
in my heedlessness, I twist as Alejandra
the only person I’ll ever so acutely be

A love that comes close to the world seems hard to imagine
Or a late style while the baby is still young
When I was having uterine bleeding I wouldn’t write in red or wear pink underwear

I’m writing as fast as I can because I’ll never have much time left to write
I’m writing in and out because I don’t know how else to weave
Alli said if I don’t know what to do then write a letter –

Dear Sean Bonney, I came in late
You were celebrating Thatcher’s death day I thought of Killer Mike
(my favorite) I’m glad Reagan’s dead I felt secretive and inert

But also full of something beautiful and hectic I want to pour into her cup
Money accumulates as time it pours out buys other time
and the things I teach: Washing, cleaning, not going there, fish (wave hand), a cow says                                             “Mmmmmm,”

Make a Y, put your hand on your head for the cow’s horn
To build time, it goes on for a while, and with a settling in on fear
Reagan’s welfare axe on the cover of Time Magazine

Time has too much intake,
There’s no way to hold up structure long enough to build into it,
Too much outflow. I curse at people while I’m pregnant

They stare at me my baubled shape I disavow but I’m either that or nothing
and while the idea of nothing is absurd it does exist
I used my security code to get into the bathroom

I checked out some books for the baby
Constantly at the beginning of her life the world begins
To reproduce itself more than what was usual in the beginning of mine

“Present time makes the stranger of yourself,”
Clark Coolidge says, “whom you do not have the charm of watching walk away”
There is no death day so go on writing dear Time

I wade out at Crown Beach with my dress hiked up,
underwear getting wet and out and out, S and A with an inner tube,
with L and B, “I’m going to dive under, but I’ll come up in a minute, I’ll talk to you then,”

the salt water float is the feeling of life, someone near me making sounds of
pleasure,                build into the structure,
the braid becomes again as something else, then not, and then again
as something soft, you go down more fine-grained and find fear

and sun and trooping down the sand hill to the water.
I make my way through words without any need to say the word art
You just do things that you like to do

shoplifting lipstick to get rid of choice Vibrant Mandarin vs. Neon Red
Was he high? The blur of that song, do you love it like I do,
enough for it to be your security question?

Because this is the part after the birth and the death where it just keeps going
I didn’t tell anyone how gruesome my friend Jeff’s suicide was
It ended up as “News of the Weird” in local media

Or that in the year it took to find him we halfway thought he was alive
and halfway dead, time was open then in the wrong way
To start again is hard though every day is matter

and I can never talk about the Danziger Bridge, not really, how NOPD shot
6 unarmed people trying to leave the flooded city, shot one in the back, killed 2
The cops were convicted then their convictions overturned for them time became light and magical, transformed

But murdered 17-year-old James Brissette and murdered 40-year-old Ronald                                                            Madison
will always be 17 and 40

I always learned that everything is complicated
but some things don’t seem complicated

Lauren Levin

Lauren Levin grew up in New Orleans and lives in Richmond, CA with her family. Her first full-length book The Braid is forthcoming with Krupskaya Books in October 2016. Recent work can be found in the chapbook Only the Dead Are Never Anxious (Mondo Bummer), in the journal Open House, and forthcoming in the journal Hold.

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