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SHJ Issue 16
Spring 2017

American Kaddish

by Sylvia Levinson

  1. Cooler evenings whisper a coming autumn.
    Sun-faded prayer flags, yellow, red, blue,
    slow dance along the garage eaves. Silence,
    not a dog barking or airplane droning, and dusk
    holds its breath, awaiting evening.

  2. Through open windows, a distant volley—
    pop, pop, pop starts at dark, and I think fireworks
    from the amusement park or stadium. And then,
    a staccato of ack, ack, ack, and I realize: police range
    shooting practice, echoing across the canyon.

  3. Names of cities march across my screen: Orlando, Dallas,
    Baton Rouge, Baltimore, San Bernardino. Chanted refrains:
    hands up, don’t shoot, open carry, all lives matter. This
    soul-shattering has become the litany of our daily lives.

  4. How did this happen? Who will be next? Where?
    Why? What shall become of us? I can’t breathe.

  5. Noises dissipate. . .except for the whistling tea kettle.
    Nightly cup in hand, I walk out to the porch.
    Strawberry moon rises. Peony shrub scatters fuchsia petals;
    towering eucalyptus branches sway and rustle
    in lamentation,
    heads bowed, like weary old men praying
    at the Wailing Wall.

    [V’chayim aleinu v’al kol yoshvei tevel. And may life be renewed
    for all who dwell on earth. V’imru, and say, Amen.]


    —Selected for Honorable Mention in the competition for the Steve Kowit Poetry Prize 2016, and first published in the San Diego Poetry Annual 2016-17 (Garden Oak Press, February 2017); appears here with permissions from both poet and publisher.


    SHJ Issue 16
    Spring 2017

    Sylvia Levinson

    is the author of Spoon (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and Gateways: Poems of Nature, Meditation and Renewal (Caernarvon Press, 2005). Her work also appears in several journals and anthologies including: Blue Arc West, City Works, Ekphrasis, Hunger and Thirst, Magee Park, Mamas and Papas, San Diego Poetry Annual, San Diego Writers Ink, Serving House Journal, Snowy Egret, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Reader.

    Levinson moved to California in 1962 and to San Diego County in 1974, which she hopes qualifies her as a “local.” Her poetry life began when she worked in marketing at the Old Globe Theatre for several years. She believes “retirement” is an active verb which propels her poetry, workshops, volunteer work at KSDS Jazz 88.3 FM, and attendance at many theater and jazz performances each year.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury