Written by Jake Levine 
Illustrated by Arash Qilich 

Published 8/16/2012

for Steve Orlen

you can tell how high the moon hangs by
          the way light sags on the river

I know what you are thinking—this
          knowledge is trivial if there is no river

and our interest in the sound ice caps make
          Bobdigging their way into the moon face, our fascination with the
          chime interstellar clouds create when they crash can only
          mean one thing

soon there will be no river

perhaps popular interest should shift to the
          fresh mound in my backyard that’s a dog’s grave I shoveled to see how
          long it takes him to turn into a tree

or how the mold on the grip of this aluminum bat perfectly fits the hand I cracked his legs with so
          he can never jump out to haunt us

remember when we scoured the sand bank for the flattest stone to skip on the river’s skin—the
          age when we didn’t know or understand that we had eyebrows

watching the blood ribbon wrapped round the gunmetal beak expand as the raven gutted the
out of a mouse in the grass

in the morning fog, barely able to recognize your hands, how long did you spend in that imagined
          country, fighting with words to mean something

while we are on the subject, I’d like to mention that on the bank of the river, cloaked in
          moonlight, I waited for you until winter and never saw a single fish

and now that you are gone it seems that things have finally fallen out of their symbolic hierarchy
          and molded back into their demythed selves

a tree is leaf and bark, the dog, dog, wind blows, rivers flow, no more, no less 

I hate to say that in this country is a different version of that old woman you might have imagined
          picking seeded grapes out her lunch box on a rotting bench

this land where you envisioned a crowd of young peasant girls, their heads with hand-knit shawls
          wrapped round them, flanking the dirt road you might have returned on, arms filled with baskets of apples—plain-beautiful women screaming your family’s name

I’m sorry to report all those young ladies no longer have teeth

this town doesn’t remember the names of its ghosts

and in the remotest of cafés I ate a potato pancake stuffed with ham and cheese

and to my complete surprise, and imagined mother’s horror, I found it to be delicious

Steve, here in this first age where each war never ends, what am I able to say

do newspapers unfold, are the clouds confused, which parts of my life aren’t published online

on the bank of the river the old woman is skinning grapes with the back of her front teeth

she is watching the little lights cascade the scaffolding like butterflies in Spring

under the green bridge the moon fully suspends on the river
                    in perfect weightlessness

what you love most dies when you least expect it

and even though it may be true, truth is something I less and less believe in

on the bank of the river, what have I learned from this imagined country

that there is more to life than faith

Art by Arash Qilich



Jake Levine is a Litvak. He lived in Vilnius for a year and a half on a Fulbright Scholarship in 2010/2011 and served as a visiting lecturer of literature at Vilnius University. He also was program director of Summer Literary Seminars Vilnius and translated a small book of poems by Tomas Slombas. He is poetry editor at Spork Press. He currently lives in Seoul, South Korea, where he is an assistant professor of English Composition and Creative Writing at Sejong University. (Update Aug. 2012)

Born in 1991, in Tehran, Iran, Arash Qilich is a visual artist, studying sculpture at the Art University of Tehran. (Updated Aug. 2012)