Infusion Blues

for Jamie

You lie still, stunned,
pinned to specimen bags
draining fine lines of fluids—

yellow, gastric green, frothing brown
through thin tubs curving
inside the pit of your nose

attached to your stomach's button
pushing into your anus and
poking the tiny eye of your penis.

Another, taped to a thread-
like vein on the back of your hand
pumped in clear liquids, nutrition,

medicines, infusing your clogged body
in the steady mechanical rhythm
of a Rolling Stones riff—

Some kind of ventilator
Some kind of ventilator
—every three seconds, all night long

as, outside your darkened room
the bright racket of late shift nurses
tend other children trying to rest.

At some point during the night
before the dreadful medical men
materialize in your room for morning rounds

to loom over your bags and tubes
and scowl with masks of concern
over what progress you are making

tethered to their metrical technology,
I lean over you, quiet child,
bristling with throbbing tubes, in and out,

and in the chill air try to rub warmth
across your bent back and tight arms
urge comfort through immobile hips

my sorry efforts meant to sow
false assurance this will all end soon.
Lying patient as a pilot light

you will not rouse, but do
instruct me to defy this state
with stillness and perfect calm

and a sigh, imperceptibly small,
huffed through the one side of your nose
the doctors neglected to stuff.

          © 2007 Donald Levin


"This is an insightful body of work, filled with humanistic soundings that represent our days, past and present. These poems are crafted and well written, their attention to meter and rhythm wonderful, strung beautifully across all the acoustic instruments that contain reminders of life and all its complex realities. We see Levin's subject, as well as himself, naked and human...painstakingly well wrought, bringing the reader directly into the room. . . . These are poems that force us to value ourselves, our lives, and our very humanity."

—Michael Paul Ladanyi, poet and editor

Bird in the Basement

In a flash, fist-sized, feathered,
the desperate sparrow flings itself,
trapped, across the dank

basement. A common problem—
a colony of chatty birds perched
at the chimney's warm edge

when one, overcome by
monoxide fumes, tumbles down
the flue's tin length and lands,

thumping itself awake
against the cocked damper to spill
with dignity shot onto the furnace's

hard mesa, where, coming to
in its dim new jail, peeping companions
fading memories in its feathered brain,

its terrible thrashing of wings
and frantic twitters signal
for me (downstairs to launder

the week's basket of dirty clothes)
a sign. A sign, for sure, though
what this frightened flying shadow

heralds, I can't decide.
One less bird in the world,
the landlord grumbles when I

​explain the problem. While the owner
tries to find an agent to control
this unexpected critter, I put out

a lake of water in a china bowl
and on a plate alongside a slice
of bread torn apart like an old god

to propitiate the life that sails
above the cellar floor and weeps, broken-
hearted, for the safety of the open air.

          © 2005 Donald Levin