He Delivers his Blessings by Jeffrey Levine Illustration by Isabelle Pelissier
She can do anything she wants with him...
There is much to celebrate. She invents moments of unaccountable happiness for him. They hide from the photographers. The cook whips up traditional dishes, invites her into the kitchen and whispers the legends of his origin while, for luck, he traces her own history from lips to waist with his good hand, her profile shuddering under his measure. The guests prepare for after-dinner struggles with lubricious budding beaus. The entire nation awaits the birth of the beauty, the exotic, the blessed.
Stay, my treasure. She can do anything she wants with him. Her flattery is nothing because he is already convinced. She is laughing with her contessa’s voice–everybody admires the perfect red of her lines, sultry sway of her lines. The orchestra plays mazurkas–the men compare their stripes and ribbons. She trembles beneath her own little uniform, mismatched and tattered. There would be fanfares, antiphonal and filled with brass. He promises her a little farm in the south with olive trees and amber light. Still, the night manager, a colonel, threatens to throw them out on the street for the
indecency of their love.
The colonel sees himself in bed clutching her, growing hot with the metallic clank of his medals. She lifts the colonel’s palm to the offending place, but keeps the tone of her voice serious and complicitous, gives him half-smiles and adds some new detail or other each time she assures him it will not happen again. She remembers what Milan Kundera said about love, that it does not make itself felt in the desire for sex (a desire, he wrote, that extends to the universe of women) but in the desire for shared sleep (a desire limited to her).
Kundera, after all, wrote about her. Her lover says that kissing her words with the tip of the tongue feels like ice cream melting. Her lover says that she has taught certain sounds having a soul and colors all their own. Her lover says that their touching comprises the place where all their countless invisibles merge with the flow like rapids plunging through a deep gorge. She has brought along five changes of clothes, and with each change she is more herself. Love, he tells her, is a miracle the flesh tries to copy. He offers up his own strangeness like many jewels on the dresser top overnight. They are building each other a shelter in the larger spaces of their hearts, where they step out of time. Suzuki Roshi says if you could think with a frog’s mind, through and through, you would be Buddha.
Instead, he reveals all of the places he blesses her. The air smells of damp earth, of spilled chocolate, and from time to time, she recognizes some land brought back by gusts of wind. With unshakable faith she delves into the customs of the world stirring below and when she feels hungry, she eats. And why not? It is all her doing, and he blesses her with a blessing greater than those issued by kings with an ingenious contempt for the usual proportions while a women who would journey to their lands, cold and remote, should such journeys be permitted, even having no jewels, no coat, oh the wine of her hair, the sky breathless with its stars—and beneath, the ground piled high as fringed wings soft above the late winter snow.
Those who, once themselves were great painted creatures, who sturdy and graceful, whose bones are conjured out of ochre and calcium dust and the enormous luck of first moments as when the owl’s buttery breast might tumble into your palms on the crest of the first rush as you lean forward to stroke him then change your mind, setting down your pen leaving a barely visible trace in the air the outline of a single, triangular ear, so pale and fine as to be almost translucent and in its interior folded many times more than is proper on other days into impossible whorls, alert to the plaintive lengths of sound the digs through the tamped-down night.
–Jeffrey Levine's latest book, Rumor of Cortez (Red Hen Press) has been nominated for the L.A. Times Book Award in Poetry. He is
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher of Tupelo Press.