Judy Katz-Levine – Five Poems


A Free Ride

If we were held by stronger bonds we would be unbroken.  There is a silence I have always cherished which comes with the knowledge that a son is traveling far away and safe.  Traveling in a bus through the glistening cities.  I have been counseled with the half-smile of a challenged woman, whose face is scarred, whose music is rising on a crest of mourning.  There are no stars tonight.  This prisoner was found guilty and does not weep.  But I am one who walks and weeps, in the knowledge of ancient flowers that speak with the lips of prophets.  I am, in a state of grace, witness to the birth of a lamb, one reincarnated from the pages of the prophet Isaiah, one who has dreams of high places.


An Answer To A Question Just Posed On “Cabala”

There were always grapes at dawn, there
was a face, distinguished by shadows that
were hidden secrets, so I wrote one story
and burned it in the flames of never again,
and told a different one that was a branch of forsythia
for a four year old running by the dunes.
Because you can only trust those who
are with you forever with minds that inhabit
suburban towns ripe with high grass and lawns
of we will have to take justice
sometimes, a never again to those with blood dripping
from their fingers, an always for those
who speak in parables of young men
bending to touch an ancient blessing.


Some Auras

Some auras are very bright, so bright they are like stars one cannot look at because they will burn the eyes.  But I can look at them.  The one I remember most is the aura of my grandfather, which is that bright and once I saw it hanging around the clock in the kitchen.  With it comes his memory of being a disciple of the prophet Joel – and also there is the voice of the prophet Joel, also can be seen when one closes one’s eyes, a veritable whirlwind that descends, all copper and gold, when his disciple is threatened and so the whirlwind gives her a quiet.  This whirlwind came down during a drive through a small town in Massachusetts by a stoplight, after a Nazi named Schmidt stopped the disciple and threatened to shoot her.  This whirlwind, and the too bright to blink at – grandfather aura – will descend to terminate anyone who threatens their gentle, heart warming disciple granddaughter, (me), she who is only interested in dispensing blessings to the poor, the persecuted.  This whirlwind and his bright grandfather pal will bless those who love the woman- the kid from Jersey – who drives all through the night sleepless and survives an attempt, or 4 attempts at her murder, with not enough protection from the good branch of the CIAO who should have known the score.


Street Lamp

for Rati

There were tangles in the prayer shawl.
The street lamp sent down a song
with one sparrow, a rosebud
and I remembered the poems
of Gabriela Mistral, just now
at the threshold of translucent hands
which spell out an end to suffering –
perhaps from a disease in which the hands
curled like broken ferns
or a clot of pain that broke into a waterfall
there were tangles in the prayer shawl
undone by lips of honey that came from out of nowhere
and I set down the notes on a white paper
that came drifting down from those who do know,
and those who sense the truth in their living bones.


Poem Influenced by the Work of Henri Michaux

This scallion message from a fine chef comes when a fierce face has been banished.  There is ginger in the tea, to aid the nausea I am sensing. The bok choy and the chard are extremely worthy of a kiss.  If not, just a hug.  Also, the moon is not full but crescent tonight.  A friend had picked up something, a clue, she’s not aware of it, I don’t think.  Her smile is gorgeous at noon at the Bamboo Cafe.  Something  she picked up which I can’t ever mention.  If I were to fall in the grass, this scallion message would come to me as a blue star, and no twist of the ankle, no twist of the wrist  – just preparation to use a word or two to fell a Nazi, a street of Nazis, blood on their caps, just a word or two, just a gesture of the hands, so the swan made of light can enter.


Author’s Statement on Beauty

One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of the nature of beauty is the photographs of Dorothea Lange which document Americans living through the Great Depression, and one in particular of a woman bent over and holding her hand to her forehead. Something about a hard weekend. Through her bent over grace there is the rise of compassion in the person who comes into contact with this photograph. A evocation of compassion is to me what the beauty in art of all kinds is about. Sometimes this compassion can be for the earth itself – such as a painting or photo of an ancient banyan tree or a poem about such a tree. Also the play of light across the cognitive mind, such as in the poems of Henri Michaux, W.S. Merwin, elicit an experience of the exquisite place a mind can come to, or the severe crisis we face in attempting to save the profound gifts of nature; the sea, the coral. I think also of the poems of Cavafy, who was homosexual, and how they relate to the AIDS crisis, or the current attempt to diminish the rights of the LGBTQ community. So again, the power in a writer’s force is one which brings compassion and a change of vision and action to the receiver. So beauty is more than an aesthetic which pleases, but a dynamic in which a poet or writer, musician or visual or conceptual artist attempts to open the receiver’s vision so an act of mercy or courage will result(such as a sculptor using conceptual ideas – and I think of a friend of mine who is a sculptor and created two mailbox posts with “Give A Book Get A Book” on one mailbox and on the other a similar mailbox with plastic guns in it – to make a statement for pacifism. ) This conceptual sculpture of my friend is also beautiful though the plastic guns in the postbox, bringing to mind the memory of Sandy Hook or other massacres, are not. The poems of Paul Celan, a survivor of the Holocaust whose parents both died in concentration camps, is another artist whose statements on beauty, hidden in his poems, come to mind. Celan worked in forced labor during World War II and in his poetry often used stones and geographical landscapes and created an entirely new code language of images in his work, because he felt that was the only way to express the extremes of severe suffering experienced in the concentration camps. His poems are beautiful but, compact and intense as some of them are, also terrifying, and in his poems there exists a profound cry for compassion for victims of genocide. So it is compassion which resonates for me in the words, images, songs, and theater pieces of those of us who devote our lives to creation as a gift.


Judy Katz-Levine is the author of 2 full-length collections of poetry, Ocarina, and When The Arms Of Our Dreams Embrace. Her most recent chapbook is When Performers Swim, The Dice Are Cast. There Are Those of Us Who Are Close By, a book of poems, will be published by Cervena Barva Press in 2019. Poems have appeared recently in Salamander, Ibbetson Street, Ygdrasil and many other journals.