Antonia Refuses the Nectarines
I read Vallejo to Antonia outloud on the deck, ocean-side,
her black nose pressed upside down against the clear bowl
filled with plums, chilled nectarines, and cherry sprays.
As she showed no interest in the poems or fruit, I made sounds
in Spanish, rolled the nouns for ‘rock’ and ‘earth,’ growled
the verb for ‘darken,’ and this music thrilled her wild heart,
those lightened trills, vowels pried open round and ripe as sorrow.
My prophets all go away to think, I said in English,
every one of them, a recession of doubters, and bored
by the blandness of the native tongue she rocketed
past the sea wall through the surf, muzzle lowered, scattering
hermit crabs and gulls, laughing that way dogs have.
Shaking water on my sunburn she looked me in the eye, that slight
quiver in her leg, as a passing child with the face of a goddess,
with such a face, open and no part of sadness in it, said, I’m Grace,
only that, and handed me a book about expatriates lost somewhere hot
and unforgiving, lost and sick for home—though who would give
such a book to her, or why she wanted me to see it, I couldn’t say.
Think of the coming thaw, I warned, though she she’d run off
with Antonia and neither one could hear me, I said remember
how thin plates of ice break apart in the tide pools come spring
how they slide past the cliffs, palisade whitely south.
Jeffrey Levine’s new book, Rumor of Cortez, was nominated for the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry. A past recipient of the Larry Levis Prize, the James Hearst Poetry Award, and the Missouri Review Award, he won Pavement Saw Press’s Transcontinental Prize for his first book, Mortal Everlasting. He is editor-in-chief of Tupelo Press. (3/2007)