All of the sunlight came burning to reach them
through whitened branches of sycamore leaves.
Where a streak broke in, the leaves weakened it.
Where the old women rested was half dark
spiced with the odor of sycamore bark.
They had no eyes for the tree sheltering them.
What they loved was their unhurried time.
What they did together always was talk.
Who was born.  Who still lived.  Who died.
Who fell. Which children did well.  Which did not.
Quick to mock lying politicians, they kept
mockery brief to save breath that would run out
as their eyes had run out of tears.  There’s no use
complaining, they agreed, but knew each other’s
complaints, as intimate with those as they were
with summer dresses their needles had pierced.
Their feet hardly worried the ground.
When slow dusk came on, erasing the day,
when they were finally done with talking,
they did not give themselves to the fireflies’
flickering light or the darkening grass
or the dampening ground, or the small branch
or the few still green early fallen leaves.



Miriam Levine is the author of Saving Daylight, her fifth collection of poetry. Another collection, The Dark Opens, was chosen by Mark Doty for the Autumn House Poetry Prize. Other books include: Devotion, a memoir; In Paterson, a novel. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, Kenyon Review, Paris Review, and Ploughshares. Levine, a fellow of the NEA and a grantee of the Massachusetts Artists Foundation, lives in Florida and New Hampshire.

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