The Water Leveling With Us

The title poem of Donald Levering’s new collection, The Water Leveling With Us (Red Mountain Press), seeks continuity in our warming world. The timeless shifting of tides — “all the liquid drained from seashores here/fills fjords and coves in distant latitudes/the moon’s means for formulating perfect/equanimity on earth” — continues in the face of “avenging seas” and “villages submerged under cubic/miles of sluggish reservoirs.” He takes a political stance against this backdrop, finding absurdity: “On the other side of the planet/in that poppy growing land/the president wants us to bomb/a mouse is napping.” It’s a place where climate change progresses to the sound of Handel’s Water Music, and young boys line up in a school gym to “donate blood to the giant/who is leaking oil.” Yet beauty persists, in the sound of the words he chooses, the unexpected rhymes, and the promise of silent understanding: “A springtime revolution like shouting tulips/above the ticker scrolling soccer scores/in the lounge where we are reading lips.”

The poems in Michael G. Smith’s collection No Small Things (Tres Chicas Books) — rooted in Chinese poetry, Buddhism, and science — embrace that ancient human tradition of putting thoughts into words. One poem, “Contemplating Sex and Electrons, I Sew My Rakusu,” drops the name of poet Cold Mountain, who probably lived in the eighth century. Smith does this against the odds, chronicling a stroke and his recovery (“my brain had a clotting” is a repeated phrase). That he makes strange sense of it all — “My only losses are those/I hold on to” and “Who can recall under what darkness/awakening occurs?” — makes his work all the more joyful. He gives a free reading  at 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 22, at Teatro Paraguas Studio (3205 Calle Marie, 505-424-1601).

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