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Lenten Song

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That the dead are real to us
Cannot be denied,
That the living are more real

When they are dead
Terrifies, that the dead can rise
As the living do is possible

Is possible to surmise,
But all the stars cannot come near
All we meet in an eye.

Flee from me, fear, as soot
Flies in a breeze, do not burn
Or settle in my sight,

I’ve tasted you long enough,
Let me savor
Something otherwise.

Who wakes beside me now
Suits my soul, so I turn to words
Only to say he changes

Into his robe, rustles a page,
He raises the lid of the piano
To release what’s born in its cage.

If   words come back
To say they compromise
Or swear again they have died,

There’s no news in that, I reply,
But a music without notes
These notes comprise, still

As spring beneath us lies,
Already something otherwise.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013)

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This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

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Lenten Song

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  • Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Phillis Levin is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. She is the author of five poetry collections: Temples and Fields (University of Georgia Press, 1988), winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award; The Afterimage (Copper Beech Press, 1995); Mercury (Penguin, 2001); May Day (Penguin, 2008); and Mr. Memory & Other Poems (Penguin, 2016). She is the editor of The Penguin Book of the Sonnet: 500 Years of a Classic Tradition in English (Penguin, 2001). Her poems have appeared in the New Yorker, the Atlantic, Poetry magazine, Kenyon Review, the Nation, Paris Review, AGNI, Grand Street, the Yale Review, the New Republic, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Southwest Review, PN Review, Poetry London, and the Poetry Review (UK), and have been featured in three editions of The Best American Poetry as well as numerous other anthologies, including Poetry 180,...

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