Harriet Levin

Lord of Love

Goddesses make spelling mistakes too. Before signing
her name, my daughter, absent like any deity,
typed lords instead of lots: Lords of love, in a letter to me.

I know errors venture forward,
bob on the surface. This error too,
written from her new city, new marriage,

new life. I who once led, sit subdued.
Intentional or not, I declare what she claims,
like the handful of broken shells, she once gathered on a beach

insisting that they were whole, with a child’s willingness
to praise. Yes, she is my lord of love flaming hot,
a mad mustache over her nose that tickles my lips,

the bottom one more than the top,
the one the lipstick doesn’t stick to but flames
when it touches hers. I’m compelled to talk about her

hands once chubby now slender, calluses, yes,
nails peeling like mica on a stone, in light
envisaged, which is why I must also talk

about her gaze. What she sees she transforms:
the line, the curve, the entire sinking ship
she tenders. What is the purpose for lording

if not to channel love, plow through miasmas
with the rush of a surge,
ferry me back to a long-ago vista

from the porch of a summer rental,
and the child rowing, soon to flip over.
The memory persists in a typo,

the way entire galaxies are reproduced
in a single shell’s spiral shape.
Saturated with emergence, the whole lake is love,

rippling through a glare of riverbank sunflowers
tapping out yellow blooms. This is the mind
doing its work, the good shape of transposing

letters to free us finally from corrections—
space, time, IQ tests, injunctions—to persist as earth persists
below the surface in its bedrock state, stabilizing

the melting Antarctic ice sheet in its uplift.
If a mistake can do that, save us finally from ordinance,
love might just lord, burn our tight uniforms

to sway in breezes, dip into the V-shaped compass of birds,
swooning to fly wingtip to wingtip.
Fair to say, daughter, it's the formation we take

now that you’ve grown. Currents of air brake
over us and we spin, change direction.
You are living your own life,

imagining your future, Each day, things get rocked loose.
You, who were pulled forth feet first, a breech birth
stuck in the birth canal, realigning, even now.



Harriet Levin is the author of three books of poetry, The Christmas Show, selected by Eavan Boland for the Barnard New Women Poets Prize and also winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award; Girl in Cap and Gown, which was a National Poetry series finalist; and My Oceangraphy. Her poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, Plume and elsewhere. She is a board member at Saturnalia Books and holds a MFA from the University of Iowa. She lives in Philadelphia where she teaches writing in the undergrad and MFA program in Creative Writing at Drexel University.