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Jeffrey Levine: Winner of the 1999 Renee Ashley Poetry Contest of Skylands Writers & Artists Association, Inc.

A graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA program for writers, Jeffrey Levine has poems published or pending in many magazines, including Quarterly West, Missouri Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Cimarron Review, Barrow Street, and others. He was recently named the winner of this year's "Larry Levis Award" by the Missouri Review for a group of poems. In addition, he has been a finalist in several major competitions during the past couple of years, including the Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship, the Akron Poetry Prize, the Brittingham Prize, and twice, the "Discovery"/ The Nation competition. Jeffrey Levine lives in Fanwood with his wife and eight-year-old son, and works as an executive for a company that smelts and melts recycled metals.

****1st Place Winnning Poem****

Dawn, With Cardinals


After separating from Penelope, Ulysses

takes a smallish cottage out of town,

bounded by deep woods on one side, a golf course on the other

where children sled or startle frogs, depending on the season.


Crows strut their turf under plum trees, furl their capes

and bob like drunks. Of the night birds, owls map the taller pines

with iridescent eyes, and moon hens peck at drops of evening dew.


When the divorce is hammered shut, he'll move,

settle on a narrow road beside a spit of sand, beyond that, sea.

He could earn a modest pension crafting bird feeders from mill scraps,

keep a brace of hunting dogs for company,

and rake the silt for clams and oysters at low tide.


For now, he contents himself recording bird calls,

but forgets them quickly as he learns, save

the cardinal's song, a slight and mournful chirping

heard each morning just outside his porch.


And always the same two birds--

she quarrelsome, he quiet or detached or maybe mystified

at his helplessness to make a difference. Or cocksure

he does, you see it in the ebony beak, crimson breast. Look,


the bird bath's full of cool clear water and still

she carries on, sharp staccato chirps, high pitched, unwavering.

He flutters but makes no sound, something holding on

inside him, something faintly chipped.


Ulysses never planned to wake so early every morning.

Who believes in ritual for days or weeks, until it's a proven thing?

But here it is, persistent, regular.


Ulysses lets dawn filter through the screened porch.

First no light, then light. First no birds, then song.

No wind; wind.

Copyright © 1999 by Jeffrey Leveine. All rights reserved..

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