Richard Levine

The Shrug

in memoriam for Nicholas Johnson

I am the final thing,
A man learning to sing. Theodore Roethke

Time was never your friend, always
faster in getting to the same places,
always rude to your limps and hitches.
What’s the hurry, you’d say? Rushing results
in rumpling – clothes, expectations, moods.
Let’s stop for a drink. It’s what bars are for.

I see how modesty dissuaded you
from grand entrances, how you got used
to shrug at showing up after the rose
bloomed, how you learned to settle for petals –
faded, limp, weary from being handled
and sniffed at by less clever people who’d say,
You’re too late. Quietly, raising a slow eyebrow, you’d think,
Nonsense!, there’s more time than we can ever use.

Richard Levine, a retired NYC teacher, is the author of Richard Levine: Selected Poems (FutureCycle Press, 2019), Contiguous States (Finishing Line Press, 2018), and five chapbooks: The Cadence of Mercy, A Tide of a Hundred Mountains, That Country’s Soul, A Language Full of Wars and Songs, and Snapshots from a Battle. He is also co-editor of BigCityLit.com.