The Water Leveling With Us
by Donald Levering

Red Mountain Press, 2014; 78 pp
Reviewed by Vladislav Frederick


The Water Leveling With Us is a marvelous literary translocation to an exotic world of writhing plants, striving lives, and predatory eyes, a terrain vibrant with death and survival, civilizations and landmarks--often close to the equator--steeped in a sanguine pool of history. The crimes of Augusto Pinochet in his rise and reign and the plight of sea turtle hatchlings come to us in turn, Levering through contrast showing us the commonalities between natural and human forms of cruelty. Levering’s frequent contact with nature reveals itself in the tone of his work which holds the existential unpredictability of life prevailing in a jungle full of other often larger life, the possibility of interaction and the potential for destruction.

Which of the eggs
she has just laid
will hatch
which hatchlings will escape raccoons
crabs    gulls     dogs     monkeys        humans
and skitter into the sea

Levering also gives us history, bold and bloody and savory with the flavor of raw emotive presence as settings and moments are re-imagined through questions posed to Neruda, felt in scenes Aharon Appelfeld sees as a child, tenuously grasped in lines of poem squeezed out from under 13,000 pounds per square inch of oil from the Deepwater Horizon Spill.  

Ink from with plumes through mile-deep water,
festoons reeds and corals, turtles and birds
with iridescent pearls of smotheration.

Under such pressure one ink tentacle escapes
the gravity of glued pelicans
to pen my dream of the looping biplane

brought down by a host of monarchs.

The Water Leveling With Us is worth reading if only for its duality, the ever-present contrast, all the flavors of man and beast colliding, death and survival together abiding but it will be Levering’s language that takes you, his concise delivery of pregnant imagery, of the rendingly real recreations of clash they produce what draws you in.

with juice of a plum
would you paint for me
the light leaking through blindfolds?
Tell me how these plums tasted so sweet
in the same city where human blood
ran in the streets.