Dana Levin
White Tara
 Tibetan, Mother of Compassion


With a pillow and a yen.

You were meant to be the god.

Brown eye crowning in its
       jellied boat

       through the unlined winter of your hand.


But to view her, not become her.

To have her be your personal god—

Divine bandage
       for each of your wounds, impersonal mother

you could love and love
       and not have to give a thing back—

White Tara. Heart uncurling from the snow of her chest,
       turning blue

       in the Himalayan air—

You bought it in a store.
       After the mother had dropped completely



Face down
       in a pool of spit, heart’s


She made you put the gift boots
       back in the box, she said How

could you do this to me? 
when you had to tell her you’d got
       the clap—

Smotherer, eating up all the breath—

She kneels, bearing a heart attack.


And the poets say,

       You will not say Mother, you will not say Father—

       We have overthrown
                   the chromosome, we have

                   emerged full-throated from a void.

Build it from rot.

From the mouldered soil
       of the neglected shit-strewn yard—

       for the neighbor’s cats, they love the smell: alive alive

Out of elm sticks
       from the weedy trees, crush and glitter
of yellowed leaves, you must
       build it—
jamb and sill, a frame
       through which she can come

and be the god on the bedroom wall, White

Seven eyes on the suffering world, Rescuing

       in the clothes she was wearing, when she


smacked face first to the floor—

Rescuing Mother, the poets say.

       Who for.

And the poets say,

       You may not admit to bone or flesh, you must not have nerves
                   in the tips of your fingers,
       you may say fist, you may say teeth, but you must not
                   put them in a sentence
       together, you must not put them
                   in a body



       That is the infection

whose vector you seek,
       Sick Hunter. In the cemetery

you pore through the loam.
       To find the cold well, its lip lit

by an oil

from her bones: Wrong-Bodied Never
       Accomplished Enough
 a dose

in the inner ear, how could she
       be the murderer

       when the murderer is in the mirror—


In a skin of milk,
       a moon-warmth, white and cool.

Soft and sentient,
       you furl out a parentless hand.

To cup the head of the one
       who’s been calling you—:

                   I hated her and then she died—

                   she died and then I

                   couldn’t tell her it was all a lie

Blood beading the perimeter
       of an almond-shaped wound

       as the eye of compassion slits through.
Found In Volume 37, No. 04
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Dana Levin
About the Author

Dana Levin’s books are In the Surgical Theatre, winner of the 1999 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, Wedding Day, and Sky Burial (Copper Canyon Press).