There Comes a Time – by Nancy Smiler Levinson

after roller skate spills
iodine mixed with tears
after the summer of the polio scare
when you defied the rule
no splashing in puddles
sent to your room
to think about
children in iron lungs
yet after supper
that hot summer
lifted for a breezy drive
crickets in hiding
clicking their staccato song
you chose vanilla swirl
at the Dairy Queen

One autumn afternoon
you and Gramma Liebe
were raking leaves
competing for the biggest pile
then only a wink of days later
after biking home from the park
you were told she died
Gramma suffers no more
they said     she is at peace
in heaven with Grampa
arms enfolded you    rocking
rocking    on the davenport
At the cemetery as Gramma Liebe
lay in a covered box
English words knitted
with Hebrew sounds
offered no explanation
hinted not even a clue
a different kind of mystery this
from your Nancy Drew sleuth books
that answered all the puzzles

Wildly inside the college library
(frightful blizzard outside)
you take Dostoevsky
into your heart    the Russian soul
(your ancestral Russian soul?)
Man is sometimes passionately
in love with suffering
new to you this existentialism
do we truly know ourselves
our complex selves
Across your study table
a young man writes notes madly
running ink-smudged fingers
through his thick hair
and you fall crazily in love with him

Your voice called you
while thrummed a low hum beneath
Virginia Woolf in the river’s drift
the song of the flailing swan
but you alone could answer the call
and with a small patch of earth
you grew a garden
planted     nurtured
azaleas and vines entwined
a garden of words that blossomed
dusting your prose with grit
blooming    a Climbing Rose

Only in an unimagined time and place
does one meet the true prince charming
a glass of dubonnet in hand
he appeared at a political campaign
in a Manhattan hotel (a New Yorker
having never ridden a horse)
We sowed roots in California
our canyon home    two sons (suns)
one journey of many    a summer night
on a rented Lake Shasta houseboat
we gazed at a star blanket
across the visible sky
a long, stunning moment of awe

Season after season
carefully sewn together
when comes the time
maple leaves fall
their branches shudder bare
you recognize that your prince
reveals signs of dementia
he drifts away from himself
away from you
your devoted care cannot
rake away anguish
change the night into day
Zichronam li’v rachah
May the memories
of your beloved
forever be a blessing

How to grasp
Shakespeare’s ages of man (human)
birth to death
roles played upon a stage
now in this your season
you stand alone    lost in time    lost
among the mysterious curves in space
yet you see whirling snows
autumn leaves    a lake and stars
you must revitalize your garden
plant the wonder of poetry
amidst a lea of roses
there comes another time

Nancy LevinsonNancy Smiler Levinson Nancy is author of MOMENTS OF DAWN: A Poetic Memoir of Love & Family, Affliction & Affirmation, as well as a collection of her poetry, The Diagnosis Changes Everything. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Panoply, Poetica, Constellations, and Hamilton Stone Review. She is a one-time Pushcart nominee and lives and writes in Los Angeles.