A matter of life and death

March 13, 2018

It has just occurred to me that maybe writing a lot of book reviews has helped me read books in a deeper way.

Certainly life and death is a deep matter for me. When I get to one of my chi gong exercises throughout the day — the one in which I extend my body from the deep inner earth into flying through heaven — I feel ecstasy with the buoyant idea of flying through the upper universe.

The following is a book review that made me realize while life is always nearby so is death:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wedsnesday, April 25, 2000

A matter of life and death

Winter Still by Peter Levitt , Salt Spring Island: (m)Other Tongue Press, 2007, 20 pp.

Review by Tanya Lester

Winter Still by Peter Levitt consists of 10 narrative poems about that still place between breathing in and breathing out.

It is about that place where life joins death and turns once more into life. A deep and sacred theme is being addressed in this book. In the poem Pale Shadow, an eagle plunges into Cusheon Lake and kills a duck. The predator tries to rise with its kill but cannot:

The killer/and killed had become one body/and the weight wed them where them where they were…/Finally the eagle began to row/he arched his great wings forward/ into the lake and pulled against / death’s enormous weight. 

Towards the poem’s end, Levitt makes, what might seem to some, an unbelievable connection between two opposites:

I hold the image of the eagle’s/kill no different from the first time I saw/my children bathed in the birthing blood that helped to keep them/alive….

Yet I know this to be true. When my friend James died, I had a dream. In it, he was covered with afterbirth. I felt elated by the knowledge that he lived again.

Another poem, called A Translation in Winter, states:

My wife dreamed the face of our son/two years before he finally came,/and it was four more before she looked/cross the room as he played…/That’s the face of the boy I saw in my dream…

So, if death turns to life, why do we mourn those who are dead to us?

A Translation in Winter continues:

I reach for the phone because/the worried love in my mother’s/face calls as it used to do. Or/ my father’s deep voice saying/ the syllables of my name…/to hear it once more./A losing game now that they’re gone.

We mourn those who are dead to us because they are dead to us. Life is hard but them we need to keep things in perspective. In Within Within, Levitt writes:

Bearing/sorrow in silence/or holding our happiness/for the world/are just plum twigs/bearing snow.

These are beautiful lines whether you understand what they mean or not. Beautiful lines like Levitt describing walking through the forest:

tentative as a new lover, my hands/leading me branch by branch

Or, when he compares the eagle’s wings flapping to a “sound like feathered oars.”

If I say reading Winter Still is a matter of life and death, you might say I am just a melodramatic supporter of poetry. Or you could accuse me of being irreverent. Something I have learned from reading poetry.

In Within Within, Levitt writes:

So take it easy./Have a Cuban cigar…/and four kisses/one on each cheek.


To read more posts in this blog of Tanya’s eclectic writings, go to writingsmall.wordpress.com and tealeaf56.wordpress.com

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters as well as Women Rights/Writes. The first two titles can be purchased from the author or amazon.ca. All of the titles are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba and other library systems.

To find out what Tanya does at the time of this post entry, go to teareading.wordpress.com or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google. To get a tea leaf reading, tarot, psychic channeling, mediumship or gypsy card reading from her, contact her by calling or texting 250-538-0086 or emailing tealeaf.56@gmail.com



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