Donald Levering

The vagabond who’s rapping at your door
Is standing in the clothes that you once wore
—Bob Dylan

The novice phlebotomist botched
my donation—blood spurted
from my arm and nurses scurried.

Staunched, unharmed,
advised to soak my shirt
in cold water, I was dizzily

walking home among flurries
when a junkie stuck out his hand
as I turned aside, thinking, Jesus,

it’s too cold to be camped in a culvert.
I spied his needle-scarred arms,
his starving eyes in the blizzard,

and I gave him wide birth.
Later that day I lurch
from the weight of old clothing

in a plastic bag over my shoulder
like a man shifting between shelters.
At Salvation’s counter I unburden

my father’s blazer that for years
I’d pretended was not too large,
the pearl-button shirt that was never me,

and the tar-stained, insulated vest
the culvert man could wear for warmth
and still get to his arms.

Padding home through deepening drifts,
eyelashes decked in snowflakes,
I feel larger, lighter.


Donald LeveringDonald Levering is a past NEA Fellow in Poetry. He won the 2014 Literal Latté Award and was First Runner-Up for the Mark Fischer Prize in 2015. He has been a Duende Series Reader and was a Guest Poet in the Academy of American Poets online Forum. His 12th poetry book, The Water Leveling With Us, published by Red Mountain Press, won the 2015 New Mexico Press Women Book Award. More information is available at