Dana Levin

Say Stop.

Keep your lips pressed together
after you say the p:

(soon they’ll try
to pry

your breath out—)

Whisper it
three times in a row:

Stop Stop Stop

In a hospital bed
like a curled-up fish, someone’s

gulping at air—

How should you apply
your breath?

List all of the people
you would like
to stop.

Who offers love,
who terror—

Write Stop.
Put a period at the end.

Decide if it’s a kiss
or a bullet.

1 thought on “Dana Levin

  1. shinichi Post author

    Poem: Instructions for Stopping

    By Dana LevinSelected by Victoria Chang


    I first read this poem in the anthology “Bullets Into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence.” This poem sat alongside Kate Ranta’s description of being shot by her ex-husband in front of her 4-year-old son. Dana Levin is the modern-day master of the em dash (Dickinson is the other). In the first section, the em dash mimics breathing out. In the second section, breathing in. And in the final section, “Who offers love,/who terror — ” it acts more like a question mark. I also love how this poem gives us instructions through the imperative — meaning, the poem is giving us hope to imagine and construct a nonviolent future.


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