22 October 2009

the last time I felt like this, I was in the wilderness, and the canyon was on fire.

Interstate-77, Austinsville, Virginia

~2 poems by Larry Levis

In a Country

My love and I are inventing a country, which we
can already see taking shape, as if wheels were
passing through yellow mud. But there is a prob-
lem: if we put a river in the country, it will thaw
and begin flooding. If we put the river on the bor-
der, there will be trouble. If we forget about the
river, there will be no way out. There is already a
sky over that country, waiting for clouds or smoke.
Birds have flown into it, too. Each evening more
trees fill with their eyes, and what they see we can
never erase.

One day it was snowing heavily, and again we were
lying in bed, watching our country: we could
make out the wide river for the first time, blue and
moving. We seemed to be getting closer; we saw
our wheel tracks leading into it and curving out
of sight behind us. It looked like the land we had
left, some smoke in the distance, but I wasn't sure.
There were birds calling. The creaking of our
wheels. And as we entered that country, it felt as if
someone was touching our bare shoulders, lightly,
for the last time.

After the Blue Note Closes

Tonight, holding a stranger in my arms—
Suddenly a downpour, a late
Summer storm. I thought of you, alone or
Not alone in that distant city,
And at that hour when the punk musicians’ bars,
And the carpeted bars,
With their well-coiffed, careful clienteles,
Are closing—
Those strangers pairing off at last & each desiring
What little mercy the other can
Afford. That
Wasted breath of neon light a frail
Tattoo or come on in pools
Of rain. That street. That rain.
No. Our street. Our rain. Holding her, not you,
I watched it finally
Empty, watched until the streaked,
Reddening light of dawn came back & touched
The quiet brick of empty dance halls, touched,
Behind blackened tavern windows, a girl’s cast off
Blouse; touched even the pocked faces of musicians
On the posters there: Sick Girl;
The Misstakes—almost as if dawn light could
Hold all things, each piece
Of shattered glass, as if to bless them somehow,
Or make them whole again.
It can’t, or won’t.
And it is late for blessings: All night
I’ve held a woman who,
Tomorrow, I will not want to see again, & who,
Tomorrow, probably will feel the same
For me. And so, at last, the two of us
Will have something in common:
A slight embarrassment, or,
Someday in winter, passing on a street,
A quick, amused glance before
We turn away.
I don’t expect much anymore; or else
That city is so far away by now it seems
Made of great light, & distance,
Even though it was, mostly, only a house
Like any other, lit at dinnertime
By human speech, the oldest of stories; something
In common. I remember now,
After scolding him,
The precise & careful way
My two year old son once offered me
The crust of his own bread, holding it out
So solemnly, as if it mattered, holding it
With great care.

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