Jazz Poetry #8--Larry Levis

Whitman:

“I say we had better look our nation searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease.” -Democratic Vistas

“Look for me under your bootsoles.”

On Long Island, they moved my clapboard house

Across a turnpike, & then felt so guilty they

Named a shopping center after me!

Now that I’m required reading in your high schools,

Teenagers call me a fool.

Now what I sang stops breathing.

And yet

It was only when everyone stopped believing in me

That I began to live again—

First in the thin whine of Montana fence wire,

Then in the transparent, cast-off garments hung

In the windows of the poorest families,

Then in the glad music of Charlie Parker.

At time now,I even come back to watch you

From the eyes of a taciturn boy at Malibu.

Across the counter at the beach concession stand,

I sell you hot dogs, Pepsis, cigarettes-

My blond hair long, greasy,& swept back

In a vain old ducktail, deliciously

Out of style.

And no one notices.

Once I even came back as me,

An aging homosexual who the Tilt-a-WhirlAt county fairs,

the chilled paint on each gondola

Changing color as it picked up speed,

And a Mardi Gras tattoo on my left shoulder.

A few of you must have seen my photographs,

For when I looked back,

I thought you caught the meaning of my stare:

Still water,

Merciless.

A Kosmos. One of the roughs.

And Charlie Parker’s grave outside Kansas City

Covered with weeds.

Leave me alone.

A father who’s outlived his only child.

To find me now will cost you everything.

-Larry Levis


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© 2013 Joshua Michael Stewart