Jazz Poetry #8--Larry Levis
“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.
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:
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.