David St. John spoke about Larry Levis last night in the Elliston Room. Hearing the old stories and the trajectory of life, poems, career reminded me that a thing like Larry can happen in the world and sadly too, can stop. It made me want to go home and let everything I love know so. I also felt private and went late-night grocery shopping just to be alone and not talk to anyone. Those two feelings, all at once, are a Larry Levis poem. After I got home the sky just opened up and there was thunder and lightening and a voice on the phone making sure that I noticed. All in all, a bittersweet Tuesday.
DSJ ended with a quote from a note by an old friend of Larry's that went something like: He drops by sometimes. He likes being dead, it suits him. It just doesn't suit us.
If you knew Larry--even a little--you felt that one in your gut.
I'm posting one poem here, though you should read all of them, anywhere you can find them.
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
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.