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Larry Levis

04-04-08

Winter Stars

My father once broke a man’s hand
Over the exhaust pipe of a John Deere tractor. The man,
Ruben Vasquez, wanted to kill his own father
With a sharpened fruit knife, and he held
The curved tip of it, lightly, between his first
Two fingers, so it could slash
Horizontally, & with surprising grace,
Across a throat. It was like a glinting beak in a hand,
And, for a moment, the light held still
On those vines. When it was over,
My father simply went in & ate lunch, & then, as always,
Lay alone in the dark, listening to music.
He never mentioned it.

I never understood how anyone could risk his life,
Then listen to Vivaldi.

Sometimes, I go out into this yard at night,
And stare through the wet branches of an oak
In winter, & realize I am looking at the stars
Again. A thin haze of them, shining
And persisting.

It used to make me feel lighter, looking up at them.
In California, that light was closer.
In a California no one will ever see again,
My father is beginning to die. Something
Inside him is slowly taking back
Every word it ever gave him.
Now, if we try to talk, I watch my father
Search for a lost syllable as if it might
Solve everything, & though he can’t remember, now,
The word for it, he is ashamed…
If you can think of the mind as a place continually
Visited, a whole city placed behind
The eyes, & shining, I can imagine, now, its end—
As when the lights go off, one by one,
In a hotel at night, until at last
All of the travelers will be asleep, or until
Even the thin glow from the lobby is a kind
Of sleep; & while the woman behind the desk
Is applying more lacquer to her nails,
You can almost believe that elevator,
As it ascends, must open upon starlight.

I stand out on the street, & do not go in.
That was our agreement, at my birth.

And for years I believed
That what went unsaid between us became empty,
And pure, like starlight, & that it persisted.

I got it all wrong.
I wound up believing in words the way a scientist
Believes in carbon, after death.

Tonight, I’m talking to you, father, although
It is quiet here in the Midwest, where a small wind,
The size of a wrist, wakes the cold again—
Which may be all that’s left of you & me.

When I left home at seventeen, I left for good.

That pale haze of stars goes on & on,
Like laughter that has found a final, silent shape
On a black sky. It means everything
It cannot say. Look, it’s empty out there, & cold.
Cold enough to reconcile
Even a father, even a son.

                                    -from Winter Stars



 

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Kim Addonizio 03-14-08

 

Agha Shahid Ali 09-14-07

 

Alice Anderson 11-16-08

 

Renee Ashley 04-10-2010

 

Christianne Balk 07-27-07

 

Brian Barker 07-07-07

 

Polina Barskova 09-13-2010

 

Bruce Beasley 11-22-08

 

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Nicky Beer 08-22-08

 

Nathaniel Bellows 04-27-09

 

Ciaran Berry 01-25-09

 

Linda Bierds 08-31-07

 

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John Bradley 03-12-2012

 

Brian Brodeur 03-29-09

 

Michelle Boisseau 09-20-2010 

 

Sophie Cabot Black 03-26-2012

 

Anne Caston 09-24-09

 

Anne Caston 02-27-2011

 

Elizabeth Biller Chapman 01-25-08

 

Nicole Cooley 04-05-09

 

Stephen Cramer 02-14-2011

 

Nicole Cuddeback 03-07-08

 

Steve Davenport 03-29-2010

 

Cortney Davis 05-03-09

 

Todd Davis 11-01-2010

 

James Dickey 03-12-2012

 

Stephen Dobyns 02-26-2012

 

Elizabeth Dodd 09-05-08

 

Karen Donovan 04-15-07

 

Mark Doty 04-11-08

 

Stephen Dunn 11-09-02010

 

Lynn Emanuel 08-30-2010

 

Lynnell Edwards 11-22-2010

 

B. H. Fairchild  09-04-09

 

Elyse Fenton 04-25-2011

 

Nick Flynn 01-28-2012

 

Nick Flynn 10-04-2010

 

Rachel Contreni Flynn 04-10-2011

 

Carolyn Forche 09-21-07

 

Carrie Fountain 03-21-2011

 

James Galvin 02-23-07

 

Margaret Gibson 01-24-10

 

Mary Jo Firth Gillett 02-22-08

 

Dana Gioia 08-23-2010

 

Eugene Gloria 09-20-08

 

Louise Gluck 03-17-2010

 

Kevin Goodan 08-29-08

 

Matthew Graham 11-28-2010

 

Robert Grunst 11-16-07

 

Bruce Guernsey 9-13-2011

 

Elizabeth Hadaway 06-15-07

 

John Haines 11-01-2011

 

Donald Hall 02-10-07

 

Sarah Hannah 11-25-2011

 

Jeff Hardin 08-10-07

 

Elizabeth Haukaas 09-13-2011

 

Brooks Haxton 03-08-10

 

Seamus Heaney 09-11-09

 

Jamey Hecht 12-05-2010

 

Bob Hicok 10-25-2011

 

 

Andrew Hudgins 11-21-09

 

Lynda Hull 05-20-07

 

Henry Israeli 01-23-2011

 

Major Jackson 05-02-2010

 

Mark Jarman 10-19-08

 

Rodney Jones 10-26-09

 

Barbara Jordan 02-02-09

 

Ilya Kaminsky 11-18-2011

 

Daniel Khalastchi 8-30-2011

 

Brigit Pegeen Kelly 10-12-08

 

Jane Kenyon 04-01-07

 

Suji Kwock Kim 11-09-2011

 James Kimbrell 04-07-2010

James Kimbrell 01-19-07

 

Galway Kinnell 11-09-07

 

Yusef Komunyakaa 07-15-07

 

Phil Levine 06-03-07

 

Eleanor Lerman 11-02-08

 

Larry Levis 04-04-08

 

Larry Levis 02-08-2010

 

Lisa Lewis 02-11-2012

 

Sandy Longhorn 04-26-08

 

Corey Marks 10-03-07

 

Adrian Matejka 04-18-08

 

Davis McCombs 01-18-08

 

Jeffrey McDaniel 10-08-2011

 

Michael McGriff 02-22-09

 

Jay Meek 01-16-2010

 

Anne Michaels 01-18-09

 

Nils Michals 02-29-08

 

Keith Montesano 12-12-2010

 

Malena Morling 05-12-08

 

Simone Muench 02-08-08

 

Sharon Olds 02-22-07

 

Sharon Olds 10-19-07

 

Michael Ondaatje 02-01-2010

 

Eric Pankey 09-07-07

 

Gregory Pardlo 06-22-07

 

Ed Pavlic 09-28-07

 

Oliver de la Paz 02-15-2010

 

Lucia Perillo 12-04-09

 

Catherine Pierce 04-18-2011

 

Jon Pineda 04-09-2012

 

Donald Platt 02-15-08

 

Joshua Poteat 03-13-2011

 

Joshua Poteat 11-3-09

 

Wyatt Prunty 02-20-2011

 

Dean Rader 03-07-2011

 

Amy Randolph 03-01-09

 

Robert Randolph 12-12-09

 

Adrienne Rich 04-20-2010

 

Joshua Robbins 11-16-2010

 

David Roderick 12-07-07

 

Bobby C. Rogers 02-04-2012

 

Pattiann Rogers 3-21-08


 Steve Scafidi 10-09-09

 

Jim Schley 10-19-09

 

Tim Seibles 10-08-07

 

David Shumate 10-26-08

 

Dave Smith 04-10-09 

 

Katherine Soniat 01-21-2012

 

Katherine Soniat 11-30-07

 

Gary Soto 03-23-07

 

Mark Sullivan 08-28-09

 

Mathias Svalina 04-02-2012

Frank Stanford 10-25-2010

Mark Strand 02-22-2010

 

Mark Svenvold 03-23-09

 

Robert Thomas 05-03-2011

 

Brian Turner 05-13-07

 

Joshua Vinzant 01-30-2011

 

Tribute to Virginia Tech 04-24-07

 

Connie Voisine 10-1-2011

 

Charles Harper Webb 10-12-07

 

David Wevill 03-27-2011

 

C.K. Williams 05-25-07

 

Susan B.A. Somers-Willett 06-29-07

 

Charles Wright 01-27-07

 

Robert Wrigley 10-11-2010

 

Robert Wrigley 08-17-07

 

Robert Wrigley 04-09-07

 

Robert Wrigley 02-03-07