Thursday, October 28, 2010

Larry Levis: the graceful surprise

fractal of order and chaos (
Surprise is a tool of a poet and great joy of a reader. Larry Levis surprises. "I've loved you / as a man loves an old wound / picked up in a razor fight // on a street nobody remembers. / Look at him: / even in the dark he touches it gently." ("Wound")

He taught at Cal-State, L.A., where I ended up in my last two years of college. I didn't take poetry classes from him or anyone. I'm not sure I knew such things existed, even though I was an English major. I do remember one of his readings, though, and being lifted without knowing why, as if I'd had sex in my sleep. And I remember buying Wrecking Crew, still on my shelves. On the subject of surprise, insight, observation:

Earl the Chicken Farmer

That summer the prices fell,
you broke the back of a stray dog
with a two-by-four.

And when your wife
was a sack full of torn wings beating
to get out,
you dragged her behind your heels
into the weeds.

Nights when girls turned in their sleep,
with nothing on,
you knew even the moon listened—
as you drew blood, and
the chickens plucked each other to death.

Larry Levis, Wrecking Crew, University of Pittsburgh Press, 1972.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this Larry Levis poem. Linked to it (and your site) here: