John Levy

Fata Morgana

For the first time in my life
I look up Fata Morgana and my one-
volume encyclopedia tells me to
refer to mirage and there I find it:

the image of things suspended
in air, such as people, ships, houses, often two
identical ones except one's upside-down.
Beneath my encyclopedia a large manila envelope

addressed to my father, who died
on New Year's Day, 2013. It's addressed
to his office, which he stopped renting in about
2008 so this envelope has been waiting ten years,

empty. I have no idea what
I was going to send. Something
business related, since I wanted him to get it
at his office. Now I see him, just one of him,

seated at his desk. When I was in fourth grade
he was in another office, also in Phoenix, and I can
bring three different offices into mind where
I'd visit him sometimes. The middle one

is the foggiest of the three, I can barely see it.

On the Day I Die

Or night. Both my parents
died on odd days (the first, the
29th). I usually prefer

odd numbers to even

so I'd prefer an odd day or night
to pass away, as the saying

goes. "Away." César Vallejo
wrote the most famous poem (I think)

about dying on a particular day. He chose
Thursday, in part

because he wrote his poem on a Thursday, a rainy
Thursday in the fall. He died

in the middle of April, on the 15th, 1938.
It was a Friday. As for me, I just read

a poem by John Bradley about Tomaž Šalamun,
"Bring Me the Tongue of Tomaž Šalamun,"

a variation on the Vallejo poem, a humorous
excellent variation. But it reminds me

of the day
when I learned Tomaž had died. He died

on December 27, 2014. I was astonished
he was gone. He was only 73. I'd thought

I could look forward to many more
of his poems. I felt such loss.

I'd sent him a book of mine with a poem
in it about misreading one of his poems

and he'd sent me a postcard
saying nice things. I never followed up, he

sounded busy and the card was enough.
I have nine of his books. The jokey

Bradley poem was written
either in 2006 or earlier as the book

it is in was published in 2006. Bradley's
poem begins

Tomaž Šalamun will write the last
poem on a rainy day in Ljubljana, a Friday
in April when lilacs fumble toward the light
and a hand lingers over a light switch.

The poem is in Bradley's book
War on Words: The John Bradley/Tomaž Šalamun "Confusement"

which I ordered recently. It arrived
on a Tuesday. I am writing this

on the following day, a rainy Wednesday
in Tucson. I began this thinking

I would never want anyone else to write a poem,
joking or not, about when I'm going to die

unless I wrote it myself. But then again,
I'm anyone, writing this poem. . .

I won't be a suicide, won't choose the
day and date, so it will be "up"

to "chance," as so much of my life
has been. I'm 67 at the moment. For some reason

the "at the moment' reminds me of an
arrow touching a bullseye, at the moment

of piercing. Not a dart. Don't ask me "Why not
a dart?" I won't have a rational answer.

My father died on New Year's Day, 2013.
He was born on an 11th. My mother

was born on a 14th. I appeared
on a 28th. Twice 14, obviously.

If I have to go on an even number
I wouldn't mind a 14th or a 28th.

I have about a 3% chance of dying on a 28th.
I've always loved making up stories.

As a child that was my main enter-
tainment, so much time alone

during which I often existed
with so many others, including Gulliver,

Noah, Medusa,
Pinocchio, Captain Blackbeard,

Jonah. I never thought of any of them
dying. And they never did.

John Levy lives in Tucson, Arizona. His first book of poetry, Among the Consonants, was published by The Elizabeth Press in 1980. His most recent book of poetry, On Its Edge, Tilted, was published by otata's bookshelf in 2018.
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