John Levy

Postcards, After a Death

Thumb-tacked up next to a
window, loose
in wooden drawers, blank ones

bought in museums, and those
with writing. The survivors

tasked with figuring out what
to do with clothes, books, papers,
shoes, leave

these cards
for the end. Here's

one with nothing

on its back, a Matisse
papercut. And now
a still life, Nature Morte,

by H. Fantin-Latour (1836-1904);
those dates
bring to mind how long the card's

temporary owner
lived. Flowers,

fruit, a knife

blade extending out
over the creased
white tablecloth.

Kyoto, 1975

Forty-four years ago, on a Sunday (I know
it must’ve been a Sunday, it was my only
day off) in downtown Kyoto I walked
down a narrow residential side street
after a drizzle. I worked

in a nearby coffeeshop owned by an American
poet and his Japanese wife. The street
was empty, shining, the sun
in and out of clouds. Someone
on a second story began practicing piano

and I imagined a girl, in her teens, as
the chords came from the open window,
stopped, repeated, stopped, repeated. I

stood there, across from the house,
unreasonably happy. Maybe it was only

two minutes.

My Third and Last Homicide

I hadn't been a public defender for many years
when I was assigned the case. My client told me
she was drunk, and someone else
was driving, when they passed a woman

sitting at a bus bench. My client told the driver
to pull over.

The other woman was a former lover
of my client's boyfriend

and my client attacked her.

My client knocked her over and kicked her
in the nose. The coroner

dissected the deceased's
head, placed pieces of the head on a clean patch
of light blue carpet

and photographed each piece, some

under the light.

My supervisor respected my request
I be assigned no more homicides. Only one

of those photos lodged
in my memory for about 20 years
now. A small photo, each

tuft of carpet in perfect focus surrounding
a skinned piece of face.

Two groups of photographs by John Levy, accompanied by poems by Alan Chong Lau, have been published in the May 2019 issue of the online magazine otata.
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