John Levy


In English classes around the world, in countries where English is a second (or third, fourth, etc.) language, the word "hubbub" was often ignored. Therefore, 14 years ago a group of us decided that this situation needed to be addressed. We sent letters and petitions to all major and minor publishers of English as a second language textbooks. In addition, we sent delegations to visit countless ESL master programs at universities, as well as private international English schools for all ages. We have delivered lectures in classrooms and hallways and have distributed brochures and buttons. The buttons are our most popular weapon. In a variety of arresting background colors our word blares, barks, beeps, breathes, blasts, blurts, brays, bellows, and bears witness. We have seen a steady increase of appreciation of our word's significance. If all continues to go as planned, by 2060 we will disband our organization, having achieved every one of our 17 goals.

Stray Thought About Hitler

When I lived in a Greek village for two years
there were times when I'd see smashed turtles
on paved roads, big turtles, and I couldn't help thinking
a few drivers aimed for them. If I'd see a live one

I'd pull off to the side, lift the turtle to where it
seemed to be heading. It occurred to me just now
that perhaps Hitler, driving, seeing one, wouldn't have aimed
his car at it (if he did drive), not wanting to think himself

heartless. Perhaps he, too, might even stop and
carry it to safety, especially if he had a witness along.
I haven't studied him enough to know what he thought of himself.
I should, I just keep putting it off.

Enter, Tain

My friend writes that she wants her poems to entertain. I never think of it that way. Though I like the enter, I don't know what to do with tain. Entering somewhere unknown, that's what I try to do. I remember a day with my best friend in high school. Which of us was driving? We stopped at a home under construction, but deserted. Trespassed. Didn't vandalize or steal. Went in through the missing front door. An expensive home, a spiral staircase leading to unfinished rooms. Everything was unfinished. My poet friend says she likes snug prose poems, no more than 200 words. I'm halfway to 200, or was. Was halfway to almost everything in this paragraph, though half is a generous assessment. Entertainment, who reads for boredom? My high school friend and I were never caught, until now. I won't name him. The Statute of Limitations for misdemeanors revealed in poems, in Arizona, hasn't been written yet. Legislators should craft it so that it comes in at 199 words. That will take them years, condensing and arguing, deleting and calling each other names their mothers never gave them. Tain drifts away, it never entered.

Broken Trees in Our Yard

The long drought, then harsh winds
snapped big branches of mesquites,

that have stood intact for the 33 years
we've lived here. Smaller lives
knocked over, various

cactuses, dead. This is literally breaking

news. La la la sounds like a song
but a single la begins lament.
Some of the biggest broken

branches have enough connection
that the leaves have remained green

and I'm not going to saw them down.

One, still attached, provides shadow
to a young saguaro. I won't remove that
either. But now walking around the yard

has changed a little, more reminders
of fate. Someone just posted a YouTube video
of a poet who died

reading a poem that, at its beginning

is about dying. He is reading
outside, in Ireland it seems, green
moving leaves behind him and birds,

lots of birds whose songs we hear
with his voice. Derek Mahon, reading
"Everything Is Going To Be Alright."

Purple irises, also

known as the blue flag, the northern
blue flag, are easy to grow. My mother's father
grew them in Minneapolis and my mother
brought the seeds to Phoenix, to remember

her father when they came up, a flag for him
and for her childhood, all her years. Purple, though
some say blue, they grew in the Phoenix shade
next to a wall. She didn't bring them in, the way my father

brought his roses, every year, into our home. And
after she died none of her three sons raised those
irises in our yards. We never brought them in
to our lives, as she did. They're my mirage.

Poem for My Older Brother

Ed is 71 now, I'm 69. When we were growing up together, at 5832 North Second Avenue, in Phoenix, I never imagined what it would be like to be this old. I haven't asked him if he did. But today I phoned him and asked him to give me two words and said I'd try to write a poem using them. He said, "stork and newspaper."

I step outside, into our desert backyard (I'm in Tucson, he's in Montclair, New Jersey). I'm out in the sun for a minute and my cell phone rings.

"If it's not too late, I'd like to change newspaper to BarcaLounger."

Every time I think of a stork I recall a fourth grade classroom at Madison Meadows in Phoenix. There was a dark-haired short girl sitting in a middle row of desks, in a middle desk, and it must've been before class, before the teacher entered. A boy walked over to her and announced to the rest of us that this girl believed that storks deliver babies. Some kids laughed. I didn't. I'd never believed storks delivered babies, my parents hadn't told me that and I don't recall ever asking them where babies came from. I was sitting near the back of the class, as usual. I felt terrible for the girl, but didn't say anything. She wasn't someone I talked to. It was my first year at the school, I didn't know most of the other kids very well. But I wish, now, I'd stood up for her.

In dumps around the world there are discarded BarcaLoungers that storks have landed upon. I like to think of a stork's white being in contrast to the dark upholstery, while the black of the stork's feathers blend in from a distance.

Several thousand white storks in Spain and Portugal have stopped migrating to Africa and, instead, gather in landfills. They have been able to raise more chicks than they could if they'd flown to Africa. Think, Ed, of stork chicks in a nest on a BarcaLounger. Both parents feed the chicks, taking turns. They never would've landed in this paragraph, or the paragraph above, if you hadn't called me back.

John Levy's books of poetry include Among the Consonants (The Elizabeth Press, 1980), Oblivion, Tyrants, Crumbs (First Intensity Press, 2008), and Silence Like Another Name (otata's bookshelf, 2019). He is a retired county public defender.
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