John Levy

For a second

I forgot what I was going to do. No,
it was more like nine seconds
before I remembered. What it was

I was going to do
doesn’t matter, except
I was relieved I remembered. Then

it occurred to me that in a poem
I never wonder why I’m
in it, it’s not like those times of walking

into a room and forgetting
why I moved there. Not

that I always understand what is

inside a poem

with me, or seeming not with me at all

but over there, and/or broken
into parts that
I imagine

could fit together. Yet
never once when I’m reading a poem have I
thought, I don’t remember why I came here.


I wonder if in other languages there is always a reference to
speed. Embark,

if you wish, on your own research. I’ve got other fish to
name. As a child I never tried to imagine the view from the roof of

Old McDonald’s barn, too busy listening. My parents never named me
George. “My voice is not what it used to be,” the late crow

explained, before launching into a series of non sequiturs, not a
single one sounding at all like caw. As a child I often imagined

stepping into quicksand, by accident, alone, isolated in a small
clearing, and it wouldn’t be until I had sunk

at least waist deep that some stranger would hear my cries for
help. The word quick, in quicksand, back then never

influenced the speed with which it pulled me down, which was
always so slow. The way I told myself these repeated

stories was that the stranger had to be instructed how to
save me. Fortunately, the strangers never said, “Sorry,

I’ve got other fish to save.” 

Dwindle & Krympe

Dwindle. In Norwegian it’s krympe
and to my ear krympe
doesn’t become a smaller noise as it’s
pronounced, the way dwindle does

shrink. Of course I’m only listening to a woman (a real
woman?) say krympe on my computer. To me it sounds like
crim-Pah, but I’ve never been good with languages. I didn’t
start talking until I was three, my mother

said. Before then I’d point
and when she couldn’t figure out what I wanted
I’d cry. I wonder if the first three letters
of krympe are related to cry so now I enter cry

into the English side of the English-Norwegian website
and get grate, with a ring (a little circle)
over the a. The ring reminds me of whatever object my mother
said I’d point to, up on a shelf in the kitchen.

As for my mother, who died a little more
than 12 years ago, her presence
has not dwindled in my life. Can I say that?

Then I send this to Dag, my Norwegian
poet friend, who I had in mind when I began writing this
and Dag writes back that krympe doesn’t

dwindle, it means shrink (which of course I didn’t know
when I used that word earlier). Fortunately, he doesn’t offer
the correct translation into Norwegian for dwindle.

Notes for Ken Bolton, 1/13/21
I am standing on a tile floor moving my fingers
on a laptop keyboard and a coyote is howling
outside again, in the dark of early evening, Wednesday.
I heard it first three minutes ago, one
voice. Not the chorus we often hear that seems
20 or more, but probably
isn’t. You happen to be in Willunga Port
right now, not exactly
the other side of the world from Tucson, but
more than a few inches away. There appears to be
no Won’tunga Port
anywhere, and Google offers me, when I check,
an 11th Century monarch named Chakavarti Kulottunga
the First. I wish I, too, like you, had titled a book
A Whistled Bit of Bop. I hum a few bars of
Moon River, recalling how I’d sing it
with my mother playing piano
before my voice and the rest of me
changed. And now a crowd of coyotes
yip and scream, having surrounded
a rabbit? Quail? Hopefully not a neighbor’s
cat or dog. Their cries aren’t picturesque,
or grotestque, perhaps an artist would make an
arabesque to represent them, and more than a bit
of arabesque. The coyotes, silent now, perhaps
biting whatever they hunted down. But
should we mourn? I was out in daylight
in our yard, with Leslie, months ago when
a hawk divebombed into a tree hoping (I declare
here that hawks may hope) to devour
one of the quail within, and we were relieved
to see the hawk, empty-clawed, empty-beaked,
emerge. Though quails eat spiders, grubs,
worms, and
which life should be prized?
How about the female mosquito?
She flies and whistles
a bit of unbop, or is it antibop, or does she
whistle? You get a haircut tomorrow,
according to the poem Double Trouble, in
Australia, though not in the Port Willunga
establishment. I wonder if you ever showed
the published Double Trouble to anyone
in WINSTON COIFFURE (which becomes
you name it) and, if so, did the person
thank you for giving them the doubled plug?
I’m not sure if plug may mean the same things
in Adelaide or Port Willunga as it can in Tucson, but that’s a
minuscule concern. Or concernment.

                                                                           (for Angella Kassube)

The Japanese word for snow, plus the name Angella gave her cat. When it snows in Minneapolis, which it does, the snow never completely fills the u in Yuki’s name. Nor the opening at the top of the Y. Both spaces are too vast, as is Yuki’s spirit, an immensity which animates her entire body and which Angella understands better than anyone when she looks into Yuki’s eyes.

John Levy’s most recent book of poetry is Silence Like Another Name (otata’s bookshelf, 2019). He lives in Tucson.
previous page     contents     next page


Post a Comment

<< Home