Poetry: Michael Levine
The horn kept her up, she said,
“Hooting,” like it was whoring,
But I was fingering magic. The notes
I leave out say more than what I play
And, when I play them fast enough,
The logic emerges, up and down,
The side-to-side brush of the archaeo-
Logist dusting the Rosetta Stone before
He realizes what he’s touching, in E flat,
In 4/5-hard bop, à la Max Roach, Kansas
City Style, and I bring the scales up
And up until, to anyone else, they’re
Just trills wonking at the top register.
The mathematician sees equations, the musician
Keys and modes, transposing proof
Into “x” note, the note inside
The note, in and out
Of Greek columns, each a structure
That houses divinity as it builds and divides.
What is left out stands as a more permanent
Structure. The notes I drop
Give God a space to fill and grow into
Until the music inhabits all the light
In the world and all the light in the world
Cries out His name and He plays
The world like I play this horn.
Ignorance and Experience
Memory spins out, warps, wefts, looms. Threads fray,
Tear and re-twine. I am born again and living
Again in a night as I left it ten, fifteen years past.
Time’s slurry chorus sings me awake
To a knocking outside. It’s January.
It’s three o’clock in the morning and drunk
O’Reilly’s hammering the door like it’s a roof.
I raise the window to tell him to fuck off.
But it’s not O’Reilly. It’s my friend’s girlfriend.
She’s pounding on the door. She’s scared.
I call her name. I walk down the stairs
To let her in. The way she touches my hand
Is every other time she’s touched my hand,
Only my friend’s not there, not watching us now.
Her arms tighten around my neck. She tells me
Just how wasted she is, that she has the hiccups
And wants me to surprise them out of her.
The spool rolls. I’m afraid of my friend.
I’m afraid of getting hit in the face
(And he’d do it, too), of fighting, if I could
Call it that. I’ve wanted her since I met her.
When she held my hand and how she showed me the crystal,
It could have been a song, a movie, a line
In a poem, but it’s made tangible,
Made rock in her hand, her other hand instructing
My hand how to feel it. She hiccups again
And tells me to make them stop. I tell her to close
Her eyes and she closes them, her mouth open,
Sighing, and as I step backward, my hands
Apart and then clap-shot together, almost
A face slap, almost a gun kick. “I’m surprised,
All right,” she slowly says, and I know now again
The moment’s past. No matter how I pull on it,
It’s knotted in place and I’ll never get it back.
A great calm settled
The blizzard, once
An absence of calm.
No color. In the windows
And streetlights, darkness
Fell like relief.
When it wouldn’t stop
Falling, I pulled on
My boots and coat,
Stepped through the door
Into the calm. Snow fell.
Cold fell. The wind,
Once risen over trees,
Wires, and buildings,
Had fallen, too. And left
Behind, in its silence, only
Snow’s pianissimo fugue
Falling upon snow. I wanted
Something beautiful, descending
Like a kiss to pull me
Into it, out of silence
And calm falling,
Falling like snow. I know
I will die. I know I can
Walk into the populated
World and glide through
Unscathed. The snow falls
Around me, the past,
And I could live in it, but
You could lift me from it.
I have scars on my legs
Where I have fallen. Scars
On my fingers and chin.
You could lift me. I could
Remake myself in the image
Of snow. And leave
In the snow what is
Left of my skin.
MICHAEL LEVINE teaches English at Gann Academy in Waltham, MA. He has received master’s degrees in Creative Writing from Washington University and Boston University and has poems appearing and forthcoming in Natural Bridge, North American Review, and Poet Lore.
(c) copyright 2005, Michael Levine; author retains all rights.