Yes, the road.

Yes, the road.
Eagle Nest, New Mexico. “People like to drive because driving is actually and symbolically an almost perfect mechanism for escape…there is probably no human being who does not have troubles, real or imagined, from which he at times feels the need to flee.” George R. Stewart.


My photo
Brooklin, Maine, United States
We own a 1975 GMC Sierra Grande 15 in Maine and a 1986 Chevrolet Custom Deluxe 10 in West Texas. Also a pair of 1997 Volvo 850 wagons. Average age in the fleet is 28 years--we're recycling. I've published 3 novels: THE LAW OF DREAMS (2006), THE O'BRIENS (2012), and CARRY ME (2016). Also 2 short story collections: NIGHT DRIVING(1987) and TRAVELLING LIGHT (2013). More of my literary life is at I was a Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study for 2012-13. I'm an adjunct professor at Colorado College and in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte. In 2015-16 I was a Fellow at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The Autoliterate office is in Car Talk Plaza in Harvard Square, 2 floors above Dewey Cheatem & Howe. SUBSCRIBE TO THE AUTOLITERATE DAILY EMAIL by hitting the button to the right.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Larry Levis "Whitman"

                                                                                photo Becky Smith ©2012

   “I say we had better look our nation searchingly in the face, like a physician diagnosing some deep disease.” -Democratic Vistas

“Look for me under your bootsoles.”

On Long Island, they moved my clapboard house
Across a turnpike, & then felt so guilty they
Named a shopping center after me!

Now that I’m required reading in your high schools,
Teenagers call me a fool.
Now what I sang stops breathing.

And yet
It was only when everyone stopped believing in me
That I began to live again—
First in the thin whine of Montana fence wire,
Then in the transparent, cast-off garments hung
In the windows of the poorest families,
Then in the glad music of Charlie Parker.
At time now,
I even come back to watch you
From the eyes of a taciturn boy at Malibu.
Across the counter at the beach concession stand,
I sell you hot dogs, Pepsis, cigarettes-
My blond hair long, greasy, & swept back
In a vain old ducktail, deliciously
Out of style. And no one notices.
Once I even came back as me,
An aging homosexual who the Tilt-a-Whirl
At county fairs, the chilled paint on each gondola
Changing color as it picked up speed,
And a Mardi Gras tattoo on my left shoulder.
A few of you must have seen my photographs,
For when I looked back,
I thought you caught the meaning of my stare:

Still water,

A Kosmos. One of the roughs.

And Charlie Parker’s grave outside Kansas City
Covered with weeds.

Leave me alone.
A father who’s outlived his only child.

To find me now will cost you everything.

                                -Larry Levis, from his Winter Stars

1 comment:

  1. Well, no comments for Larry Levis ?? I can start by saying I've lived the most recent 20 years in Lubbock, which makes me wonder what parts of "West Texas" you claim, sir. I recognize that road outside Eagles Nest. I know what a propane tank is, and appreciate the shadow Becky Smith photographed in late afternoon sun. I came looking for the text of "Whitman" because I was re-reading Levis in an anthology this morning. Feeling melancholy over old Uncle Walt, because just this week someone in the Blogosphere notified me I could no longer love Whitman because of some racist cock-eyed pseudo-science he repeated in letters and journals .... It chills me to think of how many ideas or fashions I might have endorsed in my life that will look moronic to future generations, eh?

    So thanks for posting "Whitman" years ago so I could find it this morning -- posted, no less, on my birthday in 2012, which of course is a meaningless coincidence but was striking enough to stir me to tap out this rambling "howdy" into space ...