“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.
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 see 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:
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 collection "Winter Stars"