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Friday, December 11, 2009

There Are Two Worlds

Perhaps the ankle of a horse is holy.

Crossing the Mississippi at dusk, Clemens thought
Of a sequel in which Huck Finn, in old age, became
A hermit, & insane. And never wrote it.

And perhaps all that he left out is holy.

The river, anyway, became a sacrament when
He spoke of it, even though
The last ten chapters were a failure he devised

To please America & make his lady
Happy: to buy her silk, furs, & jewels with

Hues no one in Hannibal had ever seen.

There, above the river, if
The pattern of the stars is a blueprint for a heaven
Left unfinished,

I also believe the ankle of a horse,
In the seventh furlong, is as delicate as the fine lace
of faith, & therefore holy.

I think it was only Twain's cynicism, the smell of a river
Lingering in his nostrils forever, that kept
His humor alive to the end.

I don't know how he managed it.

I used to make love to a woman, who,
When I left, would kiss the door she held open for me
As if instead of me, as if she already missed me.
I would stand there in the cold air, breathing it,
Amused by her charm, which was, like the scent of a river.

Provocative, the dusk & lights along the shore.

Should I say my soul went mad for a year, &
Could not sleep? To whom should I say so?

She was gentle, & intended no harm.

If the ankle of a horse is holy, & if it fails
In the stretch & the horse goes down &
The jockey in the bright shout of his silks
Is pitched headlong onto
The track & maimed, & if, later the horse is
Destroyed, & all that is holy

Is also destroyed: hundreds of bones & muscles that
Tried their best to be pure flight, a lyric
Made flesh, then

I would like to go home, please.

Even though I betrayed it, & left, even though
I might be, at such a time as I am permitted
To go back to my wife, my son--no one, or

No more than a stone in a pasture full
Of stones, full of the indifferent grasses,

(& Huck Finn insane by then & living alone)

It will be, it might be still,
A place where what can only remain holy grazes, &
Where men might, also, approach with soft halters,
And, having no alternative, lead that fast world

Home--though it is only to the closed dark of stalls,
And though the men walk ahead of the horses slightly
Afraid, & at all times in awe of their
Quickness, & how they have nothing to lose, especially

Now, when the first stars appear slowly enough
To be counted, & the breath of the horses make white signatures

On the air: Last Button, No Kidding, Brief Affair--

And the air is colder.

Larry Levis


Leslie said...

This is my favorite Levis poem! It totally rocks.

Matthew Thorburn said...


Jills said...

I mean, I needed to read this on a black background.

Suzanne said...




Jehanne Dubrow said...

I love Levis.

darcie said...

oh I love this poem and had never read it before. Thank you so much.