by sophie

In the City of Light

            – Larry Levis

The last thing my father did for me 
Was map a way: he died, & so 
Made death possible. If he could do it, I
Will also, someday, be so honored. Once,

At night, I walked through the lit streets
Of New York, from the Gramercy Park Hotel 
Up Lexington & at that hour, alone, 
I stopped hearing traffic, voices, the racket

Of spring wind lifting a newspaper high 
Above the lights. The streets wet, 
And shining. No sounds. Once,

When I saw my son be born, I thought
How loud this world must be to him, how final.

That night, out of respect for someone missing, 
I stopped listening to it.

Out of respect for someone missing, 
I have to say

This isn’t the whole story. 
The fact is, I was still in love.
My father died, & I was still in love. I know
It’s in bad taste to say it quite this way. Tell me, 
How would you say it?

The story goes: wanting to be alone & wanting
The easy loneliness of travelers,

I said good-bye in an airport & flew west. 
It happened otherwise.
And where I’d held her close to me, 
My skin felt raw, & flayed. 

Descending, I looked down at light lacquering fields
Of pale vines, & small towns, each 
With a water tower; then the shadows of wings; 
Then nothing.

My only advice is not to go away. 
Or, go away. Most

Of my decisions have been wrong.

When I wake, I lift cold water 
To my face. I close my eyes.

A body wishes to be held, & held, & what
Can you do about that?

Because there are faces I might never see again, 
There are two things I want to remember
About light, & what it does to us.

Her bright, green eyes at an airport—how they widened 
As if in disbelief; 
And my father opening the gate: a lit, & silent

City.  

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