Larry Levis


Elegy with a Chimneysweep Falling Inside It

Those twenty-six letters filling the blackboard
Compose the dark, compose
The illiterate summer sky & its stars as they appear

One by one, above the schoolyard.

If the soul had a written history, nothing would have happened:
A bird would still be riding the back of a horse,

And the horse would go on grazing in a field, & the gleaners,

François Villon on the Condition of Pity in Our Time

Frères humains qui après nous vivez,
Soon they’ ll have the speed freak twisting
On a scaffold, soon the birds
Will come to peck out his eyes, & when
He’ s too weak & exhausted to turn
His head away, they’ ll do it, too,
They’ ll peck his eyes right out.
You’ ll want to watch it happen, you’ ll want
To witness it. You’ ll want to see Paolo
And Francesca almost touch before
They’ re swept away again, him in one line
Waiting for rations, her in another one,
Both of  them naked, standing there,

Make a Law So That the Spine Remembers Wings

So that the truant boy may go steady with the State,
So that in his spine a memory of wings
Will make his shoulders tense & bend
Like a thing already flown
When the bracelets of another school of love
Are fastened to his wrists,
Make a law that doesn’ t have to wait
Long until someone comes along to break it.