Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Month: February, 2011

Ghost in the Machine

Little ghosts in the house
the colors of dust.
Not terrifying or incredible.
At night, settling on eyelids,
icing the gaps between lips,
working with wax to close ears.

They play echo
against skull walls.
They speak electricity.

In the morning, ghosts forget
themselves, and we were never there
to care.

In the living
moment, the dead are behind wallpaper,
trying to peel away, growing
in the attic, trapped in fiberglass.

Ten years before me, the cinnamon colored cat found its way down a passage in our basement. Somehow he died in an empty room behind a boiler. My dad and I played ping-pong in the adjacent room and I stared down the mouth of that passage. Some places house nothing but the dust.

In sleep, ghosts make friends
with dreams. Across corpus
callosum, depthless chasm,
in between axon lines,
fingers of mind
build a bridge behind time.

It is impossible to dream–
clean house.

One way or another, every person dies in their sleep.

The Horizon and The Sun Behind It

“Ask what the disparate elements have in common: Do they stand for one another, or for the same thing?”
-Stephen Burt

The two halves of a wishbone
are talking to each other again
after moments of separation,

When we were a bone
did you and I know one another?
I don’t seem to remember having a friend
inside of the bird
or the oven it was cooked in.

A spring gushes without anyone
at the pump. The water spreads,
remembering itself,
and soaks into the ground again.

Without a cup to hold me
and a throat to line,
how do I divide myself
from the dirt
I was born inside?

A hand turns on the lamp.
The light-bulb starts to see itself
and wonders,

Was there a man
here before? Do I need him
or does he need me?

The paper curls –
paper hand?

The window closes.
There never were any walls.

As the building slips
on bricks in the morning
and gets ready to be lived in,
it begins to be curious.

Am I alive?
Or am I just a box
with organs breathing inside?

The Absence Where Winter Is

What is your ghost —
The winter or the unholiness
of it? Rocks come
smattering down
but pebbles and boulders can’t ransack
the house. What do they want
except to take the bricks away
with them? What did I build
here with my bare hands —
A cloud, or a mysterious makeup of restless things?
There is wilderness in the places we don’t go,
incredulity inside of us.
If the winter was smaller
I’d swallow it with enough water
to drown myself and everyone else
who doesn’t love the cold

Embrace

It would be easy, you’d think, to write
a poem about the arc of an arm or the
absolution of an embrace, but really,
the hand has nothing to do
with the pen it holds and the hand
cannot love you. You put them on hips;
on hers – you are dancing,
on yours – you cannot hold
the heaviness of indescribable things anymore.

I grab your shoulders and
shake. I do not hate anything
but you want me to. I put my muscles down
in your bed and do not yell at myself,
“I am tired to death!” Even if I sat next to you
and lamented all the things I do not write
I would not lash out at this ever-unbuilt house of ours.
I would still ride the bush-plane into the snows of Kilimanjaro
and be frozen like a leopard in search of an ending other than death.

Building

1.

There is a city under your skin.
Streets are paved with strings to your lungs, still smoking,
Silhouettes in windows don’t dance;
this is not New Orleans.
Instead they dream of Stevens’ old sailor
and his tigers. Always catching.

2.

Your cold feet are not what they seem.
They are posts driven into snow.
You are what you live in:
a building either growing or eroding.
Friends and lovers crawl over scaffolding;
the best ones crouch at foundations
breathing on snowdrifts.
Family. Memories of car accidents and
collapses. Will you fall down
if I sand the cold from your feet?
Is a building still a building if
it leans on scaffolding? A fire
escape is a way for a window to
remember what it feels like to be
held up by friends.

3.

The alleyway between us is wanting
for air, forced to breathe in the street
smoke. The buildings lean close
enough to leap between without fear of
falling;           we’ve found a way
to support each other from the top-down.

4.

Together we watch a poetry reading
and a singular feeling comes to me.
Some say a specific brand of deja vu,
Some say the ghost of genetic memory,
I say the sudden appearance of my future children,
remembering me.

Keys

Am I what I used to be?
My feet — keys to the footprints beneath me.
I am at least the janitor of my jewelery,
strung to my bones like ghosts
of ligaments overextended
toward my ever-escaping
bluebird — my long-forgotten soul.

Flood

Flood: A Collaboration by Raven Juarez and Dan Levin

original poem here

Wondering what this is? Information here

Lovebirds

Lovebirds: A Collaboration Between Raven Juarez and Dan Levin.

original poem here

Wondering what this is? Information here

Announcement: One of Us to Two of Us

Hi Readers!

I want to start this off by saying thank you to all of you who’ve faithfully read, commented on, and generally enjoyed this blog of mine and the writing I’ve been posting on it for what will be, in one month, about 4 years. That’s a pretty thick journal.

But it’s time for a change.

Don’t worry, the blog isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it’s getting far, far better. The raincloud is growing, so to speak, as I’m joined by talented visual artist/illustrator Raven Juarez. Raven and I will both be posting our own work individually, as well as occasional collaborative works, which are the most prized creations between the two of us.

So look forward to seeing the poetry you love in a whole new medium. Raven and I think this will be a very beautiful thing.

You can see the first edition of our collaborative work here

Dan Levin
2/8/2011

Ode to the Unspeakable

There is blankness and then there is the difference
between it and the edge of a line,
where black encounters white and shadows
with nothing to stand behind begin to outstretch
across the blank lines of a growing poem.
The words all might reveal themselves
in the first flickering of pen in hand,
but it is left to the quickness of an eye
to see what is there before it is written.
They start subtly, the overlap of a “t”,
the scribble of an “a”, the ink roots
in these, blossoms within the pulp of a page.
The words come syllabically at first,
then in lines that do not end
until the final emptiness where blankness begins again,
where no thoughts can ever take seed.
“But what do you ask of me? The eye sees,
the mouth reads out loud, but when do these
become poetry?” There is no response;
the words do not speak, they only know
how to be. We hang lamps inside them
in an attempt to see but find
only drying ink and a poet who can’t quite relate to poetry.
The words are mute, written or spoken,
but the poetry speaks, not in emotion
or imagery, but in experience, in worlds which exist
only in minds full of language and of blankness.
Great poems, written the way that God speaks —
creating and being a meaningful world.