By Larry Levis 1946–1996 Larry Levis
All night I dreamed of my home,   
of the roads that are so long
and straight they die in the middle—
among the spines of elderly weeds   
on either side, among the dead cats,   
the ants who are all eyes, the suitcase   
thrown open, sprouting failures.

And this evening in the garden   
I find the winter
inside a snail shell, rigid and   
cool, a little stubborn temple,   
its one visitor gone.

If there were messages or signs,
I might hear now a voice tell me   
to walk forever, to ask
the mold for pardon, and one
by one I would hear out my sins,
hear they are not important—that I am   
part of this rain
drumming its long fingers, and   
of the roadside stone refusing   
to blink, and of the coyote
nailed to the fence with its
long grin.

And when there are no messages   
the dead lie still—
their hands crossed so strangely   
like knives and forks after supper.

I stay up late listening.
My feet tap the floor,
they begin a tiny dance
which will outlive me.
They turn away from this poem.   
It is almost Spring.

Larry Levis, “Signs” from The Selected Levis. Copyright © 2000 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Reprinted with the permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press,

Source: The Afterlife (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977)

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Poet Larry Levis 1946–1996

Subjects Nature, Winter

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Larry  Levis


Poet Larry Levis, whose collection The Afterlife won the Lamont Poetry Prize, often employed an imagist or surrealist approach in his work. As Diane Wakoski wrote in Contemporary Poets, Levis's "work is best when the poems are short and are shaped by his imagist instincts or his gestures towards surrealism. He is a master of the brief moment of recognition where the personal is embedded in the generic . . . and the least . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Winter

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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