Larry Levis Poems >>
Elegy For Whatever Had A Pattern In It

Now that the Summer of Love has become the moss of tunnels
And the shadowy mouths of tunnels & all the tunnels lead into the city,

I'm going to put the one largely forgotten, swaying figure of Ediesto Huerta
Right in front of you so you can watch him swamp fruit

Out of an orchard in the heat of an August afternoon, I'm going to let you

Keep your eyes on him as he lifts & swings fifty-pound boxes of late
Elberta peaches up to me where I'm standing on a flatbed trailer & breathing in
Tractor exhaust so thick it bends the air, bends things seen through it

So that they seem to swim through the air.

It is a lousy job, & no one has to do it, & we do it.

We do it so that I can show you even what isn't there,
What's hidden. And signed by Time itself. And set spinning,

And is only a spider, after all, with its net waiting for what falls,
For what flies into it, & ages, & turns gray in a matter of minutes. The web
Is nothing's blueprint, bleached by the sun & whitened by it, it's what's left

After we've vanished, after we become what falls apart when anyone

Touches it, eyelash & collarbone dissolving into air, & time touching
The boxes we are wrapped in like gifts & splintering them

Into wood again, at the edge of a wood.
                         2

Black Widow is a name no one ever tinkered with or tried to change.
If you turn her on her back you can see the blood red hourglass figure

She carries on her belly,

Small as the design of a pirate I saw once on a tab of blotter acid

Before I took half of it, & a friend took the other, & then the two of us
Walked down to the empty post office beside the lake to look,

For some reason, at the wanted posters. We liked a little drama
In the ordinary then. Now a spider's enough.

And this one, in the legend she inhabits, is famous, & the male dies.
She eats its head after the eggs are fertilized.

It's the hourglass on her belly I remember, & the way the figure of it,
Figure eight of Time & Infinity, looked like something designed,

Etched or embossed upon the slick undershell, & the way there was,
The first time I saw it, a stillness in the pattern that was not
The stillness of the leaves or the stillness of the sky over the leaves.

After the male dies she goes off & the eggs

Live in the fraying sail

Of an abandoned web strung up in the corner of a picking box or beneath
Some slowly yellowing grape leaf among hundreds of other
Leaves, in autumn, the eggs smaller than the o in this typescript

Or a handwritten apostrophe in ink.

What do they represent but emptiness, some gold camp settlement
In the Sierras swept clean by smallpox, & wind?

Canal school with its three rooms, its bell & the rope you rang it with
And no one there in the empty sunlight, ring & after ring & echo.

It magnifies & I can't explain it.

Piedra, Conejo, Parlier. Stars & towns, blown fire & wind.
Deneb & Altair, invisible kindling, nothing above nothing.

It magnifies & I can't explain it.
                         3

Expressionless spinster, carrying Time's signature preserved & signed
In blood & hidden beneath you, you move two steps
To the right & hold still, then one step to the left,

And hold still again, motionless as the web you wait in.

Motionless as the story you wait in & inhabit but did not spin
And did not repeat. You wait in the beehive hairdo of the girl
Sitting across from me in class, wait in your eggs,
                         4

Wait in the hair the girl teases & sprays once more at recess.

Lipstick, heels, tight sweater, leather anklet.

The story has no point but stillness itself, absence in a school desk,
The hacked and scratched names visible in the varnished wood,

No one there, the bell with its ring & after ring & echo.

In class, I remember, she would look back at me with a gaze deeper
Than calm, blanker than a pond's scummed & motionless surface,
Beneath which there was nothing, nothing taking the shape of someone

Who had already drowned but could not die, & so sat in class
Because she had to, because that was the law.

Mrs. Avery went on & on at the blackboard so we could know
Who Magellan & Vizcaino had been, or sometimes she would make

The boy who spoke only Spanish read from a book,
Watch him as he used his forefinger to point at each syllable

He would read, read & mispronounce, & stumble over, & go on.