August 2000

Jan Heller Levi


Jan Heller Levi's first collection of poems, Once I Gazed at You in Wonder (Louisiana State University Press, 1999) won the 1998 Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets. Levi is also the editor of A Murial Rukeyser Reader (W.W. Norton, 1994) and is currently working on a biography of Rukeyser. She lives in New York City and St. Gallen, Switzerland.
Tonight The Heart-Shaped Leaves   

I've smoked thirteen cigarettes today: I'm breathless
from the beauty and fumes of Italy.
It was a long long day of nothing
more than imagining the impossible: e.g., a poem
which must be written because the whole world
is waiting to read it. Now
I hear your gasps from the living room
and know you're doing your sit-ups. I
know also you'll come back to this terrace furious
with yourself for that long-standing reason

any thinking person of this fin-de-siècle understands.
Once again, mother, father, son
peer out from their balcony,
probably whispering among themselves, Who
are these strangers in the Pezzatini house
who stay at home all day
to watch turtles in the garden fuck?

Good question. Tonight the heart-shaped leaves of Roman trees

grow flowers as we sleep. Oh, to be in the Eternal

City when we both so want to change,
our dumb luck.


Jan Heller Levi: Poetry
Copyright © 2000 The Cortland Review Issue 12The Cortland Review