August 2001

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.
Circumstantial Evidence:   
Fall River Historical Museum   

You know how it is: August, the pears
all at once too heavy for their
branches; everything bending down,
down. And what doesn't fall on its own
is simply asking for a little help: a
                               finger tap
or the patient, constant heave of an axe.
So the thing that gets you, come on,
                                admit it,
is not that I did it, or didn't. No.
It's what you can't stop seeing in those
photographs: the expectant tilt of his
               head toward the door;
her almost ecstatic embrace of the floor.

You know how it is: one Sunday morning,
just like any other,
some father, just like any other,
might be taking a snooze on the horsehair
                     sofa while his wife,
above, offers up the last minutes of her
to eleven plunges of a toolshed blade.
                       Well, what family
doesn't have its little problem?
When the parlor door creaks open
to trouble his sleep,
his feathery brows twitch and rise,
but not exactly in surprise.
A perfect gentleman to the last,
"Finished with mother, have you?" he asks.




Jan Heller Levi: Poetry
Copyright 2001 The Cortland Review Issue 17The Cortland Review