A Poetry Showcase from Jess Levens

photo from unsplash.com (Jamie Morris)

South Cemetery (Mist)

Gray posts hide, still, in grayer fog—
granite fangs at the mouth of granite stairs
which climb to the top of a hill of bones,
retained by ancient masoned granite stones.

The verdant sponge demands respectful steps,
else frolickers, perhaps, would swallow down 
into the mud and meet my heroes there;
not face-to-face, but-bone-to-bone in time. 

They’re the shells of men who fruited freedom
and lived to see the Revolution through 
and the farmboys-become-soldiers who crushed
the Antebellum’s fausse vie amoureuse.

Alongside them sleeps the wars’ widowed score,
pinned faithfully ‘neath gothic, demure things 
which moor my drifting thoughts to family plots,
discharging les mots macabres dans ma tête.

Deathbed Revisited

Hello, Dad. Your corpse is showing.
Jesus Christ. How can anyone 
feel so lost in such a small space?
It’s finally come to this. You … you …  

Your rusted breath disrupts the beeps
that cut the silence in your room. 
Locked away deep inside your brain
or somewhere else altogether, 

I am without you in this place.
I see your patchy skin is here, 
and so are your jagged toenails, 
but your laughter is not around. 

Your unfunny jokes are not. Your 
mistakenly-purchased women’s 
sunglasses are not—just your shell. 
Your last decade is in this room.

Your shameless, often shirtless frame;
you drummed Wipeout and Rawhide on 
your belly in our old duplex—
now, you always need a sweater. 

Your hollow gut stretches across 
your ribcage like a leftover 
birthday balloon—tied to a tree 
and deflating at Brentwood park.

Our three-day trips to Houston were 
like jewels in my boyhood crown—
poolside at the luxurious 
Grant Motel. I can remember

diving for pop-flies on the lawn 
and staying up too late watching 
horror flicks—Mom would not approve. 
Eating pounds of spicy crawfish …

Our trips stopped at a Mack truck’s grille.
I grew up—you grew dependent
on painkillers and money wires
to pay for three-day stints in Austin’s 

most squalid roach motels. You still 
owe me for the fleabag room where 
your skull met the concrete floor; where 
you went to sleep for the last time. 

Years of love and disappointment 
fight in my mind while relatives
buzz in my ears. Shut up, Carol! 
I don’t care about your kidneys.

We need to be alone. It’s time
to say goodbye. This is it, Dad.
This deathbed—my stomach is sour.
Your life support has been unplugged.

Like the Grant, your facade has been
torn down and posterized, living
only in faded photographs
and ever-distant memories.

Soon, you will be ash, wrapped in pine.
Ash—all that’s left from your last years;
fantasies scribbled on paper
under the grate of my fireplace.

Musk

They burned you down and boxed you up,
then sent you west, to me—all tamped
down in a watertight wooden
urn—chucked into the Pacific. 

I’m still annoyed the opioids
let you avoid the man you should
have been. Now, just Grandfather X;
no context—disjointed stories. 

Absent, one, and the other,  gone,
and two steps still add up to none.
Just a one-eyed stranger in my
pictures—you’ve known them in my dreams.
 
I thought I smelled you on my porch
one night, but the musk was only me. 

Heatforms

Heat is a summer storm with all the windows 
down—corpulent droplets to combat 
air so thick it instantly makes my clean 
shirt stink like a pair of dirty gym socks.

Heat is the frustration of my mother
forwarding anti-vax chain emails to
everyone she knows and choosing a lie
over a relationship with my boys. 

Heat is my rage—hot like a smoldering
gunbarrel on an elementary 
school floor, pried from the cold, dead hands of yet
another free man with God-given rights.

Heat is the stinging in my cheeks and the
lump in my throat as we tell our sons to
play dead and drench themselves in friendly blood—
the anxiety of dropping them off.

Heat is the calm when she touches my hand.
It’s the chill when she tickles my back and
peace in her eyes. It’s the pink-skinned pit bull 
crammed tight between us in bed every night.


Lurk

Call out to me, O Cloudy Shade!
One word would win my trust.
Am I to meet my kin again?
What lurks behind the dust?

Pray, answer me, O Phantom Friend!
One word would win my trust.
Am I to wander spectral fields,
or feed into the crust?

Confide in me, O Humble Haunt!
One word would win my trust.
Coat in your cold, my burning ears.
Moan truth in ghostly gust.

Declare it now, O Ruthless Wraith!
One word would win my trust.
Speak, loud, your secret to my soul.
My madness screams—you must!

The Swell

Morose—it swells and sloshes, this
creaking levee in my eyes.
It drizzles down and stings the snow,
for no old gods are hulking here.

Why must I shoulder “cease to be?”
Does green still smash skyward up the
permafrost? Doubt—absence feeds the
swell which wreaks its wrecks in me.



Bio:
Jess Levens is a deep-image poet who lives with his wife, sons and dogs in New England, where he draws inspiration from the region’s landscapes and history. His poetry has been published in The Dillydoun Review, Prometheus Dreaming, Abditory Literary Magazine and Roi Fainéant Press. Jess is a Marine Corps veteran and Northeastern University alum. Follow him on Twitter @levensworks.




By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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