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Larry Levis

(1946 - 1996 / California / United States)

The Clearing of the Land: An Epitaph


The trees went up the hill
And over it.
Then the dry grasses of the pasture were
Only a kind of blonde light
Settling everywhere
And framing the randomly strewn
Outcropping of gray stone

That anchored them to soil.

Who were they?
One in the picture, & one not, & both
Scotch-Irish drifters,
With nothing in common but a perfect contempt
for a past;
Ancestors of stumps & fallen trees & . . . .
One sits on a sorrel mare,
Idly tossing small stones at the rump
of a steer
That goes on grazing at tough rosettes
of pasture grass & switching its tail
In what is not yet irritation.

What I like, what I

Have always liked, is the way he tosses each small
Stone without thinking, without
A thought for anything, not aiming at all,
The easy, arcing forearm nonchalance
Like someone fly casting,
For this is what
He wanted:
To be among the stones, the grasses,
Savoring a stony self
That reminded him of no one else,
And on land where that poacher, Law,
Had not yet stolen through his fences,
The horse beneath him tensing
Its withers lightly to keep

The summer flies away,

And the woman in the flower-print dress hemmed
With stains
A half mile off
Is the authoress of no more than smoke rising,
Her sole diary & only publication,
From a distant chimney.
They have perhaps a year or two
Left of this
Before history begins to edit them into
Something without smoke or flies, something
Beyond all recognition.

Submitted: Monday, January 20, 2003

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