Readings in French, by Larry Levis


Looking into the eyes of Gerard de Nerval
You notice the giant sea crabs rising.
Which is what happens
When you look into the eyes of Gerard de Nerval,
Always the same thing: the giant sea crabs,
The claws in their vague red holsters
Moving around, a little doubtfully.


But looking into the eyes of Pierre Reverdy
Is like throwing the editorial page
Out into the rain
And then riding alone on the subway.

Also, it is like avoiding your father.
You are hiding and he looks for you
Under each vine; he is coming nearer
And nearer. What can you do
But ignore him?


In either case, soon you are riding alone on a subway.
Which is not important.
What is important is to avoid
Looking too closely into the eyes of your father,
That formal eclipse.

Short Burst on Ames, Iowa, by Ander Monson

Ames, Iowa, just west of the city. Y Avenue south of Lincoln Way, where it crosses over US-30, nighttime, summer, faint smell of at least two kinds of manure, overpass. There is very little traffic. You are alone. A woman whom you do not know yet that you love has just left and, not satisfied with alone, you are lonely. Soon enough you will be leaving too. This is a rare spot of interface with nature, before you will have enough of it and give it up. This is not nature, proper—it is a cultivated nature, squares of farmland, corn and soy and more, repeating into the distance. There is a radio tower in the distance blinking out its Morse into the night. You can drive in any direction, and oftentimes you will think about it, just getting on any road and driving with the pizzas you are meant to deliver off into the night and not stopping until eventually you have to stop. It is two and a half miles to the base of the tower. Your car is off and you are above the highway. Each car is an event happening for miles, meaning minutes, and you are above them, witness to their approach and their disappearing into the horizon. Everything is flatness, and in the winter it will be whiteness. All around you are a half a million fireflies. There is some magic in the world beyond our easy grasp of it.