Larry Levis in Provincetown
This is how I am summoned from nothingness: in faded cut offs, moonlighting at Connie's Bakery where I keep reading Rilke to Jenny, the pastry chef, who rolls her eyes, & blows flour into my tired face. Beneath my limp baker's hat & stained white smock I still wear my favorite Hawaiian shirt, the color of bubble gum, absinthe & night. We are permitted to choose but one companion for the great journey, so Garcia Lorca is here with me;—we arrived last week as "guest worker summer help." You'll be happy to know that our work continues, as before, in Death. Last night we finally had that conversation about the moon, & mirrors—why they can't tell us everything they see. We stood at an ivy-lined gate two summers too late to deliver Stanley Kunitz our best vermouth & news of Roethke and the other immortal poets whose ranks by now, at long last, he's joined. Instead, our poet of black notes took off his white tuxedo shirt &, facing Stanley's last masterpiece, his front yard garden, which still revises itself in preparation for his return, Garcia Lorca revealed thumb-sized lavender crescent moons, the eerie constellation across his chest above the heart, the scars of bullet holes from Franco's Guardia Civil; he told me everything— from the faces of the firing squad to digging his own grave. He says the landscape of his dreams has already drifted from the Alhambra's gardens, wading pools, & almond groves to the salt marsh at Black Fish Creek & the starlit wisteria he affectionately calls, "These endlessly creeping vines of strumpet braids!" And the delicate braids of challah we braid each day rise like old lovers awakening to our touch restored. You should see the lean, aristocratic hands of Garcia Lorca—they’ve never been so strong! I didn’t think such mortal progress was still possible for us. Or that I would again be permitted access to the knowledge that comes in a love amplified by the stirrings of the world. And then I recognized something in the insistent, winding taproot of an oak, which pierced me with the recognition that is holy, & I felt the tug of gravity's widening spell. So that even if Garcia Lorca and I are just scraping by with all the others working for peanuts in high season, to be alive again and living in a hot seaside town is good as any afterlife & probably our best chance at happiness.
From A Map of the Lost World by Rick Hilles. Copyright © 2012 by Rick Hilles. Reprinted with permission of University of Pittsburgh Press. All rights reserved.