Larry Levis
La Strada

This life & no other. The flesh so innocent it walks along

The road, believing it, & ceases to be ours.


We’re fate carrying a blown-out bicycle tire in one hand,


Flesh that has stepped out of its flesh,

Always ahead of ourselves, leaving the body behind us on the road.




Zampanò, what happens next? The clown is dead.

You still break chains across your chest though your heart’s not in it,

Your audience is just two kids, & already there is


Snow in little crusted ridges, snow glazing cart tracks & furrows

Where you rest. And then what happens?


One day you get an earache. One day you can’t breathe.

You notice the old nurse wears a girdle as she bends over you,


You remember the smell of Spanish rice from childhood,

An orphanage with scuffed linoleum on its floors.


You sit up suddenly, without knowing you have.

Your eyes are wide. You are stepping out of the flesh,

Because it now belongs to Zampanò, the Great.


Zampanò, I can’t do all the talking for you. I can’t go with you

Anymore. What happens next?




“Always what happens next, & then what happens after that.

It’s like you think we’re in a book for children. What happens next?

What does it look like is going to happen? It’s a carnival.


It happens on the outskirts of a city made of light & distance.

And well, it’s just my own opinion, but…I think

It’s a pretty poor excuse for a carnival, torn tents, everything


Worn out. But I guess it has to go on anyhow. And I guess


Death will blow his little fucking trumpet.”





Found In Volume 45, No. 02
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Larry Levis
About the Author

Larry Levis's (1946 - 1996)  first volume of poems, Wrecking Crew, won the United States Award of the International Poetry Forum in 1971 and was published in 1972. His second collection, The Afterlife, was the 1976 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets and published in 1977. In 1981, The Dollmaker’s Ghost was selected by Stanley Kunitz as a winner in the National Poetry Series. Levis’s fourth collection, Winter Stars, appeared in 1985, and his fifth book, The Widening Spell of the Leaves, in 1991. He first taught at the University of Missouri (1974–1983), then at the University of Utah (1984–1994), where he served as Director of Creative Writing. He began teaching as professor of English at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1992 and was living in Richmond, Virginia, at the time of his death from a heart attack on May 8, 1996, at the age of forty-nine. Elegy, a posthumous collection of poetry edited by Philip Levine, was published in 1997. The Selected Levis, edited by David St. John, appeared in 2000. The Darkening Trapeze: Last Poems, edited by David St. John, has been published by Graywolf Press.