Artifax, Vol. 1.2 (1971)

Martin Levy

I've lived my life
on streets that stumble
into streets.

Each house crowds the next
like relatives.

Mariposa	Buena Vista
Riverside	Catalina;
names should mean more
than roads of campers
ready for the weekend.

I've seen my father
grow white
in this land
of never-ending sun.

They speak with strange inflections,
circling around	pointing to
	yes	just that spot
	where yesterday
old Isaac passed away.

Like displaced Bible pictures
they crowd the Venice benches
backs turned to the quarter-mile beach
and talk of Israel
as if it were an hour's walk.

In Detroit	when I was seven,
my uncle returned.

	land of sun
	and good health

His veins burst
before he sold the store
but we came,
living out his dreams
like good Christians,
working hard all year
for a two-week vacation.

As I walk the promenade
old women prod me with their canes.

They call me Cossack,
fingers bent
around the corner of the bench.

The stores mime the people,
chalked gray	cracked,
ridden by the heat.

It's 90
but the women scarve themselves.

Sweat comes hard.

My bare head
viewed with suspicion.

Rows of cracked stucco,
palm trees	dead skin
chafing in the Santa Ana winds.

The sun
burning my brother well,
stretching me like a Moses rod.

Even then
smog levelled the valley,
the cruel highlight
of Spanish tract houses,
my father's first words
	Here you'll grow 
	healthy and tall.

They come at night	children from
New York	   Chicago
Pittsburgh	   Detroit.

They prowl the Venice beaches
hunting hipsters,
crowding into filthy bars.

The others hide in old hotels,
waiting for daylight
and gentle water over bones.

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