Nox Oculis

Larry (Patrick) Levis (1946-1996)

Larry Patrick Levis est né à Fresno, en Californie, le 30 septembre 1946, dans une famille de fermiers. Il reçut son baccalauréat au Fresno State College (maintenant le California State University) en 1968 ; sa maîtrise de l'Université de Syracuse en 1970 ; et son doctorat de l'Université d'Iowa en 1974. Son premier recueil de poèmes, Wrecking Crew (1972), récolta le prix américain du Forum International de Poésie. Son second volume, The Afterlife (1976), remporta la sélection Lamont de l'American Academy of Poets. In 1981, The Dollmaker's Ghost fut un gagnant de la Open Competition of the National Poetry Series. Parmi les autres distinctions honorifiques qui lui furent décernées : des titres universitaires de la National Endowment for the Arts, et des fondations Fulbright et Guggenheim.

Il enseigna la littérature anglaise à l'Université du Missouri de 1974 à 1980. De 1980 à 1992, il fut professeur associé à l'Université d'Utah, où il dirigea le programme d'écriture. De 1992 jusqu'à sa mort, il occupa le poste de professeur de littérature anglaise à l'Université du Commonwealth de Virginie.

Larry Levis est mort d'une attaque cardiaque en 1996, à l'âge de 49. Son dernier recueil de poésie fut publié à titre posthume en 1997.

Winter Stars

    My father once broke a man's hand
    Over the exhaust pipe of a John Deere tractor. The man,
    Ruben Vasquez, wanted to kill his own father
    With a sharpened fruit knife, & he held
    The curved tip of it, lightly, between his first
    Two fingers, so it could slash
    Horizontally, & with surprising grace,
    Across a throat. It was like a glinting beak in a hand,
    And, for a moment, the light held still
    On those vines. When it was over,
    My father simply went in & ate lunch, & then, as always,
    Lay alone in the dark, listening to music.
    He never mentioned it.

    I never understood how anyone could risk his life,
    Then listen to Vivaldi.

    Sometimes, I go out into this yard at night,
    And stare through the wet branches of an oak
    In winter, & realize I am looking at the stars
    Again. A thin haze of them, shining
    And persisting.

    It used to make me feel lighter, looking up at them.
    In California, that light was closer.
    In a California no one will ever see again,
    My father is beginning to die. Something
    Inside him is slowly taking back
    Every word it ever gave him.
    Now, if we try to talk, I watch my father
    Search for a lost syllable as if it might
    Solve everything, & though he can't remember, now,
    The word for it, he is ashamed...
    If you think of the mind as a place continually
    Visited, a whole city placed behind
    The eyes, & shining, I can imagine, now, its end --
    As when the lights go off, one by one,
    In a hotel at night, until at last
    All the travelers will be asleep, or until
    Even the thin glow from the lobby is a kind
    Of sleep; & while the woman behind the desk
    Is applying more lacquer to her nails,
    You can almost believe that the elevator,
    As it ascends, must open upon starlight.

    I stand out on the street, & do not go in.
    That was our agreement, at my birth.

    And for years I believed
    That what went unsaid between us became empty,
    And pure, like starlight, & that it persisted.

    I got it all wrong.
    I wound up believing in words the way a scientist
    Believes in carbon, after death.

    Tonight, I'm talking to you, father, although
    It is quiet here in the Midwest, where a small wind,
    The size of a wrist, wakes the cold again --
    Which may be all that's left of you & me.

    When I left home at seventeen, I left for good.

    That pale haze of stars goes on & on,
    Like laughter that has found a final, silent shape
    On a black sky. It means everything
    It cannot say. Look, it's empty out there, & cold.
    Cold enough to reconcile
    Even a father, even a son.

    Larry Levis

Références :

Oeuvres poétiques :

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