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Lines from Mark Levine

I’ve been coming across Mark Levine lately, mostly because I’ve been reading this book (which I pretty much bought because of his poem “John Keats”) but also coincidentally, because the latest issue of Poetry magazine has three of his poems, all entitled “Unemployment” (1, 2, 3). I read those poems at the right moment; for some reason, they just made emotional sense to me and even got me writing a poem that I knew I’ve been wanting to write for some time now.

I found a review of his early collection Debt. It was extremely critical of the book, though strangely, the lines singled out as problematic by the critic (who I like a lot, actually) seem to me interesting, in one way or another. I decided to put them here for my reference, even if I don’t have access to the complete poems from which they were taken.

From “Morning Song”:

Here I am ringing all the alarm bells!
Here I am lighting the ovens!
Here I am waking the guests, here passing out numbers!
Look, I’ve armed the corpses–they’re angry, Boss,
they don’t feel like talking.”

From “Intervention”:

“The head, properly speaking, is an ornament, the icing
on God’s rotting biscuit.” Don’t look now, Partners

in this Poem, but I think we have said the wrong thing.
The Government has stolen my mask, and my skin

is a fiercely decorated, flaming banner.”

From “Inside”:

“The noises coming from his room like wounded birds
turn out to be wounded birds.”

From “Poem for the Left Hand”:

“I’m all that’s left
behind, half of me. I shall not want”

From “The Message”:

“He found me.
It’s so dark I can hear his finger
pointing at me. Which is my cue”

From “Double Agents”:

They knock on my door in whiteface speaking for God.

Go away, I say, I’m in bed
with my mother, I can’t be disturbed. She denies it.

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