Dana Levin


You want to get in and then get out of the box.


form breakage form






I was in the fish shop, wondering why being experimental means


          not having a point—


          why experimentation in form is sufficient unto itself


                                      (is it)


But I needed a new way to say things:


          sad tired I with its dulled violations, lyric with loss in its faculty den—


Others were just throwing a veil over suffering:


          glittery interesting I-don’t-exist—


All over town, I marched around,


          ranting my jeremiad.


Thinking What good is form if it doesn’t say anything


And by ‘say’ I meant wake somebody up.


Even here at the shores of Lake Champlain


          mothers were wrenching small arms out of sockets.


Not just the mothers. What were the fathers doing,


          wrenching small arms out of bedside caches—


How could I disappear into language when children were being called




                                      by their mothers—


          who were being called ‘cunts’ by their boyfriends—


          who were being called ‘dickheads’ behind their backs—


It wasn’t that I was a liberal democrat, it was that


                                      bodies had been divested of their souls


          like poems—


Trying to get in or out of the box.


And the scallops said, “Neulle idees que dans les choses.”


And I said, “I’ll have the Captain’s Special with wedges instead of fries.”


And everywhere in the fish shop the argument raged, it’s baroque proportions,


          the conflict between harmony and invention.


But then a brilliance—


The movement of her gloved hands as she laid the haddock out


          one by one—


The sheered transparency of her latexed fingers,


          in and out of the lit display case as if they were yes, fish—


Laying haddock out in a plastic tub on a bed of ice,


          her lank brown hair pulled back from her face with a band—


Yes it was true she had to do this for the market


          but there was such beauty in it—


she was the idea called Tenderness—


          she was a girl who stood under fluorescent lights making


six bucks an hour—


and she looked up at me and held out a haddock with both her hands,


          saying it was the best of the morning’s catch.



“Quelquechose” is from Wedding Day (Copper Canyon Press, 2005).