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"I have a city to cover with lines." - d.a. levy


2001 poem o' the week archive


dec. 17, 2001

plastic beer bottles rain
from the december sky

the football gods have
cursed cleveland, with
the fumble, the drive, a team
stolen by a greedybastard
owner, it had to boil over.
what did we do to deserve
this? was it all those
championships in the
'40s & '50s? or jimmy
brown, the greatest
football player of all time?
how many times will this
generation get screwed,
how many different ways
will they find for us to lose?
you want revolt, we got
vile revolution by the
bottlefull & it will rain
down until that day
in the distant future
when the football gods
say 'uncle!' & give us
our winning ways back
& in the meantime, it's
another black eye for the
city of cleveland, what's
another injury to us
anyway, we wrote the
book on black eyes
& incredulous defeat.


dec. 10, 2001

moses cleaveland
on the banks of the river

he splashes his way up
the river, stops at a spot
that looks good to him
moses cleaveland hops
out of the boat, surveys
the land next to the water,
points east & says, we'll
build here ­ first a bar,
maybe several, a factory
to churn out tank parts
for the battle, a giant
office tower, a public
square, a trading post,
a port for merchant
vessels, a stadium,
swapping trinkets to
indians for guns,
information, streetcars
& steel mills, automobile
plants, I like this place,
he says, we'll call it
cleaveland, don't
misspell the name,


dec. 3, 2001

the ghost of ltv

immigrants worked in hell
to make steel for warships,
buildings, factories, ltv the
giant, cleveland's labor
behemoth, bedrock
industry, by the sweat of
their brow they shall work,
3,200 jobs, 45,000 pensions
up & gone, vanished,
not worth a damn to bricker
fleeing like a rat back to
his texas sewer, $600,000
in his well-heeled pocket,
pensioners thrown out
on cleveland's streets
while bricker eats like
a king in george bush's
back yard ­ where are
the politicians when all
hell breaks loose? bricker's
party pals dewine
& voinovich nowhere to
be found, only dennis the k.
standing tall for ltv on
the front lines, & s. tubbs
jones demanding
justice. just who will
feed the broken man who
worked 45 years & now
has nothing? who will
feed him & his brothers?
no one, not the ghost
of ltv floating over
cleveland like a
foul cloud


nov. 24, 2001

requiem fer d.a. levy (nov. 24, 1968)

give me that gun, man, I've got plans
fer you, this cleveland they want to
create must be stopped, this place
where the open eye of authority
wants to stand behind you at the
urinal and watch you take a piss,
this cleveland where you can be
banished fer yer words, yer poems
yer outrageous prayers to the core
of the universe, they don't know it's
about sanctity, immense longing,
a non-stop fight for the soul of
the city, the beauty of hallucinations
bedecked in flowers & colored lights
& the forlorn wail of the poet's words,
this cleveland they want to emerge
needs a conscience, a voice of reason
the chaotic multiplication of angel
faces with smiles & incense dreams,
circle dances around grand towers,
the smooth maneuvering of iron
boats turned loose on the dark
waves of a great simmering lake
the twist & shimmy of gargantuan
music that rolls across tyrant streets,
oh hail euclid & superior & payne
& carnegie & chester, e9th & e55,
bolivar & short vincent & mayfield
d.a., they came fer you in darkness
on the evening of nov. 24, 1968,
but that gun spoke yer name first, I
found this poem on the breakwall
just up from burke lakefront airport
maybe you left it fer me & maybe
you didn't, it's been sitting there
fer 33 years, old buddy, yer tears
are the color of rainbows & yer
smile the size of a coupe de ville



nov. 19, 2001

saturday morning amtrak daybreak

west toward downtown, sunrise
a railroad daybreak, flying past
warehouses with full paletts
of machine parts, lumber, crates,
darkened houses in silence,
csx locomotives idle on mute
tracks, from the train window
a city poised for deliverance
from vagrant screams in the
closet of night, peering deep
beneath rusted rails, a whistle
ping pongs against red brick
walls, corrugated steel roofs,
screaming into the station ­ halt ­
tall towers blink/blink in welcome


nov. 12, 2001

wish list fer mayor campbell

dear mayor campbell, now hear this,
here is my wish fer cleveland as soon as
you take charge: unification of the east
& west sides, mayor campbell do we really
need two clevelands? invite the homeless
to dinner, tell them yer holy plan fer them,
wrap multicolored lights around the soldiers
& sailors monument & rename it the "give
peace a chance" memorial, pls name an alley
or street after d.a. levy, langston hughes,
hart crane, daniel thompson, make poetry
required reading in public schools, top the
terminal tower with a giant neon smiley
face, pave euclid ave. with glow-in-the-dark
bricks, appoint a czar of popular culture
to nurture the arts, start a cleveland rock
& roll festival & let music shake the city
from every corner for a week around the
clock, work with every race creed & color
to make this town a crayon box of love &
acceptance, offer mr pierce a place in yer
administration, ask anyone who is mean
to leave the city quietly & come back when
they're nice, learn to play the congas &
convene a drum circle on public square
the third friday of each month, wake up
every day & laugh, 'cause as alex bevan
sang back in the 1970s, "we can laugh at
ourselves, how 'bout you?" let me see you
eat dinner at the famous lancer steakhouse
on carnegie every so often & mayor campbell,
one last thing, let me read a mad poem at yer
innaugaration, like maya angelou did at bill
clinton's first soiree, i have a lot to say & i'm
not going away any time soon, good luck, good
luck, peace out, yer friend in spirit, markk



nov. 5, 2001

wait 'till last year

bottom of the ninth
in cleveland i watch
a flickering tv as
the baseball arcs over
the second baseman's
head like a desert rainbow,
the winning run scores
& the diamondbacks are
world series champions --
much too close to an october
day in 1997, in florida, when
championship dreams again
vanished like diesel exhaust
spitting from an rta bus.
if there is some cosmic
lesson we are supposed
to learn from the act
of not winning, haven't
we learned it yet? rocky's
curse lingers like an
albatross bat around
the neck of chief wahoo's
red outrageous face,
next year next year
next year next year
wait 'till last year, the
words I may never hear



october 29, 2001

the galloping road that leads out of ohio

what color is the galloping road
that leads out of ohio? he asks --
red, the color of screaming alarm?
blue, of descending sadness?
green, the color of lush growth?
brown, of fecund decay?
is the road leading out of ohio glowing orange
like the third eye of a flame, of dying autumn oaks,
melting foundary metal?
ohio is not the end of the world, he says,
but in winter sometimes you can see it from here
if you look long & hard enough
lean over its quaking ledge, peer below,
vanishing southward like swarms of moths
looking for the brightest of porch lights

the porch light is on tonight & crickets click,
mosquitos seek blood sustenance, rabbits
cautiously peer, racoons stalk slowly in shadows,
up the road in plowed fields green spikes appear
under creepy moonlight, bony tree branches
kick with skeleton legs,
one by one living room lights
& tv screens fade & by default
this entire town goes dark

ohio you have a strange cadence,
the beat of rain on truck stop trailers,
the thump of friday night football marching bands
the repetitions of factory machines in labor
robust backhoe crawlers trenching under bleached heat
the stirring of massive pots in penetentiary kitchens,
one kiss following another in the dark of purring automobiles

ohio tell him what you have to offer --
your rolling maple hills?
brick public squares? dusty hardware store smiles?
lost cities? lemonade afternoons?
snakeing river basins? tall silos?
a great grey blotch of lake water with gravelly beaches
a sad season of people? your song of hope?
the blank wonder of yer eyes?

ohio in yer geography you move slow,
in a tranquil coma --
if he seeks big thoughts & a small welcome
temptation, tangible evidence
the heat of bronzed love
the sting of a hornet moment,
the stripping away of something
to find something else
can he do that in yer hollow hand?
can you see why that is true?

ohio he needs bright neon day-glo hurricane colors,
& you are draped in mauve & faded blue,
wheat & ivory white
once i said i would glimmer, glitter like
yer own personal galaxy of stars,
all for you -- something i can't offer you
lost beneath yer dim woolen skies



october 22, 2001

on the auto ban

in germany it's the autobahn
where cars speed fast
in cleveland the auto ban
where fear spreads fast
yer ford taurus forbidden
to park near the federal building,
state office building,
federal court house,
no navigator suv's near
tower city
bp, key tower,
no junkers allowed by
the justice center,
erieview tower,
no chevy s-10's at the
ameritech switching station,
cleveland public power,
csu, ccc,
no vw beetles crawling
at the federal reserve bank,
all water treatment plants
but bush says
everyone get
out there & spend
money money money
there's nothing
to fear
need yer cash



october 15, 2001

taking off & landing

taking off,
i drive up interstate 71
near night, approaching an exit ramp
destination unknown,
an airplane flying low
landing on approach
12 o'clock in my sight line
lights blinking
engines roaring above me like a mythic vision
the full moon
with its pock-marked face
& yellow corona rising
sitting on the last scraps
of white dirty cloud
surrounded by slashes & streaks
of airplane exhaust
moment still life



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