May 10, 2022 | Writing

“The Vessel,” “John,” and “I Want to Burn Up”


“The Vessel,” “John,” and “I Want to Burn Up”


Three new poems by Austin-based writer Sam Levy.

The Vessel

“when the gathering turns for its portrait

and by sudden trick of alignment and light and

night, all I see

the same, the same, the same, the same, the same—”

—Frank Bidart, The Second Hour of the Night

The duplicity of waking

and again.

The blue planet,

an infant, hurtling on a path

at nothing.

Our rotations suggest to us

careful collisions.

Lunation and solstice,

marked on paper that dead men

gave life,

bending around the curve until

no one can tell

what is rising and falling.

We have learned to atrophy

by measuring,

to divine because

we remember.

Made and even nightly

remade, like mud

shaped by hands or

the tide, we borrow

ourselves from our kin,

tuck and refunnel them

uncounted times

as so many selves.

Your grandmother was lent

the same red-faced howl

and side-eyed smirk

by blood strangers.

None of us

belongs to us

for long.

Meat and might,

flab and flesh,

medium and means,

reconfigured in the sequence.

Patchworks of predecessors,

we begin,

a tangle in the loop,

only revolutions.


Ripped from

the pink-filled egg

by stiff hands, he came

reluctantly into this world.  

He wants to crawl back

into the bathtub of his mother

and plunges inside us.

I Want to Burn Up

Somewhere a drum rolls,

but there is too much

light to see

the beast that makes the sound


Our thighs clinch tighter

around his

barrel body.

He only dashes on.

Slick hair, sweat—

snout, belly, teeth.

She dared me to

ride, called me

chicken. But now,

I’m not sure if she’s

laughing or

screaming as

her hair becomes a

blaze. Then,

the sun is too

much again. I squint

and it’s

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