A Portrait of Larry with Trogons


At first you can't spot a red & green trogon against
a background of deep green leaves & red berries.
It's also difficult to find the exact right words for poetry
when they're camouflaged against the background of speech,
newspapers, and T.V. If you were to see the trogon
against a white wall, you'd be dazzled by its brilliance. The same
goes for the right words when they're taken out of conversation
& placed into the unnatural habitat of poetry. If you train yourself,
you'll eventually see the trogons when nobody else can . . .
Sorry, I'm too tired for this right now. It's midnight & my
18-year-old son took off for the East Coast today from our house
in Colorado, & he didn't take enough money or food.
He just finally called to say he's briefly stopped at a Ramada,
not to spend the night, but to use their hot-tub. He also told me
he's borrowed my credit card. I worry like crazy when he does
things like that! He'll probably get caught in the hot-tub and call me
in trouble with the desk clerk or he'll lose the credit card.
I can't blame him. He's sad right now because his dad,
the poet Larry Levis, has died. When someone you love passes away,
it's almost impossible to grasp the sheer darkness of it
against the solid blackness of death itself. Nick & I feel Larry
slipping away into the habitat of history, where too many names and faces
go blank. We've got to get him back. We've got to lock him forever here,
like a trogon, in the cage of our hearts, where he stands out.
But a trogon's natural instinct is to sit on a branch, deep inside
the green-leafed tree with the berries & hold perfectly still & upright–
its long slaty tail wavering ever so slightly in the breeze. Or
to rise & flap against a backdrop of white sky, where just as you try
to grasp the brilliant & quick presence of it, it disappears.


Marcia Southwick, A Saturday Night at the Flying Dog and Other Poems, Oberlin College Press, 1999.