Donald Levin is a Boston-born, Detroit-raised writer, editor, and teacher. He is the author of a novel, The House of Grins (1992), and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in print and e-journals including Red Rock Review, Gin Bender Poetry Review, Saucyvox, Literati Review, Lotus Blooms Journal, Delirium Journal, Stirring, Ohio Renaissance Review, Rock Salt Plum Poetry, The Metro Times, Iron Horse Literary Review, and Sunspinner. He is associate professor of English at Marygrove College in Detroit, where he edits a literary journal, The Maxis Review. He was the featured poet in the fall 2004 issue of Adagio Verse Quarterly. A chapbook of poetry, In Praise of Old Photographs, his first collection, is soon to appear from Little Poem Press.

Steve Allen Returns to Weekly TV (August 1967)

Lying shirtless and pantless in the heat
of an overwhelming Detroit summer
at the end of my seventeenth year
alone on an unmade narrow bed
watching the Steve Allen Show
through a murk of endless cigarettes

on a black and white television with an unbent
hanger for an antenna, I imagined I dwelt
among the habitues of Hollywood Boulevard
who stopped along whatever path
they were traveling to stare into the red
eye of the camera trained on the street

for a slice of southern California
life, primed to catch their amblings
and report the findings out to America
for the amusement of the nation's viewers
who, like me, laughed along with
the host's high giggle and comic invention

of lives for ladies with shopping bags
bubbling over with ripe oranges
and hose drooping at thick ankles,
and crazy-eyed men with dirty
pants cinched with neckties bunched
around their waists, and young men

bare-chested as I was, raving
about the government's invasions
into their lives, and now and then
a man wearing, say, a shower cap
who might wander down the street at the wrong
time and turn up on snowy screens

across the country, his story concocted
for the occasion, and what is amusing
about such desperation, you might ask,
and if you do then you must not be
staring down the maw of your eighteenth
birthday, or understand how

the dusk of LA is as desolate
as the cruel deserted nights of Detroit
or how a camera's glare can peer into
the deepest fears of those who dream
their truest lives into being, or even
how these could converge with your own.


1. Starry Night

I stay inside the car while you search for the cat
gray and brown streak that leapt out the door
making her longed-for break for freedom
when you went to use the bathroom

after the deputy rapped on the windshield
to wake us up and move us along.
Impossible to say where we are.
The important thing is you're gone

for the hour it takes to search the barren scrub
calling her name. Without her you would be
bereft. When you return with her in your arms
we will leave in a rage of gravel in your rush

to get wherever it is you think we're going.
Take your time. While you are gone
the dark night explodes overhead
with radiance I never saw in New York.

2. Eternal Return

After thirty hours straight behind the wheel
you pull over to the side of the road and
collapse like a shade drawn over a window.

You will sleep for another twenty-four
but what you don't know is that while you are out
I will softly step from the el Camino

you bought to put Buffalo behind you
and I will leave you sleeping. I will make
my own escape, from you and the car filled

with all the things you had to take with us
but will abandon when the next time comes
to leave wherever we wind up. I will

walk seven miles down the cold highway
and another seven back to you.
I can't explain why, except to say

my life is empty either way, and I used
all my nerve to take the first step.
I had nothing left to do but come back.

3. Dye Job

After you leave for your day at the body shop
I think about packing the one suitcase
I had brought west, the one with the red ribbon
tied around the handle so we could

identify it if we ever took
a plane trip, which we never did. I look
around at the pitted gray cinder blocks
that are our walls, at the dry brown gully

that would have been our view out the motel
window if it hadn't been too high off
the ground to see out of, and think how nice
it would be to leave this makeshift life behind.

Instead I dye my hair in the bathroom sink
dye it a deep black that lets no light escape.