“New Poems” by Jan Heller Levi

Jan Heller Levi


Every time I pick up the pen, I write myself out of the canon. Who said that? Mina Loy? Maybe it was me.

* * *

This book is wonderful. Why didn’t I read this
before. Before what? Why didn’t
I read everything? Why didn’t
I read everything before? Before 
what? Before I felt like
I should have read some-
thing before. When was
I became the person who needs
to have read it
before. But maybe
if I had read it before,
I wouldn’t be the person
who needs to read it now. I’d
be another person, and I’d need
to read something else I
hadn’t read

* * *

S. says long sections of P.’s novel are stolen. He goes to courthouse records, provincial libraries, he finds transcripts and journals that he drops into his text like stars, like his own stars, when they are really the stars of another. “I’m a thief,” S. says P. told him after too many glasses of wine. P., who is also a novelist, spends half the night getting us to agree (immediately) that this is wrong. 

* * * 


Demeter, sister of Zeus, goddess of grain and agriculture. Persephone, her daughter, abducted by Hades. Disguised as an old woman, Demeter goes searching among mortals. She arrives at Eleusis, where she is employed as an attendant of Queen Mateaneira, who recognizes her nobility, bade her sit and eat and drink. She remains standing, apart, until a slave woman called Iambe lifts up her skirt and makes her laugh. 

* * *


He wouldn’t give me cancer’s email because he was afraid I might write something that would hurt its feelings. 

* * *

i want to
interrogate my childhood, drag it
into the station house, taunt
it with cigarettes,
glare the overhead lightbulb
in its eyes and demand
its confession.

whereas, a.m. says, “i can’t get past my unknowing, which, at times, unexpectedly, brings me joy.”

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers


Jan Heller Levi was the featured interviewee in this issue. Visit Rattle.com later this summer to read the conversation.

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