Voices and Verses

National Poetry Month: “Vanishing Point” By Rich Levy

The Houston poet reads an ode to the parents of teenagers.

“Poetry is capable of this magic, or it can really enchant you very quickly and take you to a different place suddenly, or introduce you to deep feeling just for a moment. And … I love that.” – Rich Levy

In this sound portrait, Rich Levy talks about the first poem he fell in love with (Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!”) and the connection between jazz and poetry, and he reads his poem, “Vanishing Point.”

Since 1995, poet Rich Levy has served as executive director of the nonprofit literary arts organization, Inprint. He earned his MFA at the Iowa Writers Workshop. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared (or will soon appear) in various publications, including Boulevard, Callaloo, CITE, The Florida Review, The Hopkins Review, Houston Chronicle, Intro, Pebble Lake Review, Pool, The Texas Observer and others; and his collection Why Me? was published in 2009 by Mutabilis Press. In 2011, Houston Press named him Houston’s “Best Poet.” He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and a jazz obsessive, and has raised three children and several cats and dogs.

 

Vanishing Point

What is that smell of dread in the air, stench
of fear, sulphur, sweat? It’s the hell

of parents of teenagers, stunned and wondering
what happened to them, and who are these people

they live with, who daily demand food, money,
and the car. What did the parents do to deserve

this? And what happened to that freshly bathed
and diapered sweet smelling infant who, almost

edible, clung to shoulder or breast, and gazed up
at us as if we were the sun in its little solar system?

We really did want to consume them, to merge
with them, to explain everything and listen with

what now seems simpleminded fascination to their
first words, to watch them manipulate a spoon

and paint the room with applesauce, to let them
stumble from one to the other of us, and slobber

and barf sometimes. We wore those patches of vomit
on the shoulders of our sweatshirts like chevrons

of the parent corps, which other parents would spot
and secretly salute. Now we are hostages to

biology, and our crisis is wanting to be
free of them, because occasionally they can

still exude the charm that makes us melt and
relent. And they’re bigger and stronger than us

and have illusions to sustain them, and they’re
moving on, leaving their messes behind them

and laughing with their friends while blowing
an insincere kiss that disappears from sight

like a helium balloon rising into a clear sky—
one that you watch until it is a dot buffeted

by the wind, and then when you look away
to answer the phone or see what the dogs are

barking at, you can’t find it anymore.

 

This poem is reprinted with permission by the author.

To learn more about this series, go here.

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Catherine Lu

Catherine Lu

Content Producer & Announcer

While growing up in Chicago and Houston, Catherine’s love for art, music and creative writing was influenced by her teachers and parents. She was once concertmaster of the Clear Lake High School Orchestra and a four-time violinist of the Texas All-State Symphony. A graduate of the University of Chicago, Catherine...

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