Michael Levan


The man cannot help being / tired. Tired of himself. Tired of the distance he puts up / between him and his wife. Tired of his job and tired / of this town which has given them only / proof that they cannot live, cannot be happy / just anywhere. He is tired of applying for a new job, / tired of imagining what life would be in upstate New York / or southwest Missouri, the Florida panhandle or maybe, / just maybe, in his hometown or hers. He is tired of rejection: / the schools he’s applied to already, journals and book contests, / how she shrugs away from a hug, a kiss, in the kitchen / while they make dinner or clean up after. Tired of putting the boy / to bed—another job he wishes he didn’t have—, laying next to his small frame and staring / at the animaled alphabet stickered to the wall, / harder and harder to pass time by making words from letters one space away / from each other on the wall’s grid because the sun has set, / and yet the boy still won’t sleep. He’s tired of writing poems / in his head that don’t use the word miscarriage / even though that’s what they’re all about now. Tired / of planning for the future when they still don’t know / where they’ll be in a few months. Tired of killing / time, doing time, in this house, in this town, this region and state. / Tired of hate and the repetition of feeling / so much of it so closely that it’s become / a part of their family. And mostly, he is tired / of sleep and needing it, and how when he wakes in the morning, / sleep hasn’t come done any damned thing for him.


Settled now into their routine, they have little / to excuse themselves from speaking again / of the future. Or thinking of it, or hinting at it / with test-balloon observations: That baby at the mall, / wasn’t she gorgeous? And that dress, that’s the kind I would have…. / Or, Can you believe all the kids we saw at Mass? / Or even in the darkening space between / putting their boy to sleep and her drifting into dreams / the man doesn’t know, It felt like a boy. / Did I ever tell you that?


Try as he might, / her words, off-handed but so damn certain, do their best / to stay with him. They hang over him / not like noose against endless blue sky or guillotine’s shined blade / ready to drop and cut off the head of his desire / for another child. More like an umbrella, / if that simile’s not too small to capture his predicament, / a shade against day’s light, the slight / darkening of the world he moves through.

                                                                                                                                       He doesn’t care for / the way she’s named their loss. From it to boy / is a much larger distance than one letter. / Try as they might, her words are never so far / they’d be forgotten as the man and his wife work to replace / the hollows in them with a who to care for and love, / who will hold them close together again.


Michael Levan has work in recent or forthcoming issues of Hobart, Hunger Mountain, Indiana Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Radar Poetry, Mid-American Review, and American Literary Review. He is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Saint Francis and writes reviews for American Microreviews and Interviews. He lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana, with his wife, Molly, and children, Atticus and Dahlia.