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Photos by John Levy & Poems by Alan Chong Lau

Issue One

Photographs © 2019 John Levy Poems © 2019 Alan Chong Lau Published by Otata’s Bookshelf & Dovadola Press For inquiries, please contact Acknowledgments The closeup of ice on page 74 was published by The Haiku Foundation online. It appeared in The THF Haiga Galleries as the feature “Photo Haiku by John Levy.” It was subsequently published on the cover of John’s book published by Otata’s Bookshelf in 2018, On Its Edge, Tilted. Design by Sarah Gzemski //

Introduction In 2013 I began emailing Alan photos. Alan replied with comments but shifted to poems in response. The exchange continues into 2019. We have assembled three groups of these photos and poems. We are grateful to John Martone for publishing this first selection of them, plus a second selection from a relatively short period of time when I visited Kyoto in December 2018, as a special issue of otata. John Levy

there is that moment when we are all together focused on now as the sun streams in from the bus window a dog, a can of soda and two children in serious contemplation


rain drops tears from the sky that paint a sheen on each length of feather


unearthed from the rough skin of rain-soaked gravel this window on the top floor how unfortunate the shade was drawn and no one was home


for Yasuko and Gary Groves what ties us together is not the knots nor the twists and turns but the earth that nurtures the roots and arteries of ancestors born of a tiny seed


what radiates from minerals? what energy propels us to pulse with life and leap over anonymous waterfalls?


our constant companions when you pull the drawstring off the clear cellophane skin of a new pack, snap it on the counter just to get that first cigarette out yeah bro’ believe it we’re tight like that and when we light up our smoke trails spiral around each other in lazy coils into the night sky dissolve up above the perch of streetlights, our urban forest in this nocturnal world of neon and traffic lights, the flap of pigeons and the caw of crows deep into the night our constant companions


we’re always chasing this finish line that moves faster than we can


i’m not here anymore in this place so high up i talk to the sun


the high wire act of spores, leaves, petals hung still across a blue net woven by this aerial svengali


if i knew i would tell you but what burns is something i can’t touch


the foam of the sea or the roil of clouds the orange blanket of the sun covers it all


i sit on the edge of the world my cactus friend your prickly leaf and my beak both teasing the air


i’m nijinsky in “petrushka” these arms this body are not mere gestures but my life trapped in the heart of a puppet

leaping above

cake yellow buildings


you wouldn’t find me at a shriner’s convention amping up the party for a bunch of sad old men instead i answer to a higher calling i look for the sun and blow these bones to anchor a purple dawn over a desert strewn with lumpy cactus their arms of needles pointing to the sky


to some it may be just a home for ice cream but here in this moment i contemplate the space revealed after i’ve eaten


in the sheen of paint on this train seagulls feel the reflection of an icy sea and prepare to land


as i dream my sleep is fitful let me stop and clear my thoughts


after the accident only the door is left broken and deserted framing these plants where a window once rolled down to let the wind blow in


where i’ve been you would never want to be more than the ruffle of a few feathers i’ve been in a cauldron and singed my wings and now when i come up for air i find your stare accusing my very existence


how could you do this? taser my soul use my heart for your private ash tray and still call me “LIAR” to my face


as i draw a breath on this beam of steel the chill of morning comes out in puffs as my mouth opens in a sigh


death, i bow before you my scarf, a shroud to wrap a sorrow that fills the sky


as i rush past the house i lived in as a child the trees spin out of control even though there is no wind


why is everyone smiling? this parade leads nowhere and there is no end


i am not amused i can hold this gaze until your words fall to the ground husks empty of any meaning


when you play your harpsichord of ice the notes turn so brittle they snap off into slivers and shards freeze in the wind a scream stuck in the throat of the earth


for Akio Takamori what i wanted, a blackbird’s wishes in my last year i traveled very far nothing could stop me my wings wet as ink frosted with winter’s crust aflame with sun’s last light buffeted by wind’s turbulence i knew i was dying and all i wanted to do was to move across continents across planets across water across mountains across the gray of factories the sheen of cities and the deep dark verdure of ancient trees i wanted to fly and never land i wanted to go on until my heart burst my lungs collapsed my blood flowed into rain and my last breath inhaled the ashes of last night’s stars


here i am dwarfed by statues of famous figures who, too, had their doubts


we stand before the sea awkward children not sure how to behave


night is a sheen a wet tarp that traps dreams smothers voices throws our expectations down that shaft of doubt hovering behind our eyes


even through blindfolds one can see nature nibbling around our edges the perforation of time hangs from A single leaf


the blood of my mother it stains my mouth as i call out her name


slate gray ultramarine blue the dust of snow on dirt then the rumble of the clouds


when i swim through this sea of glass each piece magnifies another tiny world


when vermeer painted that girl with the ring did he omit the bead of sweat on the tip of her nose or was it a winter that chilled to the bone? what makes us look at her face again and again do we need reassurance? why do generations of women come to the museum down this hallway still searching for that face of the original self?


the shattered purple peaks beyond our reach our feet frozen in perilous beauty


a tea-green face towel draped over my bald head to beat back the sun a rivulet of sweat pours down the brown trunk of my neck but it’s nothing compared to 1963 and the streets of birmingham firehoses & police dogs tore through women and children alike i lost hold of my mother’s hand


for Stuart and Renko Dempster when these stars fell to earth nobody could see them but a boy who conducted this orchestra of light, of water, of shimmer deep into another night


for Lockwood “Woody� Dennis and his wife, Hiroko when a frog jumps out of a pond to catch a train no one cares or notices so busy are they all to catch their own


in my dream this man from the sea came to my house when we touched hands fishes swam around us


Alan Chong Lau is a poet and visual artist based in Seattle, Washington. His books include “Songs for Jadina” and “Blues and Greens: A Produce Worker’s Journal”. He serves as Arts Editor for the International Examiner, a community newspaper. As a visual artist, he is represented by ArtXchange Gallery in Seattle. John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, published by otata in 2018, is available online, and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Profile for jlevy8987

eye2word: Issue One  

A collaborative collection with photos by John Levy and poems by Alan Chong Lau.

eye2word: Issue One  

A collaborative collection with photos by John Levy and poems by Alan Chong Lau.

Profile for jlevy8987