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            Michael H. Levin: Poems and Prose  

VAMPYR

(After Keats)


Why do you quake

and grind your teeth,

good sir – spring’s come

and greened the heath


gorse flowers bloom

bright warblers call

a thrush flutes clear

notes over all


yet shivering

and pale as if

in winter’s grip

your limbs seem stiff


you stare like one

who cannot see

and stumble on

stones clumsily.


This ague’s not

the season’s brew –

pray tell, what may

be plaguing you?


*    *    *


I dreamed last night

a fearful scene:

cold seas rose up

and boiled with steam


and in their midst

a figure stood

with fiery hair

legs caked with mud


both fat and tall

he stalked the land

demanding fealty

out of hand


and bellowed that

he was the One

at volumes great

enough to stun --


had come to bring

a new age in

where greed runs free

and hate’s no sin


and lesser men

inhale the breeze

of grievance while

opponents freeze.


About him, forms

quite tiny bowed

and chorused their

small praise-songs loud


discarding oaths

and pledges past

for fear or gain

they thought would last.


They trampled out

the vineyards on

that place where laws

are stored -- foregone


restraint or shame,

displaced by

insults at all costs.

So he with yawps


glared round for those

who might dissent

as counterweights

and palmed bright coins


behind his back

and christened lies

as holy fact.

And when I dared


to differ -- came attack:

he seized me with

one paw (a dainty snack)

and stuffed me in


then swole me down

and laughed to feel

me wriggling whole.

Now ask you why


I walk in night,

breathe heavy when

May air blows light?

I’ve seen the shadow


End of Days, where

harmony divides

brute growls collide

and courtiers


stand by slyly

hungry-eyed.



Version first published in What Rough Beast, July 30, 2019