Poetry Review: Larry Levis’s “Blue Stone”

18 Nov

Blue Stone

Someday, when you are twenty-four and walking through
The street of a foreign city…
Let me go with you a little way,
Let me be that stranger you won’t notice.
And when you turn and enter a bar full of young men
and women, and your laughter rises,
Like the stones of a path up a mountain,
To say that no one has died,
I promise I will not follow. 

Sometimes a poem touches me even if I don’t really understand all the pieces of it.  Clearly, this is the point of view of an older man talking to a younger person, could be his daughter or son.   He wants to watch young people, not in a dirty way, but to see their happy innocence.   Rising laughter because nobody has died yet.  And the old man is removed from this laughter.  He says it rises like stones on a path to a mountain, and he promises he will not follow.  Something about this tone catches me a little in the throat.   His promise that he will not follow–because he cannot?  Because the laughter, while familiar is beyond him?  Because he no longer has days where no one has died?  And also the promising not to follow goes with the not trying to be one of the young ones, to not get hip to them or anything like that.

To be a peeping tom with sex is creepy, but sort of understandable–but to be a peeping tom of joy, there’s something seriously wrong here.   That this is the closest to joy that this lonely old man can find.   To be left out.  To choose to be left out because he knows so much.

And why is this called blue stone?  I don’t know–blue for the mood of the speaker, stones for the laughter.   Or maybe how instead of climbing up a pebbled path, he’s surrounded by heavy blue stone.  I don’t know, I have yet to find an explanation for that name that gives me the proper frisson and connection.  Beautiful poem though.



2 Responses to “Poetry Review: Larry Levis’s “Blue Stone””

  1. R. Sherman April 3, 2014 at 2:27 pm #


    I was looking for this poem, as my eldest will be graduating from university next month and will be heading off to Europe for a year of study and teaching. I wish to use it as an introduction to a letter I’m writing her.

    As it happens, when I was a freshman in college many years ago at the University of Missouri, Larry Levis was my professor in Introduction to Poetry. He was a fabulous teacher and I have fond memories of his taking time to help me understand and write about literature generally and poetry specifically. He died too damn young.

    I enjoyed your comments on Blue Stone.

    • pewterbreath April 3, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment! I really appreciate hearing about your personal connection with Levis. Sometimes it catches me by surprise when I hear about a poet in the real life, as I most often only know them through their writing. I’m so happy he was such a great guy.

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