Another Love Letter...

...to my other home, my first home, the city of Philadelphia. This one from the London Financial Times. A banner week for my two cities...



The Assassin's Joy (Revised)

How did it always
get so late
so early?

I remember:

she slept nightless,

of flying
first class,

I heard her say.

You never realized
how fast
you were going


We were once
the only witness
to Rome.

her body,

her body
a part of mine,

apart from mine...

And the
Deja vu
as I kept

for you
in this circle
of surrender.

Catching you
was like mating
with a butterfly,

and you knew
no time.

did you convince


that your
was the gaze

of no

filled with death...

And all the death
that comes
with fighting off

that I
could never

Still in the process
of becoming
this late night

and straight on
until morning,


as l was
always able
to come
to the table

still standing.

When you were
locked away
in your
white walled

I could not help
but try to rescue

when you
no longer
wanted me.

All of this,

this eternal
ceremonial mess,

is nothing
but the laughter
of the assassin's

Los Angeles - 3/22/07

The Last Words Game

"Either that wallpaper goes or I go."
-Oscar Wilde

"I'm losing."
-Frank Sinatra

"Get those fucking nuns away from me."
-Frank O'hara

"I spent my whole life working. Why?"
-Louise Andreas-Salome

"Waiting are they? Waiting are they? Well let em' wait."
-Ethan Allen

"Pardon me, Monsieur."
-Marie Antoinette

"That guy's got to stop...He'll see us."
-James Dean

"I know you have come to kill me. Shoot, coward. You are only going to kill a man."
-Che Guevara

"How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?"
-P.T. Barnum

"Its been a long time since I've had champagne."

"Dying? Dying is easy. Comedy, now that's hard."
-Edmund Gwenn

"Don't turn out the light. I am afraid to go home in the dark."
-O. Henry

Priest's Question: "Do you renounce Satan?"
Answer: "Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies."

"I spent my whole life working. Why?"
-Louise Andreas-Salome

"I do not have to forgive my enemies. I had them all shot."
-General Ramon Maria Narvaez

"This is funny."
-Doc Holiday

"Drink to me!"

"It was a great game."
-Bing Crosby

"Go on! Get out! Last words are for fools who haven't said enough!"
-Karl Marx


Take That Woody Allen...

Hell has indeed frozen over...

For the first time I can ever remember the New York Times has published a (somewhat) kind article about Los Angeles, calling it the new center of the art world. Of course the article also laments the fact that the local populace and business communities are a step behind the rest of the world in acknowledging this fact.

However, coming up on my eight year anniversary of living in my adopted city I feel this article is a bit of an anniversary gift; in many respects it sums up all the aspects of Los Angeles, not only about art but about life, that I saw and felt when I first came here in 1999, and why as a young and struggling artist I decided to make my stand here as opposed to New York City.

I saw the possibilies then and this article is the first public acknowledgement and validation of my instincts by a newspaper that has been legendarily, stereotypically cruel to this, my megalopolis.

So take that, Woody Allen.

Link to the article here:


The Lovers' Sleep - November, 2002

The Lovers' Sleep - November, 2002, originally uploaded by levari.


The Assassin's Joy

How does it get
so late
so early?

I remember:

she slept nightless,

of flying
first class,

I heard her say.

You never realize
how fast you're going
you hit
the ground.

This circle of surrender.

her body,

her body...

We were once
the only witness
to the Autumn
of Rome.

And the
Deja vu
as I

for you.

California beaches
are boring
and blonde.

This ceremonial mess.

Being with her
is like mating
with a butterfly,

and she does


did you convince
that your
was the gaze
of no

filled with death...

And all the death
that comes
with fighting off
that I
can never

Still in the process
of becoming
this late at night,


as l still
am able
to come
to the table


When you are
in your
white walled

I can't help
but rescue

when you
no longer want it
from me.

This is nothing
the assassin's

Los Angeles - 3/22/07

Self Portrait As Marionette - Spring, 2005


What belongs to me now?

Not this mind
Not this nose,

Not this pencil
Even my toes.

Everything between,
Everything unseen

No longer
Belongs to me

But some distant,
Fading memory

Of everyone
I used to be.

Philadelphia - 2/07


Fingertips (after Hafez)

I type you,

the way you
not the way
I wanted you
to be.

I type us,

the fading
dream of us,
and though
I know we
once died
and disappeared
from this earth,


we won't
ever die,
nor disappear


only alone,
when the world
is sleeping,
I raise the dead.


only late
at night,
with no
fear of morning,
I believe in
a God,

and that
he is here

through these
otherwise useless


Los Angeles - 3/14/07


Portrait - 12/27/04

Portrait - 12/27/04, originally uploaded by levari.



never show

they only
ever hide

i have stared
at cities

lost inside
your mind

my face
snows whispers

no trace
of desert chimes

your body insists
it will

and then
will never
run from mine

all the lovely skin

all endless ice
of oceans

the dancing of our sin

our motions.

Philadelphia, 12/94 - Los Angeles, 3/07


Portrait Of A Girl - Autumn, 2004

Portrait Of A Girl - Autumn, 2004, originally uploaded by levari.

The Lie of Mistake

For some reason that I now cannot remember, one day my second grade teacher, Miss Fisher, pulled me aside in private and told me that there were no mistakes. No one ever made mistakes. Everything could be fixed, or, better yet, worked with. Everything...everything you did was a start and not a finish.

This was twenty five years ago, and other than this one moment, I remember very little about Miss Fisher. I know that she was quite young; I think this was her first class, and even then I could perceive an inexperience in her that made it seem that, most of the time, she had absolutely no idea what she was doing, but wanted so deeply to do a good job. Wanted so badly, and, failed so miserably, that now I can imagine her going home and crying when she had a bad day...Crying to a boyfriend as they lay there naked just after having sex, or crying to her mother over the phone so far away, or to her best college friend over a drink at a local bar, all of this time dwelling on what a bad teacher she was and would always be and how she's made a huge mistake.

I don't know why I believe this, but somehow I know it's true, that if it didn't happen in these ways it must have happened in others. Miss Fisher cried that year over us, over the fact she couldn't teach us or even simply control us...I remember there was an intensity, a rigor to her, and it's almost odd, in thinking back on her and her "tightness," for lack of a better word, that she was the only teacher in all my years of schooling who tried to let me in on the revolutionary idea that a mistake is a lie. No other teacher even broached the topic of mistakes, let alone had any kind of perspective on them, other than a mistake was to be avoided at all costs for it might be the first step to failure.

I don't think I've thought about Miss Fisher once since I stepped out of her classroom twenty five years ago, but this morning, for some reason, I suddenly can see her now as if she is standing before me waiting for me to sketch or paint her. Her cropped brown hair just beneath her ear, sloppy, amost like a boy's. Her clear ivory skin, the button nose with the end slightly turned up, and those large, intense, often frustrated brown eyes.

I imagine her now with flushed, youthful, unsculpted cheeks. Perhaps she is a bit chubby around the waist and rear, she eats when she is stressed. None the less, she is still pretty even in her prim and proper blouses and skirts.

She has this one light blue blouse she wears often, the one that has tassels hanging from the collar on either side. This blouse she's wearing before me now, this her favorite piece of clothing because her father, the one who told her about the lie of mistakes when she was girl, gave it to her before her first day of school.

As I look at her I realize she is much younger than I am now, maybe by ten years.

And this cloudy morning, unable to sleep and laying here in my bed trying to, I finally think I'm beginning to understand what she was trying to tell me that day....

But Miss Fisher, you know and I know I was never a very obedient student, so I'm going to take your lesson one step further:

There are no mistakes, nothing cannot be changed or worked with...

Except the lie one tells oneself, the lie one convinces oneself of in order to try and spare themselves some awful or ugly truth about themselves or the world.

This lie is followed by the disingenuous intention sprouting from the seed of the self made delusion. The cycle finally concludes with the false and frivolous action. This action is, more often then not, the last step in a destruction either great or small, either intimate or public.

Miss Fisher, these lies and the results of them cannot be worked with because they are dead on arrival. Only living things coming from the effort to understand truth in oneself or truth in the world can be worked with because they breathe and they grow as all living things do. Dead things, like actions couched in lies, cannot breathe or grow, they can only lay dead and decompose.

Why now am I beginning to really understand this, the polarity between lies and creativity, how they cannot walk together, how behind the greatest lie there must be truth for it to be made into anything lasting?

As the old Rastafarian saying goes:

"Who feels it, knows it."

Who feels it, that is true learning.
Who feels it, that is taking a mistake and turning it into a foundation.
Who feels it, that is freedom.

A long road to understand an idea so simple and yet so complex...
A long road before you understand and can articulate, even to yourself.
A long road before an idea becomes a weapon, becomes armor...

But when you get this feeling, you know it to be a truth in yourself, you have it for the rest of your life.

So many times between Miss Fisher and right now, for reasons both real and imagined, maybe I didn't want to live. But for moments like this, moments of the smallest understanding on a Spring morning after a sleepless night, I'm glad I did even if, at times, living was a state in spite of myself.

An now I should let Miss Fisher disappear again back to wherever and whoever she may now be.

And I do...

Los Angeles - 3/7/07


The Blue Jar - 4/7/06

the blue jar - 4/7/06, originally uploaded by levari.


My Brother And Me

How we used
to quietly
tiptoe down those
rusted metal stairs
into my Zeyda's
so he wouldn't
we were
sneaking around...

And the winter coats
with fur collars
hanging on rack
after rack,
that somehow,
you imagine now,
smelt like
the country
he came from.

And the shirts
engraved with his

hard fought cotton,
hard won silk,
traded with America

for hands,

and so much more
we could never know.

And the rusted
lawn tools
hanging years unused
on the walls.

And his pipes
standing at attention,
their sculpted heads
still smelling
of his tobacco.

The unread
books piled
in corners,

and the eye glasses
with thicker
and thicker

The pocket knives
that no longer opened,

and the lighters
with flint worn to nothing

that my brother
and I stole
and lost
one by one
until they were

The faded polaroids,
with black and white bodies
of ghosts.

The empty green bottles
of homemade wine...

All of these clues
now sold off,

These clues
and the corners
with the decades of dust,

that once held
the mystery
of our generations.

Philadelphia - 5/3/01