Poetry from George Looney

On George Looney:

George Looney’s recent books include Meditations Before the Windows Fail, the book-length poem Structures the Wind Sings Through, Monks Beginning to Waltz, and A Short Bestiary of Love and Madness. His novel Report from a Place of Burning will be published fall of 2018. He founded the BFA in Creative Writing Program at Penn State Erie, where he is Distinguished Professor of Literature and Creative Writing and editor of the international literary journal Lake Effect. He is also translation editor of Mid-American Review, and co-founder of the Chautauqua Writers’ Festival.


It Isn’t Always Classical

It Isn’t Always Classical appeared in Issue 35

after Walker Evans’ New Orleans Houses, 1935

Waiting it out is what those who live here
would say they’re up to. Holding it in,
one woman who lives in a second-floor
apartment has put it. Others say
she used to be some kind of famous
ballerina, that classical music
can be heard from her room most nights.
The couple who live under her say
they can hear her feet touching the floor,

through their ceiling, in patterns so
perfectly aligned they can almost see
her dance, listening. It isn’t always
classical, they say. She dances some nights
to What a Little Moonlight Can Do.
Those nights it sounds like two people dancing,
they say. No one’s ever seen anyone
else going in her apartment. No one
talks to her enough to feel comfortable

asking. Rumor is those nights she dances
with the ghost of the man who used to live
where she does. He would stand almost naked
on the balcony now hers and holler
things that sounded Biblical till someone                                                                                            
would shout up to him to Go sleep it off.
Some nights in the midst of the archaic
languages folks would hear him shouting
about a flood coming. To wash away all
our sins, he’d shout. Those nights he’d go calm

and then start singing Billie Holliday
tunes in a sad but affecting voice,
pained to the core. Those who heard him sing
would dream the city underwater, all
the dead swimming up toward the light
as if resurrection were as simple
as breaking the surface. Tonight it’s My Blue
Heaven coming from her place and everyone
believes the ghost of a man is whispering
in her ear. You’re so light on your feet,
he says, the two of us could dance on water.

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