You are who you owe yourself to

by Guillermo Rebollo Gil

There’s this part in the Larry Levis documentary where they ask the former foreman
of his father’s farm what Larry was like, whether he liked to work out in the field 
with the Mexican men who worked on his family’s ranch. 
Larry’s brother had said it was a nice feeling, to feel part of a crew. 
His sister said their father wanted the children to know where the money
that paid for their life came from. The old foreman said Larry didn’t much care 
for that type of work and laughed, tenderly. The poet 


David St. John said he never met a poet who obsessed over his work as much as Larry did. 
Larry, in his poems, wrote about his father and the old foreman with a tenderness that, 
I don’t think, would cut it in the fields, but I’ve never had to do that type of work myself so. 
Whether a poet was in fact part of a crew—
he wasn’t and could never be, there is no way 
the white sons of the white farm owner got to be part of whatever 
the Mexican farm workers were in their life— is not important. 
What’s important is the part where the poet Marcia Southwick says 
that Larry was a good father to their son. 


It came from grapes, the money. From people picking grapes in a field. 
Larry, Carolyn Forché explains, witnessed this. Obsessed over it: 
fields and fathers and work and Mexican men. 
The boy made it into his poems too. 
In one of them, he’s asleep next to a piano and his father is about to leave their life. 
Levis captures the scene with a tenderness I don’t think would ever cut it
amongst the men whose hard work pays for other people’s lives, 
but these men have children too.

Guillermo Rebollo Gil (San Juan, 1979) is a poet, sociologist and attorney. His poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Fence, Feed, Mandorla, Trampset, Trampolin, Second Factory, and Anti-Heroin Chic. He belongs to/with Lucas Imar and Ariadna Michelle. Happily so.