Leveler Poetry Journal
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Personal Statement

(in which I am)



Required to move

Past I can trace this

Easier by going back

Or down the way


Silver slips into the black

To live on you

Could never get off

Rt. 4 without stopping


For fun time

Pizza at least

If you were of a

Certain age I loved


The way we all stayed

Silent as the machines

Would play or we’d play

Them our thumbs


Around a joystick

To see ourselves

In the eyes of a screen

& talk to the dead


Beasts behind

The purple curtain

I knew that I was dying too

Come again even


If I hadn’t left

I’ve always been

Impatient I want everything

I have done repeated


This plea years later

Kneeling at the pew

With my breath held

In fear I’d drown


For lack of better

Words I wish

I would let myself

Leave quietly


I haven’t been back

In years & haven’t year-

Ned this much for anything

Since morning specifically


Given in the public

Bath & passed on

To everyone I’ve given access to

My life on stall


Doors that’s how

This works raised up

On each breech we

Seek to fill


What’s rotten

At the core crumbs

Running down

My thigh when I


Take this in too fast

What century mistakes

Me for measure

Less images of my like


Liehood in whose

Sweating memory

I devour or bow

Down for you


I am undone

By the logic of every

Question or every question

I forgot to ask who


Are you who are you

Pretending to be something

Dealt with in accordance

With luxury only


An iPhone can

Feel with just one

Thumb as if to

Hitch I have


Nothing left to give

My family the night

Before Christ

Mas comemos mariquitas


Y lechon until we lick

Our fingers it’s our way

Of saying good-bye

& we want more

Chris Campanioni

levelheaded: Personal Statement (in which I am)


It’s too easy to say this poem is open-ended, that it points in a few different directions, that it can be interpreted in different ways. But those are all refrains we get to use regularly as editors of a contemporary poetry ‘zine. The world is a complex place, and the best of our poems don’t wrap things up in a simplified way. With that in mind, we can still say this poem has a clear, specific purpose: it takes us on a very personal, sometimes cryptically personal, jaunt through the speaker’s memory.


Memory is at the poem’s core. And it’s a sensual memory – full of sounds (“Silent as the machines”), sights (“Beasts behind / The purple curtain”), and flavors (“Mas comemos mariquitas // Y lechon until we lick / Our fingers”). Quite often the poem’s images remain private. What are we to do with the “crumbs / Running down my / Thigh” or the abstract, mind-bending question “who are you / Pretending to be something / Dealt with in accordance / With luxury only?” We can apply meaning to these moments within the context of the poem’s disparate events, images, and ideas – but in many cases we can’t get very far, at least conclusively. Like many contemporary poems about memory, this one is fascinated by its fallibility. It’s frustrated by the impossibility of sharing the rich details and bodily reactions that accompany nostalgia.


More interesting, we think, is the literary device placed around the speaker’s memories. Ostensibly, he’s trying to overcome something. But the speaker doesn’t “move / Past” his history. He does just the opposite. He freezes his past in language. He attaches words to emotions and events that can’t be taken back. Per the poem, we will never know stopping for pizza off of Route 4 as anything but a “fun time.” It’ll be tough to separate the oppressive “fear I’d drown” from “Kneeling at the pew / with my breath held.” The poem turns that general feeling into a measurable reality. For a past that’s unquantifiable, crystallizing it may be the only way to properly discard it.


Not that the speaker wants to discard the past. What’s boldest about this poem is its title. Every poem is in some way a personal statement. Every poet puts their “self” on the line when they publish. This poem goes a step further by announcing itself as a “Personal Statement.” The poem can be read as a manifesto. What’s the message? We think there’s something in there about embracing what you might first reject. By the end, it seems the speaker has taken the past that he’s “Required to move / past” and transformed it into a plea for more.



-The Editors