THE NUMBER OF NAMES
“Distortion of reality is perhaps more disturbing than invented characters such as the Alien. This is the forte of Donald Levering, a writer from Kansas City living in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Number of Names, his fourth full-length book, reads like an off-kilter dream.
“He could be found in a local tavern marveling at the mind’s tricks in ‘The Bus of the Dead.’ The narrator sees an ordinary city bus driving by, but the passengers are the departed. The first zombie is an accountant who mimes his past life of shuffling papers endlessly. The drama intensifies when ‘I see my father within, / and he’s staring at me.’ The poet understands he has the next seat on the bus.
“In ‘Mother’s Donation’ Levering uses the literary world to explain a mother’s dementia: ‘I arrive to find Mother more like Lear.’ No doctor is needed for diagnosis as she writes ‘names of my sisters /on undersides of china and furniture.’ This frozen reality, as memory recedes, is again a disturbing distortion.
“’The Dead Have Climbed Into My Marriage Bed’ is a cheerier riff on the reality of genetics. The ancestors have ‘given my jaw to our daughter.’ This salute to ghosts appreciates how ‘The dead have given my cousin / perfect pitch.’
“Levering is an original. He interprets ordinary situations with unexpected twists. Each poem is a mystery with clues and a final revelation.”
—Denise Low, “On Poetry,” The Kansas City Star