Mateo – Michigan Quarterly Review


Summer 2022 | Rebecca Levi Reads "Mateo" MQR Sound

Rebecca Levi reads her poem, "Mateo," for MQR's Summer 2022 issue.

Why I Chose It: Michigan Quarterly Review reader Abigail McFee introduces “Mateo,” a poem by Rebecca Levi, for our Summer 2022 issue. You can purchase the issue here.

Rebecca Levi’s “Mateo” enchanted me with its fluidity of content and form. The relationship at its center, while bearing the tenderness of a parent-and-child dynamic, is never defined as such by the speaker. Levi’s gorgeous lines tumble into and tug against the tension of betweenness. The poem, like Mateo, exists “Entre / mar y cordillera”—between the tidal pull of enjambed sentences and the spine of left-justified lines. I was moved most of all by Levi’s images—cross-hatched sand, the friction of a beloved’s wool sweater against the speaker’s nipples—which so freshly evoke different types of intimacy.

You grow up between. Entre
        mar y cordillera, spine
of mountain and the ocean
        floor. A mother called Santa
María, a father, Paul,
        lit up like the saint but all
Mapuche, face like hammered
        copper, curls something seaborne.
Mateo—on the beach you
        are both, cliff edge and water,
saint and dancer. You dimple
        the wet sand, cross-hatch the dry,
make little fists. Somersault
        somersault cartwheel spin. Bow
to the sea. Bow to the cliffs.

        When you sleep you like your face
to be touched, music right up
        till the moment you go. Once
I lay there with you, believed
        you were mine, watched your eyelids
shine, thinking what if I’d made
        you. Your father’s blue sweater
hung past your toes, the one I
        wore that season I came south,
wall-cold afternoons after
        sex, before ceviche, red
onions and sweet potatoes
        half-sliced, nipples shrinking back
from so much wool. Never in
        summer, Mateo—you and
I never went to the beach,
        or played ball anywhere but
at the mid-winter window,
        to the space heater’s oiled hiss.

For more from the Summer 2022 issue of MQR, you can purchase the issue here.

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