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You Can Have It by Philip Levine

You Can Have It

by Philip Levine

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.
The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.
Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,
and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labours, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?
All night at the ice plant he had fed
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I
stacked cases of orange soda for the children
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time
with always two more waiting. We were twenty
for such a short time and always in
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty.
In 1948 the city of Detroit, founded
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died,
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace,
for there was no such year, and now
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers,
calendars, doctors’ appointments, bonds
wedding certificates, drivers licenses.
The city slept. The snow turned to ice.
The ice to standing pools or rivers
racing in the gutters. Then the bright grass rose
between the thousands of cracked squares,
and that grass died. I give you back 1948.
I give you all the years from then
to the coming one. Give me back the moon
with its frail light falling across a face.
Give me back my young brother, hard
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse
for God and burning eyes that look upon
all creation and say, You can have it.

End of the poem

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The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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Wisteria by Philip Levine

Wisteria

by Philip Levine

The first purple wisteria
I recall from boyhood hung
on a wire outside the windows
of the breakfast room next door
at the home of Steve Pisaris.
I loved his tall, skinny daughter,
or so I thought, and I would wait
beside the back door, prostrate,
begging to be taken in. Perhaps
it was only the flowers of spring
with their sickening perfumes
that had infected me. When Steve
and Sophie and the three children
packed up and made the move west,
I went on spring after spring,
leaden with desire, half-asleep,
praying to die. Now I know
those prayers were answered.
That boy died, the brick houses
deepened and darkened with rain,
age, use, and finally closed
their eyes and dreamed the sleep
of California. I learned this
only today. Wakened early
in an empty house not lately
battered by storms, I looked
for nothing. On the surface
of the rain barrel, the paled,
shredded blossoms floated.

End of the poem

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The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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Where We Live Now by Philip Levine

Where We Live Now

by Philip Levine

1
We live here because the houses
are clean, the lawns run
right to the street
and the streets run away.
No one walks here.
No one wakens at night or dies.
The cars sit open-eyed
in the driveways.
The lights are on all day.
2
At home forever, she has removed
her long foreign names
that stained her face like hair.
She smiles at you, and you think
tears will start from the corners
of her mouth. Such a look
of tenderness, you look away.
She’s your sister. Quietly she says,
You’re a shit, I’ll get you for it.
3
Money’s the same, he says.
He brings it home in white slabs
that smell like soap.
Throws them down
on the table as though
he didn’t care.
The children hear
and come in from play glowing
like honey and so hungry.
4
With it all we have
such a talent for laughing.
We can laugh at anything.
And we forget no one.
She listens to mother
on the phone, and he remembers
the exact phrasing of a child’s sorrows,
the oaths taken by bear and tiger
never to forgive.
5
On Sunday we’re having a party.
The children are taken away
in a black Dodge, their faces erased
from the mirrors. Outside a scum
is forming on the afternoon.
A car parks but no one gets out.
Brother is loading the fridge.
Sister is polishing and spraying herself.
Today we’re having a party.
6
For fun we talk about you.
Everything’s better for being said.
That’s a rule.
This is going to be some long night, she says.
How could you? How could you?
For the love of mother, he says.
There will be no dawn
until the laughing stops. Even the pines
are burning in the dark.
7
Why do you love me? he says.
Because. Because.
You’re best to me, she purrs.
In the kitchen, in the closets,
behind the doors, above the toilets,
the calendars are eating it up.
One blackened one watches you
like another window. Why
are you listening? it says.
8
No one says, There’s a war.
No one says, Children are burning.
No one says, Bizniz as usual.
But you have to take it all back.
You have to hunt through your socks
and dirty underwear
and crush each word. If you’re serious
you have to sit in the corner
and eat ten new dollars. Eat’em.
9
Whose rifles are brooding
in the closet? What are
the bolts whispering
back and forth? And the pyramids
of ammunition, so many
hungry mouths to feed.
When you hide in bed
the revolver under the pillow
smiles and shows its teeth.
10
On the last night the children
waken from the same dream
of leaves burning.
Two girls in the dark
knowing there are no wolves
or bad men in the room.
Only electricity on the loose,
the television screaming at itself,
the dishwasher tearing its heart out.
11
We’re going away. The house
is too warm. We disconnect
the telephone.
Bones, cans, broken dolls, bronzed shoes,
ground down to face powder. Burn
the toilet paper collected in the basement.
Take back the bottles.
The back stairs are raining glass.
Cancel the milk.
12
You may go now, says Cupboard.
I won’t talk,
says Clock.
Your bag is black and waiting.
How can you leave your house?
The stove hunches its shoulders,
the kitchen table stares at the sky.
You’re heaving yourself out in the snow
groping toward the front door.

End of the poem

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Some external links:

The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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What Work Is by Philip Levine

What Work Is

by Philip Levine

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is–if you’re
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it’s someone else’s brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, “No,
we’re not hiring today,” for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who’s not beside you or behind or
ahead because he’s home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you’re too young or too dumb,
not because you’re jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don’t know what work is.

End of the poem

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The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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Waking In March by Philip Levine

Waking In March

by Philip Levine

Last night, again, I dreamed
my children were back at home,
small boys huddled in their separate beds,
and I went from one to the other
listening to their breathing — regular,
almost soundless — until a white light
hardened against the bedroom wall,
the light of Los Angeles burning south
of here, going at last as we
knew it would. I didn’t waken.
Instead the four of us went out
into the front yard and the false dawn
that rose over the Tehachipis and stood
in our bare feet on the wet lawn
as the world shook like a burning house.
Each human voice reached us
without sound, a warm breath on the cheek,
a dry kiss.
Why am I so quiet?
This is the end of the world, I am dreaming
the end of the world, and I go from bed
to bed bowing to the small damp heads
of my sons in a bedroom that turns
slowly from darkness to fire. Everyone
else is gone, their last words
reach us in the language of light.
The great eucalyptus trees along the road
swim in the new wind pouring
like water over the mountains. Each day
this is what we waken to, a water
like wind bearing the voices of the world,
the generations of the unborn chanting
in the language of fire. This will be
tomorrow. Why am I so quiet?

End of the poem

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The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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Told by Philip Levine

Told

by Philip Levine

The air lay soffly on the green fur
of the almond, it was April
and I said, I begin again
but my hands burned in the damp earth
the light ran between my fingers
a black light like no other
this was not home, the linnet
settling on the oleander
the green pod swelling
the leaf slowly untwisting
the slashed egg fallen from the nest
the tongue of grass tasting
I was being told by a pulse slowing
in the eyes
the dove mourning in shadow
a nerve waking in the groin
the distant hills
turning their white heads away
told by the clouds assembling
in the trees, told by the blooming
of a black mouth beneath the rose
the worm sobbing, the dust
settling on my eyelid, told
by salt, by water, told and told.

End of the poem

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Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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They Feed They Lion by Philip Levine

They Feed They Lion

by Philip Levine

Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
They Lion grow.
Out of the gray hills
Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,
West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
They Lion grow.
Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,
“Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
From the furred ear and the full jowl come
The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
They Lion grow.
From the sweet glues of the trotters
Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
Of the hams the thorax of caves,
From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels,
The grained arm that pulls the hands,
They Lion grow.
From my five arms and all my hands,
From all my white sins forgiven, they feed,
From my car passing under the stars,
They Lion, from my children inherit,
From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,
From they sack and they belly opened
And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth
They feed they Lion and he comes.

End of the poem

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Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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Then by Philip Levine

Then

by Philip Levine

A solitary apartment house, the last one
before the boulevard ends and a dusty road
winds its slow way out of town. On the third floor
through the dusty windows Karen beholds
the elegant couples walking arm in arm
in the public park. It is Saturday afternoon,
and she is waiting for a particular young man
whose name I cannot now recall, if name
he ever had. She runs the thumb of her left hand
across her finger tips and feels the little tags
of flesh the needle made that morning at work
and wonders if he will feel them. She loves her work,
the unspooling of the wide burgundy ribbons
that tumble across her lap, the delicate laces,
the heavy felts for winter, buried now that spring
is rising in the trees. She recalls a black hat
hidden in a deep drawer in the back of the shop.
She made it in February when the snows piled
as high as her waist, and the river stopped at noon,
and she thought she would die. She had tried it on,
a small, close-fitting cap, almost nothing,
pinned down at front and back. Her hair tumbled
out at the sides in dark rags. When she turned
it around, the black felt cupped her forehead
perfectly, the teal feathers trailing out behind,
twin cool jets of flame. Suddenly he is here.
As she goes to the door, the dark hat falls back
into the closed drawer of memory to wait
until the trees are bare and the days shut down
abruptly at five. They touch, cheek to cheek,
and only there, both bodies stiffly arched apart.
As she draws her white gloves on, she can smell
the heat rising from his heavy laundered shirt,
she can almost feel the weight of the iron
hissing across the collar. It’s cool out, he says,
cooler than she thinks. There are tiny dots
of perspiration below his hairline. What a day
for strolling in the park! Refusing the chair
by the window, he seems to have no time,
as though this day were passing forever,
although it is barely after two of a late May
afternoon a whole year before the modern era.
Of course she’ll take a jacket, she tells him,
of course she was planning to, and she opens her hands,
the fingers spread wide to indicate the enormity
of his folly, for she has on only a blouse,
protection against nothing. In the bedroom
she considers a hat, something dull and proper
as a rebuke, but shaking out her glowing hair
she decides against it. The jacket is there,
the arms spread out on the bed, the arms
of a dressed doll or a soldier at attention
or a boy modelling his first suit, my own arms
when at six I stood beside my sister waiting
to be photographed. She removes her gloves
to feel her balled left hand pass through the silk
of the lining, and then her right, fingers open.
As she buttons herself in, she watches
a slow wind moving through the planted fields
behind the building. She stops and stares.
What was that dark shape she saw a moment
trembling between the sheaves? The sky lowers,
the small fat cypresses by the fields’ edge
part, and something is going. Is that the way
she too must take? The world blurs before her eyes
or her sight is failing. I cannot take her hand,
then or now, and lead her to a resting place
where our love matters. She stands frozen
before the twenty-third summer of her life,
someone I know, someone I will always know.

End of the poem

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Some external links:

The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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The New World by Philip Levine

The New World

by Philip Levine

A man roams the streets with a basket
of freestone peaches hollering, “Peaches,
peaches, yellow freestone peaches for sale.”
My grandfather in his prime could outshout
the Tigers of Wrath or the factory whistles
along the river. Hamtramck hungered
for yellow freestone peaches, downriver
wakened from a dream of work, Zug Island danced
into the bright day glad to be alive.
Full-figured women in their negligees
streamed into the streets from the dark doorways
to demand in Polish or Armenian
the ripened offerings of this new world.
Josef Prisckulnick out of Dubrovitsa
to Detroit by way of Ellis Island
raised himself regally to his full height
of five feet two and transacted until
the fruit was gone into those eager hands.
Thus would there be a letter sent across
an ocean and a continent, and thus
would Sadie waken to the news of wealth
without limit in the bright and distant land,
and thus bags were packed and she set sail
for America. Some of this is true.
The women were gaunt. All day the kids dug
in the back lots searching for anything.
The place was Russia with another name.
Joe was five feet two. Dubrovitsa burned
to gray ashes the west wind carried off,
then Rovno went, then the Dnieper turned to dust.
We sat around the table telling lies
while the late light filled an empty glass.
Bread, onions, the smell of burning butter,
small white potatoes we shared with no one
because the hour was wrong, the guest was late,
and this was Michigan in 1928.

End of the poem

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The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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The Helmet by Philip Levine

The Helmet

by Philip Levine

All the way
on the road to Gary
he could see
where the sky shone
just out of reach
and smell the rich
smell of work
as strong as money,
but when he got there
the night was over.
People were going
to work and back,
the sidewalks were lakes
no one walked on,
the diners were saying
time to eat
so he stopped
and talked to a woman
who’d been up late
making helmets.
There are white hands
the color of steel,
they have put their lives
into steel,
and if hands could lay down
their lives these hands
would be helmets.
He and the woman
did not lie down
not because
she would praise
the steel helmet
boarding a train
for no war,
not because
he would find
the unjewelled crown
in a surplus store
where hands were sold.
They did not lie down
face to face
because of the waste
of being so close
and they were too tired
of being each other
to try to be lovers
and because they had
to sit up straight
so they could eat.

End of the poem

15 random poems

 

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Some external links:

The Bat’s Own Poetry Cave 

Talking Writing Monster.

Duckduckgo.com – the alternative in the US

Quant.com – a search engine from France, and also an alternative, at least for Europe

Yandex – the Russian search engine (it’s probably the best search engine for image searches).

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