Philip Levine 1928-2015

Philip Levine has died in California. Born in Detroit to Jewish immigrant parents he was the bard of industrial America and its workers. Another Song is a good poem for remembering him today.

…If life comes back,/ as we are told it does, each time one/ step closer to the edge of truth./ Then I am ready for the dawn/ that calls a sullen boy from sleep.

Another Song

Words go on travelling from voice
to voice while the phones are still
and the wires hum in the cold. Now
and then dark winter birds settle
slowly on the crossbars, where huddled
they caw out their loneliness. Except
for them the March world is white
and barely alive. The train to Providence
moans somewhere near the end
of town, and the churning of metal
on metal from so many miles away
is only a high thin note trilling
the frozen air. Years ago I lived
not far from here, grown to fat
and austerity, a man who came
closely shaven to breakfast and ate
in silence and left punctually, alone,
for work. So it was I saw it all
and turned away to where snow
fell into snow and the wind spoke
in the incomprehensible syllable
of wind, and I could be anyone:
a man whose life lay open before him,
a book with no ending, a widow
bearing white carnations at dusk
to a hillside graveyard turned
to blank rubble, a cinder floating
down to earth and blinking slowly out,
too small to mean a thing, too tired
to even sigh. If life comes back,
as we are told it does, each time one
step closer to the edge of truth,
then I am ready for the dawn
that calls a sullen boy from sleep
rubbing his eyes on a white window
and knowing none of it can last the day.

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