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Bitterness

Written by: Philip Levine | Biography
 Here in February, the fine 
dark branches of the almond 
begin to sprout tiny clusters 
of leaves, sticky to the touch. 
Not far off, about the length 
of my morning shadow, the grass 
is littered with the petals 
of the plum that less than 
a week ago blazed, a living 
candle in the hand of earth. 
I was living far off two years 
ago, fifteen floors above 
119th Street when I heard 
a love of my young manhood 
had died mysteriously in 
a public ward. I did not 
go out into the streets to 
walk among the cold, sullen 
poor of Harlem, I did not 
turn toward the filthy window 
to question a distant pale sky. 
I did not do anything. 
The grass is coming back, some 
patches already bright, though 
at this hour still silvered 
with dew. By noon I can stand 
sweating in the free air, spading 
the difficult clay for the bare 
roots of a pear or apple that 
will give flower and fruit longer 
than I care to think about.



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