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Songs

Written by: Philip Levine | Biography
 Dawn coming in over the fields 
of darkness takes me by surprise 
and I look up from my solitary road 
pleased not to be alone, the birds 
now choiring from the orange groves 
huddling to the low hills. But sorry 
that this night has ended, a night 
in which you spoke of how little love 
we seemed to have known and all of it 
going from one of us to the other. 
You could tell the words took me 
by surprise, as they often will, and you 
grew shy and held me away for a while, 
your eyes enormous in the darkness, 
almost as large as your hunger 
to see and be seen over and over. 

30 years ago I heard a woman sing 
of the motherless child sometimes 
she felt like. In a white dress 
this black woman with a gardenia 
in her hair leaned on the piano 
and stared out into the breathing darkness 
of unknown men and women needing 
her songs. There were those among 
us who cried, those who rejoiced 
that she was back before us for a time, 
a time not to be much longer, for 
the voice was going and the habits 
slowly becoming all there was of her. 

And I believe that night she cared 
for the purity of the songs and not 
much else. Oh, she still saw 
the slow gathering of that red dusk 
that hovered over her cities, and no 
doubt dawns like this one caught 
her on the roads from job to job, 
but the words she'd lived by were 
drained of mystery as this sky 
is now, and there was no more "Easy 
Living" and she was "Miss Brown" to 
no one and no one was her "Lover Man." 
The only songs that mattered were wordless 
like those rising in confusion from 
the trees or wind-songs that waken 
the grass that slept a century, that 
waken me to how far we've come.



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