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Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child

Written by: Philip Levine | Biography
 Numb, stiff, broken by no sleep, 
I keep night watch.
Looking for signs to quiet fear, I creep closer to his bed and hear his breath come and go, holding my own as if my own were all I paid.
Nothing I bring, say, or do has meaning here.
Outside, ice crusts on river and pond; wild hare come to my door pacified by torture.
No less ignorant than they of what grips and why, I am moved to prayer, the quaint gestures which ennoble beyond shame only the mute listener.
No one hears.
A dry wind shifts dry snow, indifferently; the roof, rotting beneath drifts, sighs and holds.
Terrified by sleep, the child strives toward consciousness and the known pain.
If it were mine by one word I would not save any man, myself or the universe at such cost: reality.
Heir to an ancestral curse though fallen from Judah's tree, I take up into my arms my hopes, my son, for what it's worth give bodily warmth.
When he escapes his heritage, then what have I left but false remembrance and the name? Against that day there is no armor or stance, only the frail dignity of surrender, which is all that can separate me now or then from the dumb beast's fall, unseen in the frozen snow.



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