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Bitterness

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Written by Philip Levine

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 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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