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Among Children

Written by: Philip Levine | Biography
 I walk among the rows of bowed heads--
the children are sleeping through fourth grade
so as to be ready for what is ahead,
the monumental boredom of junior high
and the rush forward tearing their wings
loose and turning their eyes forever inward.
These are the children of Flint, their fathers work at the spark plug factory or truck bottled water in 5 gallon sea-blue jugs to the widows of the suburbs.
You can see already how their backs have thickened, how their small hands, soiled by pig iron, leap and stutter even in dreams.
I would like to sit down among them and read slowly from The Book of Job until the windows pale and the teacher rises out of a milky sea of industrial scum, her gowns streaming with light, her foolish words transformed into song, I would like to arm each one with a quiver of arrows so that they might rush like wind there where no battle rages shouting among the trumpets, Hal Ha! How dear the gift of laughter in the face of the 8 hour day, the cold winter mornings without coffee and oranges, the long lines of mothers in old coats waiting silently where the gates have closed.
Ten years ago I went among these same children, just born, in the bright ward of the Sacred Heart and leaned down to hear their breaths delivered that day, burning with joy.
There was such wonder in their sleep, such purpose in their eyes dosed against autumn, in their damp heads blurred with the hair of ponds, and not one turned against me or the light, not one said, I am sick, I am tired, I will go home, not one complained or drifted alone, unloved, on the hardest day of their lives.
Eleven years from now they will become the men and women of Flint or Paradise, the majors of a minor town, and I will be gone into smoke or memory, so I bow to them here and whisper all I know, all I will never know.



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