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A Woman Waking

Written by: Philip Levine | Biography
 She wakens early remembering 
her father rising in the dark 
lighting the stove with a match 
scraped on the floor. Then measuring 
water for coffee, and later the smell 
coming through. She would hear 
him drying spoons, dropping 
them one by one in the drawer. 
Then he was on the stairs 
going for the milk. So soon 
he would be at her door 
to wake her gently, he thought, 
with a hand at her nape, shaking 
to and fro, smelling of gasoline 
and whispering. Then he left. 
Now she shakes her head, shakes 
him away and will not rise. 
There is fog at the window 
and thickening the high branches 
of the sycamores. She thinks 
of her own kitchen, the dishwasher 
yawning open, the dripping carton 
left on the counter. Her boys 
have gone off steaming like sheep. 
Were they here last night? 
Where do they live? she wonders, 
with whom? Are they home? 
In her yard the young plum tree, 
barely taller than she, drops 
its first yellow leaf. She listens 
and hears nothing. If she rose 
and walked barefoot on the wood floor 
no one would come to lead her 
back to bed or give her 
a glass ofwater. If she 
boiled an egg it would darken 
before her eyes. The sky tires 
and turns away without a word. 
The pillow beside hers is cold, 
the old odor of soap is there. 
Her hands are cold. What time is it?



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