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Best Famous Philip Levine Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Philip Levine poems. This is a select list of the best famous Philip Levine poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Philip Levine poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Philip Levine poems.

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Written by David Lehman | |


 for Jim Cummins 

In Iowa, Jim dreamed that Della Street was Anne Sexton's
Dave drew a comic strip called the "Adventures of Whitman," about a bearded beer-guzzler in Superman uniform.
Donna dressed like Wallace Stevens in a seersucker summer suit.
To town came Ted Berrigan, saying, "My idea of a bad poet is Marvin Bell.
" But no one has won as many prizes as Philip Levine.
At the restaurant, people were talking about Philip Levine's latest: the Pulitzer.
A toast was proposed by Anne Sexton.
No one saw the stranger, who said his name was Marvin Bell, pour something into Donna's drink.
"In the Walt Whitman Shopping Center, there you feel free," said Ted Berrigan, pulling on a Chesterfield.
Everyone laughed, except T.
I asked for directions.
"You turn right on Gertrude Stein, then bear left.
Three streetlights down you hang a Phil Levine and you're there," Jim said.
When I arrived I saw Ted Berrigan with cigarette ash in his beard.
Graffiti about Anne Sexton decorated the men's room walls.
Beth had bought a quart of Walt Whitman.
Donna looked blank.
"Walt who?" The name didn't ring a Marvin Bell.
You laugh, yet there is nothing inherently funny about Marvin Bell.
You cry, yet there is nothing inherently scary about Robert Lowell.
You drink a bottle of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale, as thirsty as Walt Whitman.
You bring in your car for an oil change, thinking, this place has the aura of Philip Levine.
Then you go home and write: "He kissed her Anne Sexton, and she returned the favor, caressing his Ted Berrigan.
" Donna was candid.
"When the spirit of Ted Berrigan comes over me, I can't resist," she told Marvin Bell, while he stood dejected at the xerox machine.
Anne Sexton came by to circulate the rumor that Robert Duncan had flung his drink on a student who had called him Philip Levine.
The cop read him the riot act.
"I don't care," he said, "if you're Walt Whitman.
" Donna told Beth about her affair with Walt Whitman.
"He was indefatigable, but he wasn't Ted Berrigan.
" The Dow Jones industrials finished higher, led by Philip Levine, up a point and a half on strong earnings.
Marvin Bell ended the day unchanged.
Analyst Richard Howard recommended buying May Swenson and selling Anne Sexton.
In the old days, you liked either Walt Whitman or Anne Sexton, not both.
Ted Berrigan changed that just by going to a ballgame with Marianne Moore.
And one day Philip Levine looked in the mirror and saw Marvin Bell.

Written by Philip Levine | |

The Return

 Suddenly the window will open
and Mother will call
it's time to come in

the wall will part
I will enter heaven in muddy shoes

I will come to the table
and answer questions rudely

I am all right leave me
Head in hand I sit and sit.
How can I tell them about that long and tangled way.
Here in heaven mothers knit green scarves flies buzz Father dozes by the stove after six days' labour.
No--surely I can't tell them that people are at each other's throats.

Written by Philip Levine | |

The House

 They are building a house
half a block down
and I sit up here
with the shades down
listening to the sounds,
the hammers pounding in nails,
thack thack thack thack,
and then I hear birds,
and thack thack thack,
and I go to bed,
I pull the covers to my throat;
they have been building this house
for a month, and soon it will have
its people.
sleeping, eating, loving, moving around, but somehow now it is not right, there seems a madness, men walk on top with nails in their mouths and I read about Castro and Cuba, and at night I walk by and the ribs of the house show and inside I can see cats walking the way cats walk, and then a boy rides by on a bicycle and still the house is not done and in the morning the men will be back walking around on the house with their hammers, and it seems people should not build houses anymore, it seems people should not get married anymore, it seems people should stop working and sit in small rooms on 2nd floors under electric lights without shades; it seems there is a lot to forget and a lot not to do, and in drugstores, markets, bars, the people are tired, they do not want to move, and I stand there at night and look through this house and the house does not want to be built; through its sides I can see the purple hills and the first lights of evening, and it is cold and I button my coat and I stand there looking through the house and the cats stop and look at me until I am embarrased and move North up the sidewalk where I will buy cigarettes and beer and return to my room.
from "All's Normal Here" - 1985

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Written by Philip Levine | |

The Return

 See, they return; ah, see the tentative
 Movements, and the slow feet,
 The trouble in the pace and the uncertain

See, they return, one, and by one,
With fear, as half-awakened;
As if the snow should hesitate
And murmur in the wind,
 and half turn back;
These were the "Wing'd-with-Awe,"
Gods of the wingèd shoe! With them the silver hounds, sniffing the trace of air! Haie! Haie! These were the swift to harry; These the keen-scented; These were the souls of blood.
Slow on the leash, pallid the leash-men!

Written by Philip Levine | |

Last Words

 I do not want a plain box, I want a sarcophagus
With tigery stripes, and a face on it
Round as the moon, to stare up.
I want to be looking at them when they come Picking among the dumb minerals, the roots.
I see them already -- the pale, star-distance faces.
Now they are nothing, they are not even babies.
I imagine them without fathers or mothers, like the first gods.
They will wonder if I was important.
I should sugar and preserve my days like fruit! My mirror is clouding over -- A few more breaths, and it will reflect nothing at all.
The flowers and the faces whiten to a sheet.
I do not trust the spirit.
It escapes like steam In dreams, through mouth-hole or eye-hole.
I can't stop it.
One day it won't come back.
Things aren't like that.
They stay, their little particular lusters Warmed by much handling.
They almost purr.
When the soles of my feet grow cold, The blue eye of my tortoise will comfort me.
Let me have my copper cooking pots, let my rouge pots Bloom about me like night flowers, with a good smell.
They will roll me up in bandages, they will store my heart Under my feet in a neat parcel.
I shall hardly know myself.
It will be dark, And the shine of these small things sweeter than the face of Ishtar.

Written by Philip Levine | |

The Dead

 Revolving in oval loops of solar speed,
Couched in cauls of clay as in holy robes,
Dead men render love and war no heed,
Lulled in the ample womb of the full-tilt globe.
No spiritual Caesars are these dead; They want no proud paternal kingdom come; And when at last they blunder into bed World-wrecked, they seek only oblivion.
Rolled round with goodly loam and cradled deep, These bone shanks will not wake immaculate To trumpet-toppling dawn of doomstruck day : They loll forever in colossal sleep; Nor can God's stern, shocked angels cry them up From their fond, final, infamous decay.

Written by Philip Levine | |

Small Game

 In borrowed boots which don't fit 
and an old olive greatcoat, 
I hunt the corn-fed rabbit, 
game fowl, squirrel, starved bobcat, 
anything small.
I bring down young deer wandered from the doe's gaze, and reload, and move on leaving flesh to inform crows.
At dusk they seem to suspect me, burrowed in a corn field verging their stream.
The unpecked stalks call them.
Nervous, they yield to what they must: hunger, thirst, habit.
Closer and closer comes the scratching which at first sounds like sheaves clicked together.
I know them better than they themselves, so I win.
At night the darkness is against me.
I can't see enough to sight my weapon, which becomes freight to be endured or at best a crutch to ease swollen feet that demand but don't get rest unless I invade your barn, which I do.
Under my dark coat, monstrous and vague, I turn down your lane, float through the yard, and roost.
Or so I appear to you who call me spirit or devil, though I'm neither.
What's more, under all, I'm white and soft, more like yourself than you ever would have guessed before you claimed your barn with shot gun, torch, and hounds.
Why am I here? What do I want? Who am I? You demand from the blank mask which amuses the dogs.
Leave me! I do your work so why ask?

Written by Philip Levine | |

Making Light Of It

 I call out a secret name, the name
of the angel who guards my sleep,
and light grows in the east, a new light
like no other, as soft as the petals
of the blown rose in late summer.
Yes, it is late summer in the West.
Even the grasses climbing the Sierras reach for the next outcropping of rock with tough, burned fingers.
The thistle sheds its royal robes and quivers awake in the hot winds off the sun.
A cloudless sky fills my room, the room I was born in and where my father sleeps his long dark sleep guarding the name he shared with me.
I can follow the day to the black rags and corners it will scatter to because someone always goes ahead burning the little candle of his breath, making light of it all.

Written by Philip Levine | |

The Grave Of The Kitchen Mouse

 The stone says "Coors" 
The gay carpet says "Camels" 
Spears of dried grass 
The little sticks the children gathered 
The leaves the wind gathered 

The cat did not kill him 
The dog did not, not the trap 
Or lightning, or the rain's anger 
The tree's claws 
The black teeth of the moon 

The sun drilled over and over 
Dusk of his first death 
The earth is worn away 
A tuft of gray fur ruffles the wind 
One paw, like a carrot 
Lunges downward in darkness 
For the soul 

Dawn scratching at the windows 
Counted and closed 
The doors holding 
The house quiet 
The kitchen bites its tongue 
And makes bread

Written by Philip Levine | |

Late Moon

 2 a.
December, and still no mon rising from the river.
My mother home from the beer garden stands before the open closet her hands still burning.
She smooths the fur collar, the scarf, opens the gloves crumpled like letters.
Nothing is lost she says to the darkness, nothing.
The moon finally above the town, The breathless stacks, the coal clumps, the quiet cars whitened at last.
Her small round hand whitens, the hand a stranger held and released while the Polish music wheezed.
I'm drunk, she says, and knows she's not.
In her chair undoing brassiere and garters she sighs and waits for the need to move.
The moon descends in a spasm of silver tearing the screen door, the eyes of fire drown in the still river, and she's herself.
The little jewels on cheek and chin darken and go out, and in darkness nothing falls staining her lap.

Written by Philip Levine | |

The Unknowable

 Los Angeles hums
a little tune --
trucks down
the coast road
for Monday Market
packed with small faces
blinking in the dark.
My mother dreams by the open window.
On the drainboard the gray roast humps untouched, the oven bangs its iron jaws, but it's over.
Before her on the table set for so many her glass of fire goes out.
The childish photographs, the letters and cards scatter at last.
The dead burn alone toward dawn.

Written by Philip Levine | |

Passing Out

 The doctor fingers my bruise.
"Magnificent," he says, "black at the edges and purple cored.
" Seated, he spies for clues, gingerly probing the slack flesh, while I, standing, fazed, pull for air, losing the battle.
Faced by his aged diploma, the heavy head of the X- ray, and the iron saddle, I grow lonely.
He finds my secrets common and my sex neither objectionable nor lovely, though he is on the hunt for significance.
The shelved cutlery twinkles behind glass, and I am on the way out, "an instance of the succumbed through extreme fantasy.
" He is alarmed at last, and would raise me, but I am floorward in a dream of lowered trousers, unarmed and weakly fighting to shut the window of my drawers.
There are others in the room, voices of women above white oxfords; and the old floor, the friendly linoleum, departs.
I whisper, "my love," and am safe, tabled, sniffing spirits of ammonia in the land of my fellows.
"Open house!" my openings sing: pores, nose, anus let go their charges, a shameless flow into the outer world; and the ceiling, equipped with intelligence, surveys my produce.
The doctor is thrilled by my display, for he is half the slave of necessity; I, enormous in my need, justify his sciences.
"We have alternatives," he says, "Removal.
" (And my blood whitens as on their dull trays the tubes dance.
I must study the dark bellows of the gas machine, the painless maker.
) ".
and learning to live with it.
" Oh, but I am learning fast to live with any pain, ache, growth to keep myself intact; and in imagination I hug my bruise like an old Pooh Bear, already attuned to its moods.
"Oh, my dark one, tell of the coming of cold and of Kings, ancient and ruined.

Written by Philip Levine | |

In A Vacant House

 Someone was calling someone; 
now they've stopped.
Beyond the glass the rose vines quiver as in a light wind, but there is none: I hear nothing.
The moments pass, or seem to pass, and the sun, risen above the old birch, steadies for the downward arch.
It is noon.
Privacy is one thing, but to be alone, to speak and not to be heard, to speak again the same word or another until one can no longer distinguish the presence of silence or what the silence is there for.
No one can begin anew naming by turn beast, fowl, and bush with the exact word.
Beyond the fence the sparse wood Yields; light enters; nighthawk, owl, and weasel have fled.
To know the complete absence of fear, not to fear what is not there becomes the end, the last brute quiver of instinct.
One moves, or tries to move, among facts, naming one's self and one's acts as if they were real.
Dead leaves cling to the branch, and the root grips to endure, but no cry questions the illusion of sky.

Written by Philip Levine | |

Berenda Slough

 Earth and water without form, 
change, or pause: as if the third 
day had not come, this calm norm 
of chaos denies the Word.
One sees only a surface pocked with rushes, the starved clumps pressed between water and space -- rootless, perennial stumps fixed in position, entombed in nothing; it is too late to bring forth branches, to bloom or die, only the long wait lies ahead, a parody of perfection.
Who denies this is creation, this sea constant before the stunned eye's insatiable gaze, shall find nothing he can comprehend.
Here the mind beholds the mind as it shall be in the end.

Written by Philip Levine | |

Green Thumb

 Shake out my pockets! Harken to the call 
Of that calm voice that makes no sound at all! 
Take of me all you can; my average weight 
May make amends for this, my low estate.
But do not shake, Green Thumb, as once you did My heart and liver, or my prostate bid Good Morning to -- leave it, the savage gland Content within the mercy of my hand.
The world was safe in winter, I was spring, Enslaved and rattling to the slightest thing That she might give.
If planter were my trade Why was I then not like a planter made: With veins like rivers, smudge-pots for a soul, A simple mind geared to a simple goal? You fashioned me, great headed and obscene On two weak legs, the weakest thing between.
My blood was bubbling like a ten-day stew; it kept on telling me the thing to do.
I asked, she acquiesced, and then we fell To private Edens in the midst of hell.
For forty days temptation was our meal, The night our guide, and what we could not feel We could not trust.
Later, beneath the bed, We found you taking notes of all we said.
At last we parted, she to East Moline, I to the service of the great unseen.
All the way home I watched a circling crow And read your falling portents in the snow.
I burned my clothes, I moved, I changed my name, But every night, unstamped her letter came: "Ominous cramps and pains.
" I cursed the vows That cattle make to grass when cattle browse.
Heartsick and tired, to you, Green Thumb, I prayed For her reprieve and that our debt be paid By my remorse.
"Give me a sign," I said, "Give me my burning bush.
" You squeaked the bed.
I hid my face like Moses on the hill, But unlike Moses did not feel my will Swell with new strength; I put my choice to sleep.
That night we cowered, choice and I, like sheep.
When I awoke I found beneath the door Only the invoice from the liquor store.
The grape-vine brought the word.
I switched to beer: She had become a civil engineer.
When I went walking birds and children fled.
I took my love, myself, behind the shed; The shed burned down.
I switched to milk and eggs.
At night a dream ran up and down my legs.
I have endured, as Godless Nazarite, Life like a bone even a dog would slight; All that the dog would have, I have refused.
May I, of all your subjects, be excused? The world is yours, Green Thumb; I smell your heat Licking the winter to a green defeat.
The creatures join, the coupling seasons start; Leave me, Green Thumb, my solitary part.