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Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

The Negatives

 On March 1, 1958, four deserters from the French Army of North Africa, 
August Rein, Henri Bruette, Jack Dauville, & Thomas Delain, robbed a 
government pay station at Orleansville.
Because of the subsequent confession of Dauville the other three were captured or shot.
Dauville was given his freedom and returned to the land of his birth, the U.
AUGUST REIN: from a last camp near St.
Remy I dig in the soft earth all afternoon, spacing the holes a foot or so from the wall.
Tonight we eat potatoes, tomorrow rice and carrots.
The earth here is like the earth nowhere, ancient with wood rot.
How can anything come forth, I wonder; and the days are all alike, if there is more than one day.
If there is more of this I will not endure.
I have grown so used to being watched I can no longer sleep without my watcher.
The thing I fought against, the dark cape, crimsoned with terror that I so hated comforts me now.
Thomas is dead; insanity, prison, cowardice, or slow inner capitulation has found us all, and all men turn from us, knowing our pain is not theirs or caused by them.
HENRI BRUETTE: from a hospital in Algiers Dear Suzanne: this letter will not reach you because I can't write it; I have no pencil, no paper, only the blunt end of my anger.
My dear, if I had words how could I report the imperfect failure for which I began to die? I might begin by saying that it was for clarity, though I did not find it in terror: dubiously entered each act, unsure of who I was and what I did, touching my face for fear I was another inside my head I played back pictures of my childhood, of my wife even, for it was in her I found myself beaten, safe, and furthest from the present.
It is her face I see now though all I say is meant for you, her face in the slow agony of sexual release.
I cannot see you.
The dark wall ribbed with spittle on which I play my childhood brings me to this bed, mastered by what I was, betrayed by those I trusted.
The one word my mouth must open to is why.
JACK DAUVILLE: from a hotel in Tampa, Florida From Orleansville we drove south until we reached the hills, then east until the road stopped.
I was nervous and couldn't eat.
Thomas took over, told us when to think and when to shit.
We turned north and reached Blida by first dawn and the City by morning, having dumped our weapons beside an empty road.
We were free.
We parted, and to this hour I haven't seen them, except in photographs: the black hair and torn features of Thomas Delain captured a moment before his death on the pages of the world, smeared in the act.
I tortured myself with their betrayal: alone I hurled them into freedom, inner freedom which I can't find nor ever will until they are dead.
In my mind Delain stands against the wall precise in detail, steadied for the betrayal.
"La France C'Est Moi," he cried, but the irony was lost.
Since I returned to the U.
nothing goes well.
I stay up too late, don't sleep, and am losing weight.
Thomas, I say, is dead, but what use telling myself what I won't believe.
The hotel quiets early at night, the aged brace themselves for another sleep, and offshore the sea quickens its pace.
I am suddenly old, caught in a strange country for which no man would die.
THOMAS DELAIN: from a journal found on his person At night wakened by the freight trains boring through the suburbs of Lyon, I watched first light corrode the darkness, disturb what little wildlife was left in the alleys: birds moved from branch to branch, and the dogs leapt at the garbage.
Winter numbed even the hearts of the young who had only their hearts.
We heard the war coming; the long wait was over, and we moved along the crowded roads south not looking for what lost loves fell by the roadsides.
To flee at all cost, that was my youth.
Here in the African night wakened by what I do not know and shivering in the heat, listen as the men fight with sleep.
Loosed from their weapons they cry out, frightened and young, who have never been children.
Once merely to be strong, to live, was moral.
Within these uniforms we accept the evil we were chosen to deliver, and no act human or benign can free us from ourselves.
Wait, sleep, blind soldiers of a blind will, and listen for that old command dreaming of authority.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

Last Words

 If the shoe fell from the other foot 
who would hear? If the door 
opened onto a pure darkness 
and it was no dream? If your life 
ended the way a book ends 
with half a blank page and the survivors 
gone off to Africa or madness? 
If my life ended in late spring 
of 1964 while I walked alone 
back down the mountain road? 
I sing an old song to myself.
I study the way the snow remains, gray and damp, in the deep shadows of the firs.
I wonder if the bike is safe hidden just off the highway.
Up ahead the road, black and winding, falls away, and there is the valley where I lived half of my life, spectral and calm.
I sigh with gratitude, and then I feel an odd pain rising through the back of my head, and my eyes go dark.
I bend forward and place my palms on something rough, the black asphalt or a field of stubble, and the movement is that of the penitent just before he stands to his full height with the knowledge of his enormity.
For that moment which will survive the burning of all the small pockets of fat and oil that are the soul, I am the soul stretching into the furthest reaches of my fingers and beyond, glowing like ten candles in the vault of night for anyone who could see, even though it is 12:40 in the afternoon and I have passed from darkness into sunlight so fierce the sweat streams down into my eyes.
I did not rise.
A wind or a stray animal or a group of kids dragged me to the side of the road and turned me over so that my open eyes could flood heaven.
My clothes went skittering down the road without me, ballooning out into any shape, giddy with release.
My coins, my rings, the keys to my house shattered like ice and fell into the mountain thorns and grasses, little bright points that make you think there is magic in everything you see.
No, it can't be, you say, for someone is speaking calmly to you in a voice you know.
Someone alive and confident has put each of these words down exactly as he wants them on the page.
You have lived through years of denial, of public lies, of death falling like snow on any head it chooses.
You're not a child.
You know the real thing.
I am here, as I always was, faithful to a need to speak even when all you hear is a light current of air tickling your ear.
But what if that dried bundle of leaves and dirt were not dirt and leaves but the spent wafer of a desire to be human? Stop the car, turn off the engine, and stand in the silence above your life.
See how the grass mirrors fire, how a wind rides up the hillside steadily toward you until it surges into your ears like breath coming and going, released from its bondage to blood or speech and denying nothing.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

Call It Music

 Some days I catch a rhythm, almost a song
in my own breath.
I'm alone here in Brooklyn Heights, late morning, the sky above the St.
George Hotel clear, clear for New York, that is.
The radio playing "Bird Flight," Parker in his California tragic voice fifty years ago, his faltering "Lover Man" just before he crashed into chaos.
I would guess that outside the recording studio in Burbank the sun was high above the jacarandas, it was late March, the worst of yesterday's rain had come and gone, the sky washed blue.
Bird could have seen for miles if he'd looked, but what he saw was so foreign he clenched his eyes, shook his head, and barked like a dog--just once-- and then Howard McGhee took his arm and assured him he'd be OK.
I know this because Howard told me years later that he thought Bird could lie down in the hotel room they shared, sleep for an hour or more, and waken as himself.
The perfect sunlight angles into my little room above Willow Street.
I listen to my breath come and go and try to catch its curious taste, part milk, part iron, part blood, as it passes from me into the world.
This is not me, this is automatic, this entering and exiting, my body's essential occupation without which I am a thing.
The whole process has a name, a word I don't know, an elegant word not in English or Yiddish or Spanish, a word that means nothing to me.
Howard truly believed what he said that day when he steered Parker into a cab and drove the silent miles beside him while the bright world unfurled around them: filling stations, stands of fruits and vegetables, a kiosk selling trinkets from Mexico and the Philippines.
It was all so actual and Western, it was a new creation coming into being, like the music of Charlie Parker someone later called "glad," though that day I would have said silent, "the silent music of Charlie Parker.
" Howard said nothing.
He paid the driver and helped Bird up two flights to their room, got his boots off, and went out to let him sleep as the afternoon entered the history of darkness.
I'm not judging Howard, he did better than I could have now or then.
Then I was 19, working on the loading docks at Railway Express coming day by day into the damaged body of a man while I sang into the filthy air the Yiddish drinking songs my Zadie taught me before his breath failed.
Now Howard is gone, eleven long years gone, the sweet voice silenced.
"The subtle bridge between Eldridge and Navarro," they later wrote, all that rising passion a footnote to others.
I remember in '85 walking the halls of Cass Tech, the high school where he taught after his performing days, when suddenly he took my left hand in his two hands to tell me it all worked out for the best.
Maybe he'd gotten religion, maybe he knew how little time was left, maybe that day he was just worn down by my questions about Parker.
To him Bird was truly Charlie Parker, a man, a silent note going out forever on the breath of genius which now I hear soaring above my own breath as this bright morning fades into afternoon.
Music, I'll call it music.
It's what we need as the sun staggers behind the low gray clouds blowing relentlessly in from that nameless ocean, the calm and endless one I've still to cross.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

Late Light

 Rain filled the streets 
once a year, rising almost 
to door and window sills, 
battering walls and roofs 
until it cleaned away the mess 
we'd made.
My father told me this, he told me it ran downtown and spilled into the river, which in turn emptied finally into the sea.
He said this only once while I sat on the arm of his chair and stared out at the banks of gray snow melting as the March rain streaked past.
All the rest of that day passed on into childhood, into nothing, or perhaps some portion hung on in a tiny corner of thought.
Perhaps a clot of cinders that peppered the front yard clung to a spar of old weed or the concrete lip of the curb and worked its way back under the new growth spring brought and is a part of that yard still.
Perhaps light falling on distant houses becomes those houses, hunching them down at dusk like sheep browsing on a far hillside, or at daybreak gilds the roofs until they groan under the new weight, or after rain lifts haloes of steam from the rinsed, white aluminum siding, and those houses and all they contain live that day in the sight of heaven.
II In the blue, winking light of the International Institute of Social Revolution I fell asleep one afternoon over a book of memoirs of a Spanish priest who'd served his own private faith in a long forgotten war.
An Anarchist and a Catholic, his remembrances moved inexplicably from Castilian to Catalan, a language I couldn't follow.
That dust, fine and gray, peculiar to libraries, slipped between the glossy pages and my sight, a slow darkness calmed me, and I forgot the agony of those men I'd come to love, forgot the battles lost and won, forgot the final trek over hopeless mountain roads, defeat, surrender, the vows to live on.
I slept until the lights came on and off.
A girl was prodding my arm, for the place was closing.
A slender Indonesian girl in sweater and American jeans, her black hair falling almost to my eyes, she told me in perfect English that I could come back, and she swept up into a folder the yellowing newspaper stories and photos spilled out before me on the desk, the little chronicles of death themselves curling and blurring into death, and took away the book still unfinished of a man more confused even than I, and switched off the light, and left me alone.
III In June of 1975 I wakened one late afternoon in Amsterdam in a dim corner of a library.
I had fallen asleep over a book and was roused by a young girl whose hand lay on my hand.
I turned my head up and stared into her brown eyes, deep and gleaming.
She was crying.
For a second I was confused and started to speak, to offer some comfort or aid, but I kept still, for she was crying for me, for the knowledge that I had wakened to a life in which loss was final.
I closed my eyes a moment.
When I opened them she'd gone, the place was dark.
I went out into the golden sunlight; the cobbled streets gleamed as after rain, the street cafes crowded and alive.
Not far off the great bell of the Westerkirk tolled in the early evening.
I thought of my oldest son, who years before had sailed from here into an unknown life in Sweden, a life which failed, of how he'd gone alone to Copenhagen, Bremen, where he'd loaded trains, Hamburg, Munich, and finally -- sick and weary -- he'd returned to us.
He slept in a corner of the living room for days, and woke gaunt and quiet, still only seventeen, his face in its own shadows.
I thought of my father on the run from an older war, and wondered had he passed through Amsterdam, had he stood, as I did now, gazing up at the pale sky, distant and opaque, for the sign that never comes.
Had he drifted in the same winds of doubt and change to another continent, another life, a family, some years of peace, an early death.
I walked on by myself for miles and still the light hung on as though the day would never end.
The gray canals darkened slowly, the sky above the high, narrow houses deepened into blue, and one by one the stars began their singular voyages.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

The Rat Of Faith

 A blue jay poses on a stake 
meant to support an apple tree 
newly planted.
A strong wind on this clear cold morning barely ruffles his tail feathers.
When he turns his attention toward me, I face his eyes without blinking.
A week ago my wife called me to come see this same bird chase a rat into the thick leaves of an orange tree.
We came as close as we could and watched the rat dig his way into an orange, claws working meticulously.
Then he feasted, face deep into the meal, and afterwards washed himself in juice, paws scrubbing soberly.
Surprised by the whiteness of the belly, how open it was and vulnerable, I suggested I fetch my .
She said, "Do you want to kill him?" I didn't.
There are oranges enough for him, the jays, and us, across the fence in the yard next door oranges rotting on the ground.
There is power in the name rat, a horror that may be private.
When I was a boy and heir to tales of savagery, of sleeping men and kids eaten half away before they could wake, I came to know that horror.
I was afraid that left alive the animal would invade my sleep, grown immense now and powerful with the need to eat flesh.
I was wrong.
Night after night I wake from dreams of a city like no other, the bright city of beauty I thought I'd lost when I lost my faith that one day we would come into our lives.
The wind gusts and calms shaking this miniature budding apple tree that in three months has taken to the hard clay of our front yard.
In one hop the jay turns his back on me, dips as though about to drink the air itself, and flies.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

The Return

 All afternoon my father drove the country roads
between Detroit and Lansing.
What he was looking for I never learned, no doubt because he never knew himself, though he would grab any unfamiliar side road and follow where it led past fields of tall sweet corn in August or in winter those of frozen sheaves.
Often he'd leave the Terraplane beside the highway to enter the stunned silence of mid-September, his eyes cast down for a sign, the only music his own breath or the wind tracking slowly through the stalks or riding above the barren ground.
Later he'd come home, his dress shoes coated with dust or mud, his long black overcoat stained or tattered at the hem, sit wordless in his favorite chair, his necktie loosened, and stare at nothing.
At first my brothers and I tried conversation, questions only he could answer: Why had he gone to war? Where did he learn Arabic? Where was his father? I remember none of this.
I read it all later, years later as an old man, a grandfather myself, in a journal he left my mother with little drawings of ruined barns and telephone poles, receding toward a future he never lived, aphorisms from Montaigne, Juvenal, Voltaire, and perhaps a few of his own: "He who looks for answers finds questions.
" Three times he wrote, "I was meant to be someone else," and went on to describe the perfumes of the damp fields.
"It all starts with seeds," and a pencil drawing of young apple trees he saw somewhere or else dreamed.
I inherited the book when I was almost seventy and with it the need to return to who we were.
In the Detroit airport I rented a Taurus; the woman at the counter was bored or crazy: Did I want company? she asked; she knew every road from here to Chicago.
She had a slight accent, Dutch or German, long black hair, and one frozen eye.
I considered but decided to go alone, determined to find what he had never found.
Slowly the autumn morning warmed, flocks of starlings rose above the vacant fields and blotted out the sun.
I drove on until I found the grove of apple trees heavy with fruit, and left the car, the motor running, beside a sagging fence, and entered his life on my own for maybe the first time.
A crow welcomed me home, the sun rode above, austere and silent, the early afternoon was cloudless, perfect.
When the crow dragged itself off to another world, the shade deepened slowly in pools that darkened around the trees; for a moment everything in sight stopped.
The wind hummed in my good ear, not words exactly, not nonsense either, nor what I spoke to myself, just the language creation once wakened to.
I took off my hat, a mistake in the presence of my father's God, wiped my brow with what I had, the back of my hand, and marveled at what was here: nothing at all except the stubbornness of things.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

The Mercy

 The ship that took my mother to Ellis Island 
Eighty-three years ago was named "The Mercy.
" She remembers trying to eat a banana without first peeling it and seeing her first orange in the hands of a young Scot, a seaman who gave her a bite and wiped her mouth for her with a red bandana and taught her the word, "orange," saying it patiently over and over.
A long autumn voyage, the days darkening with the black waters calming as night came on, then nothing as far as her eyes could see and space without limit rushing off to the corners of creation.
She prayed in Russian and Yiddish to find her family in New York, prayers unheard or misunderstood or perhaps ignored by all the powers that swept the waves of darkness before she woke, that kept "The Mercy" afloat while smallpox raged among the passengers and crew until the dead were buried at sea with strange prayers in a tongue she could not fathom.
"The Mercy," I read on the yellowing pages of a book I located in a windowless room of the library on 42nd Street, sat thirty-one days offshore in quarantine before the passengers disembarked.
There a story ends.
Other ships arrived, "Tancred" out of Glasgow, "The Neptune" registered as Danish, "Umberto IV," the list goes on for pages, November gives way to winter, the sea pounds this alien shore.
Italian miners from Piemonte dig under towns in western Pennsylvania only to rediscover the same nightmare they left at home.
A nine-year-old girl travels all night by train with one suitcase and an orange.
She learns that mercy is something you can eat again and again while the juice spills over your chin, you can wipe it away with the back of your hands and you can never get enough.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

Those Were The Days

 The sun came up before breakfast, 
perfectly round and yellow, and we 
dressed in the soft light and shook out 
our long blond curls and waited 
for Maid to brush them flat and place 
the part just where it belonged.
We came down the carpeted stairs one step at a time, in single file, gleaming in our sailor suits, two four year olds with unscratched knees and scrubbed teeth.
Breakfast came on silver dishes with silver covers and was set in table center, and Mother handed out the portions of eggs and bacon, toast and juice.
We could hear the ocean, not far off, and boats firing up their engines, and the shouts of couples in white on the tennis courts.
I thought, Yes, this is the beginning of another summer, and it will go on until the sun tires of us or the moon rises in its place on a silvered dawn and no one wakens.
My brother flung his fork on the polished wooden floor and cried out, "My eggs are cold, cold!" and turned his plate over.
I laughed out loud, and Mother slapped my face, and when I cleared my eyes the table was bare of even a simple white cloth, and the steaming plates had vanished.
My brother said, "It's time," and we struggled into our galoshes and snapped them up, slumped into our pea coats, one year older now and on our way to the top through the freezing rains of the end of November, lunch boxes under our arms, tight fists pocketed, out the door and down the front stoop, heads bent low, tacking into the wind.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

The Dead

 A good man is seized by the police
and spirited away.
Months later someone brags that he shot him once through the back of the head with a Walther 7.
65, and his life ended just there.
Those who loved him go on searching the cafés in the Barrio Chino or the bars near the harbor.
A comrade swears he saw him at a distance buying two kilos of oranges in the market of San José and called out, "Andrés, Andrés," but instead of turning to a man he'd known since child- hood and opening his great arms wide, he scurried off, the oranges tumbling out of the damp sack, one after another, a short bright trail left on the sidewalk to say, Farewell! Farewell to what? I ask.
I asked then and I ask now.
I first heard the story fifty years ago; it became part of the mythology I hauled with me from one graveyard to another, this belief in the power of my yearning.
The dead are every- where, crowding the narrow streets that jut out from the wide boulevard on which we take our morning walk.
They stand in the cold shadows of men and women come to sell themselves to anyone, they stride along beside me and stop when I stop to admire the bright garlands or the little pyramids of fruit, they reach a hand out to give money or to take change, they say "Good morning" or "Thank you," they turn with me and retrace my steps back to the bare little room I've come to call home.
Patiently, they stand beside me staring out over the soiled roofs of the world until the light fades and we are all one or no one.
They ask for so little, a prayer now and then, a toast to their health which is our health, a few lies no one reads incised on a dull plaque between a pharmacy and a sports store, the least little daily miracle.
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Among Children

 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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Black Stone On Top Of Nothing

 Still sober, César Vallejo comes home and finds a black ribbon 
around the apartment building covering the front door.
He puts down his cane, removes his greasy fedora, and begins to untangle the mess.
His neighbors line up behind him wondering what's going on.
A middle-aged woman carrying a loaf of fresh bread asks him to step aside so she can enter, ascend the two steep flights to her apartment, and begin the daily task of preparing lunch for her Monsieur.
Vallejo pretends he hears nothing or perhaps he truly hears nothing so absorbed is he in this odd task consuming his late morning.
Did I forget to mention that no one else can see the black ribbon or understand why his fingers seem so intent on unraveling what is not there? Remember when you were only six and on especially hot days you would descend the shaky steps to the cellar hoping at first that someone, perhaps your mother, would gradually become aware of your absence and feel a sudden seizure of anxiety or terror.
Of course no one noticed.
Mother sat for hours beside the phone waiting, and now and then gazed at summer sunlight blazing through the parlor curtains while below, cool and alone, seated on the damp concrete you watched the same sunlight filter through the rising dust from the two high windows.
Beside the furnace a spider worked brilliantly downward from the burned-out, overhead bulb with a purpose you at that age could still comprehend.
1937 would last only six more months.
It was a Thursday.
Rain was promised but never arrived.
The brown spider worked with or without hope, though when the dusty sunlight caught in the web you beheld a design so perfect it remained in your memory as a model of meaning.
César Vallejo untangled the black ribbon no one else saw and climbed to his attic apartment and gazed out at the sullen rooftops stretching southward toward Spain where his heart died.
I know this.
I've walked by the same building year after year in late evening when the swallows were settling noiselessly in the few sparse trees beside the unused canal.
I've come when the winter snow blinded the distant brooding sky.
I've come just after dawn, I've come in spring, in autumn, in rain, and he was never there.
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem


 The first time I drank gin
I thought it must be hair tonic.
My brother swiped the bottle from a guy whose father owned a drug store that sold booze in those ancient, honorable days when we acknowledged the stuff was a drug.
Three of us passed the bottle around, each tasting with disbelief.
People paid for this? People had to have it, the way we had to have the women we never got near.
(Actually they were girls, but never mind, the important fact was their impenetrability.
) Leo, the third foolish partner, suggested my brother should have swiped Canadian whiskey or brandy, but Eddie defended his choice on the grounds of the expressions "gin house" and "gin lane," both of which indicated the preeminence of gin in the world of drinking, a world we were entering without understanding how difficult exit might be.
Maybe the bliss that came with drinking came only after a certain period of apprenticeship.
Eddie likened it to the holy man's self-flagellation to experience the fullness of faith.
(He was very well read for a kid of fourteen in the public schools.
) So we dug in and passed the bottle around a second time and then a third, in the silence each of us expecting some transformation.
"You get used to it," Leo said.
"You don't like it but you get used to it.
" I know now that brain cells were dying for no earthly purpose, that three boys were becoming increasingly despiritualized even as they took into themselves these spirits, but I thought then I was at last sharing the world with the movie stars, that before long I would be shaving because I needed to, that hair would sprout across the flat prairie of my chest and plunge even to my groin, that first girls and then women would be drawn to my qualities.
Amazingly, later some of this took place, but first the bottle had to be emptied, and then the three boys had to empty themselves of all they had so painfully taken in and by means even more painful as they bowed by turns over the eye of the toilet bowl to discharge their shame.
Ahead lay cigarettes, the futility of guaranteed programs of exercise, the elaborate lies of conquest no one believed, forms of sexual torture and rejection undreamed of.
Ahead lay our fifteenth birthdays, acne, deodorants, crabs, salves, butch haircuts, draft registration, the military and political victories of Dwight Eisenhower, who brought us Richard Nixon with wife and dog.
Any wonder we tried gin.
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An Abandoned Factory Detroit

 The gates are chained, the barbed-wire fencing stands, 
An iron authority against the snow, 
And this grey monument to common sense 
Resists the weather.
Fears of idle hands, Of protest, men in league, and of the slow Corrosion of their minds, still charge this fence.
Beyond, through broken windows one can see Where the great presses paused between their strokes And thus remain, in air suspended, caught In the sure margin of eternity.
The cast-iron wheels have stopped; one counts the spokes Which movement blurred, the struts inertia fought, And estimates the loss of human power, Experienced and slow, the loss of years, The gradual decay of dignity.
Men lived within these foundries, hour by hour; Nothing they forged outlived the rusted gears Which might have served to grind their eulogy.
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On The Meeting Of García Lorca And Hart Crane

 Brooklyn, 1929.
Of course Crane's been drinking and has no idea who this curious Andalusian is, unable even to speak the language of poetry.
The young man who brought them together knows both Spanish and English, but he has a headache from jumping back and forth from one language to another.
For a moment's relief he goes to the window to look down on the East River, darkening below as the early light comes on.
Something flashes across his sight, a double vision of such horror he has to slap both his hands across his mouth to keep from screaming.
Let's not be frivolous, let's not pretend the two poets gave each other wisdom or love or even a good time, let's not invent a dialogue of such eloquence that even the ants in your own house won't forget it.
The two greatest poetic geniuses alive meet, and what happens? A vision comes to an ordinary man staring at a filthy river.
Have you ever had a vision? Have you ever shaken your head to pieces and jerked back at the image of your young son falling through open space, not from the stern of a ship bound from Vera Cruz to New York but from the roof of the building he works on? Have you risen from bed to pace until dawn to beg a merciless God to take these pictures away? Oh, yes, let's bless the imagination.
It gives us the myths we live by.
Let's bless the visionary power of the human— the only animal that's got it—, bless the exact image of your father dead and mine dead, bless the images that stalk the corners of our sight and will not let go.
The young man was my cousin, Arthur Lieberman, then a language student at Columbia, who told me all this before he died quietly in his sleep in 1983 in a hotel in Perugia.
A good man, Arthur, he survived graduate school, later came home to Detroit and sold pianos right through the Depression.
He loaned my brother a used one to compose his hideous songs on, which Arthur thought were genius.
What an imagination Arthur had!
Written by Philip Levine | Create an image from this poem

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.