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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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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.


by Philip Levine |

Late Moon

 2 a.
m.
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.


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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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
 Wavering!

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,"
 Inviolable.
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!


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


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
alone.
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.