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A Woman Waking

 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?

Poem by Philip Levine
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