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Any Night

 Look, the eucalyptus, the Atlas pine, 
the yellowing ash, all the trees 
are gone, and I was older than 
all of them.
I am older than the moon, than the stars that fill my plate, than the unseen planets that huddle together here at the end of a year no one wanted.
A year more than a year, in which the sparrows learned to fly backwards into eternity.
Their brothers and sisters saw this and refuse to build nests.
Before the week is over they will all have gone, and the chorus of love that filled my yard and spilled into my kitchen each evening will be gone.
I will have to learn to sing in the voices of pure joy and pure pain.
I will have to forget my name, my childhood, the years under the cold dominion of the clock so that this voice, torn and cracked, can reach the low hills that shielded the orange trees once.
I will stand on the back porch as the cold drifts in, and sing, not for joy, not for love, not even to be heard.
I will sing so that the darkness can take hold and whatever is left, the fallen fruit, the last leaf, the puzzled squirrel, the child far from home, lost, will believe this could be any night.
That boy, walking alone, thinking of nothing or reciting his favorite names to the moon and stars, let him find the home he left this morning, let him hear a prayer out of the raging mouth of the wind.
Let him repeat that prayer, the prayer that night follows day, that life follows death, that in time we find our lives.
Don't let him see all that has gone.
Let him love the darkness.
Look, he's running and singing too.
He could be happy.

Poem by Philip Levine
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