Muhammad Ali |
To make America the greatest is my goal,
So I beat the Russians, and I beat the Pole,
and for the USA won the medal of gold.
Italians said: "You're Greater than the Cassius of old´´.
We like your name, we like your game,
So make Rome your home if you will.
I said I appreciate your kind hospitality,
But the USA is my country still,
'Cause they're waiting to welcome me in Louisville.
Philip Levine |
Hungry and cold, I stood in a doorway
on Delancey Street in 1946
as the rain came down.
The worst part is this
is not from a bad movie.
I'd read Dos Passos'
USA and thought, "Before the night ends
my life will change.
" A stranger would stop
to ask for my help, a single stranger
more needy than I, if such a woman
I still had cigarettes,
damp matches, and an inaccurate map
of Manhattan in my head, and the change
from the one $20 traveler's check
I'd cashed in a dairy restaurant where
the amazed owner actually proclaimed
to the busy heads, "They got Jews in Detroit!"
You can forgive the night.
No one else was dumb
enough to be out.
Sure, it was Easter.
Was I expecting crocus and lilac
to burst from the pavement and sweeten
the air the way they did in Michigan once
upon a time? This wouldn't be so bad
if you were only young once.
Once would be fine.
You stand out in the rain once and get wet
expecting to enter fiction.
under the Williamsburg Bridge posing for Life.
You trek to the Owl Hotel to lie awake
in a room the size of a cat box and smell
the dawn as it leaks under the shade
with the damp welcome you deserve.
Just the once
you earn your doctorate in mismanagement.
So I was eighteen, once, fifty years ago,
a kid from a small town with big ideas.
Gatsby said if Detroit is your idea
of a small town you need another idea,
and I needed several.
I retied my shoes, washed
my face, brushed my teeth with a furry tongue,
counted out my $11.
on the broken bed, and decided the time
had come to mature.
How else can I explain
voting for Adlai Stevenson once and once
again, planting a lemon tree in hard pan,
loaning my Charlie Parker 78s
to an out-of-work actor, eating pork loin
barbecued on Passover, tangoing
perfectly without music even with you?
Omer Tarin |
You asked me what it was all about,
Why men and women dwelt so much
On the slanting tangents
Of come vague philosophy
And what I felt it was, and why
It was like this?
Sometimes, then, to answer your questions,
I dress my thoughts in brilliant costumes,
Beautiful, eloquent words,
But to tell the truth
There is no way I can really say
Anything at all;
People have experienced these things--and these
Things are better felt, after all.
As to the 'why'
Hanging over your brow
Like a dark raincloud of expectancy--
That you must resolve for yourself
Before the thunder finally breaks.
(Pub in ''Bitter Oleander Review'', USA 2012)