Sunday, February 15, 2015

Philip Levine, RIP

One of my favorites. He was best known for his poems about factory work, but he was also a wonderful observer of California.

Philip Levine

The leaves rusted in the late winds
of September, the ash trees bowed
to no one I could see. Finches
quarrelled among the orange groves.

I was about to say something final
that would capture the meaning
of autumn's arrival, something
suitable for bronzing,

something immediately recognizable
as so large a truth it's totally untrue,
when one small white cloud - not much
more then the merest fragment of mist -

passed between me and the pale
thin cuticle of the mid-day moon
come out to see the traffic and dust
of Central California. I kept quiet.

The wind stilled, and I could hear
the even steady ticking of the leaves,
the lawn's burned hay gasping
for breath, the pale soil rising

only to fall between earth and heaven,
if heaven's there. The world would escape
to become all it's never been
if only we would let it go

streaming toward a future without
purpose or voice. In shade the ground
darkens, and now the silver trails
stretch from leaf to chewed off leaf

of the runners of pumpkin to disappear
in the cover of sheaves and bowed grass.
On the fence blue trumpets of glory
almost closed - music to the moon,

laughter to us, they blared all day
though no one answered, no one
could score their sense or harmony
before they faded in the wind and sun.

(from What Work Is, 1991)

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