Friday, February 27, 2015

Poem for the Weekend: Philip Levine


Philip Levine's writing was influenced greatly by his childhood in Detroit, where he began working in the auto factories at the age of fourteen. The people and industry of the Motor City would remain a concern of his work throughout his life; he vowed to "find a voice for the voiceless." Levine was appointed poet laureate of the United States in 2011, and received the Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets. He passed away earlier this month. Read his biography here.

A Sleepless Night

by Philip Levine (1928-2015)

April, and the last of the plum blossoms
scatters on the black grass
before dawn. The sycamore, the lime,
the struck pine inhale
the first pale hints of sky.
An iron day,
I think, yet it will come
dazzling, the light
rise from the belly of leaves and pour
burning from the cups
of poppies.
The mockingbird squawks
from his perch, fidgets,
and settles back. The snail, awake
for good, trembles from his shell
and sets sail for China. My hand dances
in the memory of a million vanished stars.

A man has every place to lay his head.


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"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka