Philip Levine (January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)
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?
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