Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

Bitterness


Here in February, the fine
dark branches of the almond
begin to sprout tiny clusters
of leaves, sticky to the touch.
Not far off, about the length
of my morning shadow, the grass
is littered with the petals
of the plum that less than
a week ago blazed, a living
candle in the hand of earth.
I was living far off two years
ago, fifteen floors above
119th Street when I heard
a love of my young manhood
had died mysteriously in
a public ward. I did not
go out into the streets to
walk among the cold, sullen
poor of Harlem, I did not
turn toward the filthy window
to question a distant pale sky.
I did not do anything.
The grass is coming back, some
patches already bright, though
at this hour still silvered
with dew. By noon I can stand
sweating in the free air, spading
the difficult clay for the bare
roots of a pear or apple that
will give flower and fruit longer
than I care to think about.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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