Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

Blasting from Heaven


The little girl won’t eat her sandwich;
she lifts the bun and looks in, but the grey beef
coated with relish is always there.
Her mother says, “Do it for mother.”
Milk and relish and a hard bun that comes off
like a hat—a kid’s life is a cinch.

And a mother’s life? “What can you do
with a man like that?” she asks the sleeping cook
and then the old Negro who won’t sit.
“He’s been out all night trying to get it.
I hope he gets it. What did he ever do
but get it?” The Negro doesn’t look,

though he looks like he’s been out all night
trying. Everyone’s been out all night trying.
Why else would we be drinking beer
at attention? If she were younger,
or if I were Prince Valiant, I would say that fate
brought me here to quiet the crying,

to sweeten the sandwich of the child,
to waken the cook, to stop the Negro from
bearing witness to the world. The dawn
still hasn’t come, and now we hear
the 8 o’clock whistles blasting from heaven,
and with no morning the day is sold.

Submitted: Tuesday, January 10, 2012

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