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Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

Detroit Grease Shop Poem


Four bright steel crosses,
universal joints, plucked
out of the burlap sack --
"the heart of the drive train,"
the book says. Stars
on Lemon's wooden palm,
stars that must be capped,
rolled, and anointed,
that have their orders
and their commands as he
has his.

Under the blue
hesitant light another day
at Automotive
in the city of dreams.
We're all here to count
and be counted, Lemon,
Rosie, Eugene, Luis,
and me, too young to know
this is for keeps, pinning
on my apron, rolling up
my sleeves.

The roof leaks
from yesterday's rain,
the waters gather above us
waiting for one mistake.
When a drop falls on Lemon's
corded arm, he looks at it
as though it were something
rare or mysterious
like a drop of water or
a single lucid meteor
fallen slowly from
nowhere and burning on
his skin like a tear.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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