Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

Small Game - Poem by Philip Levine

In borrowed boots which don't fit
and an old olive greatcoat,
I hunt the corn-fed rabbit,
game fowl, squirrel, starved bobcat,
anything small. I bring down
young deer wandered from the doe's
gaze, and reload, and move on
leaving flesh to inform crows.

At dusk they seem to suspect
me, burrowed in a corn field
verging their stream. The unpecked
stalks call them. Nervous, they yield
to what they must: hunger, thirst,
habit. Closer and closer
comes the scratching which at first
sounds like sheaves clicked together.

I know them better than they
themselves, so I win. At night
the darkness is against me.
I can't see enough to sight
my weapon, which becomes freight
to be endured or at best
a crutch to ease swollen feet
that demand but don't get rest

unless I invade your barn,
which I do. Under my dark
coat, monstrous and vague, I turn
down your lane, float through the yard,
and roost. Or so I appear
to you who call me spirit
or devil, though I'm neither.
What's more, under all, I'm white

and soft, more like yourself than
you ever would have guessed before
you claimed your barn with shot gun,
torch, and hounds. Why am I here?
What do I want? Who am I?
You demand from the blank mask
which amuses the dogs. Leave me!
I do your work so why ask?


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Read poems about / on: together, work, dark, night, dog, hunting



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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