Philip Levine

(January 10, 1928 / Detroit, Michigan)

Those Were The Days - Poem by Philip Levine

The sun came up before breakfast,
perfectly round and yellow, and we
dressed in the soft light and shook out
our long blond curls and waited
for Maid to brush them flat and place
the part just where it belonged.
We came down the carpeted stairs
one step at a time, in single file,
gleaming in our sailor suits, two
four year olds with unscratched knees
and scrubbed teeth. Breakfast came
on silver dishes with silver covers
and was set in table center, and Mother
handed out the portions of eggs
and bacon, toast and juice. We could
hear the ocean, not far off, and boats
firing up their engines, and the shouts
of couples in white on the tennis courts.
I thought, Yes, this is the beginning
of another summer, and it will go on
until the sun tires of us or the moon
rises in its place on a silvered dawn
and no one wakens. My brother flung
his fork on the polished wooden floor
and cried out, "My eggs are cold, cold!"
and turned his plate over. I laughed
out loud, and Mother slapped my face,
and when I cleared my eyes the table
was bare of even a simple white cloth,
and the steaming plates had vanished.
My brother said, "It's time," and we
struggled into our galoshes and snapped
them up, slumped into our pea coats,
one year older now and on our way
to the top through the freezing rains
of the end of November, lunch boxes
under our arms, tight fists pocketed,
out the door and down the front stoop,
heads bent low, tacking into the wind.

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Read poems about / on: brother, silver, mother, ocean, summer, sun, moon, wind, time, light, rose

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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