Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Philip Levine, brand new Poet Laureate

(congratulations to the writer)


We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.


There is a small group of elementary schoolchildren practicing unison drumming in the playground across the street from this small apartment. MtMn practices Robert Johnson in the living room as I look back into the magic Web (did all my friends have fun at play?); my eyes, filled with a week´s worth of mountain and sea and sky, are dazzled again by pictures and stories that happened without their knowing. The seagulls cry in the setting sun, the salt air wafts in through the windows of our friend´s childhood bedroom.

It´s the usual time of rediscovery, loosed briefly from the sweet obligations of music-making, time-keeping, story-telling. What is rediscovered: music, time, story. Parts of life endure and others do not, strangers will take you in, words are everything and nothing in the same moment.

Sometime in the last weeks of hospitality, I got properly lost again. It was the food in our kitchen or the food in a family´s kitchen, or a friend´s, or a stranger´s. It was our bed or another´s. It was the familiar road or the unknown trail, the rain or the brilliant sun, the eloquence or the struggle for a single word. Non importa, Wurscht, whatever. Mountain, sea, sky.

The trick now is to come back home, magic mirror in hand, and stay lost.