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More poems by Philip LevinePhilip Levine | Print this page.Print | View and Write CommentsComments | Books by Philip LevineBooks by Philip Levine

Picture Postcard From The Other World

Philip Levine

Since I don't know who will be reading 
this or even if it will be read, I must 
invent someone on the other end 
of eternity, a distant cousin laboring 
under the same faint stars I labored 
all those unnumbered years ago. I make you 
like me in everything I can -- a man 
or woman in middle years who having 
lost whatever faiths he held goes on 
with only the faith that even more 
will be lost. Like me a wanderer, 
someone with a taste for coastal towns 
sparkling in the cold winter sun, boardwalks 
without walkers, perfect beaches shrouded 
in the dense fogs of December, morning cafes 
before the second customer arrives, 
the cats have been fed, and the proprietor 
stops muttering into the cold dishwater. 
I give you the gift of language, my gift 
and no more, so that wherever you go 
words fall around you meaning no more 
than the full force of their making, and you 
translate the clicking of teeth against 
teeth and tongue as morning light spilling 
into the enclosed squares of a white town, 
breath drawn in and held as the ocean 
when no one sees it, the waves still, 
the fishing boats drift in a calm beyond sleep. 
The gift of sleep, too, and the waking 
from it day after day without knowing 
why the small sunlit room with its single bed, 
white counterpane going yellow, and bare floor 
holds itself with such assurance 
while the flaming nebulae of dust 
swirl around you. And the sense not to ask. 
Like me you rise immediately and sit 
on the bed's edge and let whatever dream 
of a childhood home or a rightful place 
you had withdraw into the long shadows 
of the tilted wardrobe and the one chair. 
Before you've even washed your face you 
see it on the bedoilied chiffonier -- there, 
balanced precariously on the orange you bought 
at yesterday's market and saved for now. 
Someone entered soundlessly while you slept 
and left you sleeping and left this postcard 
from me and thought to close the door 
with no more fuss than the moon makes. 
There's your name in black ink in a hand 
as familiar as your own and not 
your own, and the address even you 
didn't know you'd have an hour before 
you got it. When you turn it over, 
there it is, not the photo of a star, 
or the bright sailboats your sister would 
have chosen or the green urban meadows 
my brother painted. What is it? It could be 
another planet just after its birth 
except that at the center the colors 
are earth colors. It could be the cloud 
that formed above the rivers of our blood, 
the one that brought rain to a dry time 
or took wine from a hungry one. It could 
be my way of telling you that I too 
burned and froze by turns and the face I 
came to was more dirt than flame, it 
could be the face I put on everything, 
or it could be my way of saying 
nothing and saying it perfectly.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 13 Dec 2018 8:13 AM | Viewed: 3504 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2924/ | Viewed on 13 December 2018.
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