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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

The Red Shirt

Philip Levine

"...his poems that no one reads anymore become dust, wind, nothing, like the insolent colored shirt he bought to die in." -Vargas Llosa

If I gave 5 birds 
each 4 eyes 
I would be blind 
unto the 3rd 
generation, if I 
gave no one a word 
for a day 
and let the day 
grow into a week 
and the week sleep 
until it was 
half of my life 
could I come home 
to my father 
one dark night? 

On Sundays an odd light 
grows on the bed 
where I have lived 
this half of my life 
alight that begins 
with the eyes 
blinding first one 
and then both 
until at last 
even the worn candles 
in the flower box 
lay down their heads. 

Therefore I have come 
to this red shirt 
with its faultless row 
of dark buttons, 7 
by my count, as dark 
as blood that poured 
over my lips 
when the first word 
of hope jumped 
and became a cry 
of birds calling 
for their wings, 
a cry of new birds. 

This is the red shirt 
Adam gave to the Angel 
of Death when he asked 
for a son, this 
is the flag Moses 
waved 5 times 
above his head 
as he stumbled 
down the waves 
of the mountainous sea 
bearing the Tables of 10, 
this is the small cloth 
mother put in 
my lunch box 
with bread and water. 

This is my red shirt 
in which I go to meet 
you, Father of the Sea, 
in which I will say 
the poem I learned 
from the mice. A row 
of faultless buttons, 
each one 10 years 
and the eye of the bird 
that beheld the first world 
and the last, a field 
of great rocks weeping, 
and no one to see 
me alone, day after 
day, in my red shirt.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 24 Mar 2019 10:00 AM | Viewed: 4631 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2945/ | Viewed on 24 March 2019.
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