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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 Simple Truth

Philip Levine

I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields 
on the edge of town.  In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light.  The woman who sold me 
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste 
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way, 
she swore, from New Jersey.  "Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did."
                                              Some things
you know all your life.  They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering 
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself, 
and the two of us to betray our love.  Can you taste 
what I'm saying?  It is onions or potatoes, a pinch 
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 19 Sep 2018 7:15 PM | Viewed: 11579 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2947/ | Viewed on 19 September 2018.
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