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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 Water's Chant

Philip Levine

Seven years ago I went into 
the High Sierras stunned by the desire 
to die. For hours I stared into a clear 
mountain stream that fell down 
over speckled rocks, and then I 
closed my eyes and prayed that when 
I opened them I would be gone 
and somewhere a purple and golden 
thistle would overflow with light. 
I had not prayed since I was a child 
and at first I felt foolish saying 
the name of God, and then it became 
another word. All the while 
I could hear the water's chant 
below my voice. At last I opened 
my eyes to the same place, my hands 
cupped and I drank long from 
the stream, and then turned for home 
not even stopping to find the thistle 
that blazed by my path. 
                                       Since then 
I have gone home to the city 
of my birth and found it gone, 
a gray and treeless one now in its place. 
The one house I loved the most 
simply missing in a row of houses, 
the park where I napped on summer days 
fenced and locked, the great shop 
where we forged, a plane of rubble, 
the old hurt faces turned away. 
My brother was with me, thickened 
by the years, but still my brother, 
and when we embraced I felt the rough 
cheek and his hand upon my back tapping 
as though to tell me, I know! I know! 
brother, I know! 
                             Here in California 
a new day begins. Full dull clouds ride 
in from the sea, and this dry valley 
calls out for rain. My brother has 
risen hours ago and hobbled to the shower 
and gone out into the city of death 
to trade his life for nothing because 
this is the world. I could pray now, 
but not to die, for that will come one 
day or another. I could pray for 
his bad leg or my son John whose luck 
is rotten, or for four new teeth, but 
instead I watch my eucalyptus, 
the giant in my front yard, bucking 
and swaying in the wind and hear its 
tidal roar. In the strange new light 
the leaves overflow purple and gold, 
and a fiery dust showers into the day.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 25 Mar 2019 11:35 AM | Viewed: 3398 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2950/ | Viewed on 25 March 2019.
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