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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

Where We Live Now

Philip Levine


We live here because the houses 
are clean, the lawns run 
right to the street 

and the streets run away. 
No one walks here. 
No one wakens at night or dies. 

The cars sit open-eyed 
in the driveways. 
The lights are on all day. 


At home forever, she has removed 
her long foreign names 
that stained her face like hair. 

She smiles at you, and you think 
tears will start from the corners 
of her mouth. Such a look 

of tenderness, you look away. 
She's your sister. Quietly she says, 
You're a shit, I'll get you for it. 


Money's the same, he says. 
He brings it home in white slabs 
that smell like soap. 

Throws them down 
on the table as though 
he didn't care. 

The children hear 
and come in from play glowing 
like honey and so hungry. 


With it all we have 
such a talent for laughing. 
We can laugh at anything. 

And we forget no one. 
She listens to mother 
on the phone, and he remembers 

the exact phrasing of a child's sorrows, 
the oaths taken by bear and tiger 
never to forgive. 


On Sunday we're having a party. 
The children are taken away 
in a black Dodge, their faces erased 

from the mirrors. Outside a scum 
is forming on the afternoon. 
A car parks but no one gets out. 

Brother is loading the fridge. 
Sister is polishing and spraying herself. 
Today we're having a party. 


For fun we talk about you. 
Everything's better for being said. 
That's a rule. 

This is going to be some long night, she says. 
How could you? How could you? 
For the love of mother, he says. 

There will be no dawn 
until the laughing stops. Even the pines 
are burning in the dark. 


Why do you love me? he says. 
Because. Because. 
You're best to me, she purrs. 

In the kitchen, in the closets, 
behind the doors, above the toilets, 
the calendars are eating it up. 

One blackened one watches you 
like another window. Why 
are you listening? it says. 


No one says, There's a war. 
No one says, Children are burning. 
No one says, Bizniz as usual. 

But you have to take it all back. 
You have to hunt through your socks 
and dirty underwear 

and crush each word. If you're serious 
you have to sit in the corner 
and eat ten new dollars. Eat'em. 


Whose rifles are brooding 
in the closet? What are 
the bolts whispering 

back and forth? And the pyramids 
of ammunition, so many 
hungry mouths to feed. 

When you hide in bed 
the revolver under the pillow 
smiles and shows its teeth. 


On the last night the children 
waken from the same dream 
of leaves burning. 

Two girls in the dark 
knowing there are no wolves 
or bad men in the room. 

Only electricity on the loose, 
the television screaming at itself, 
the dishwasher tearing its heart out. 


We're going away. The house 
is too warm. We disconnect 
the telephone. 

Bones, cans, broken dolls, bronzed shoes, 
ground down to face powder. Burn 
the toilet paper collected in the basement. 

Take back the bottles. 
The back stairs are raining glass. 
Cancel the milk. 


You may go now, says Cupboard. 
I won't talk, 
says Clock. 

Your bag is black and waiting. 
How can you leave your house? 
The stove hunches its shoulders, 

the kitchen table stares at the sky. 
You're heaving yourself out in the snow 
groping toward the front door.

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 24 Mar 2019 9:10 AM | Viewed: 3360 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2959/ | Viewed on 24 March 2019.
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