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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

You Can Have It

Philip Levine

 
My brother comes home from work 
and climbs the stairs to our room. 
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop 
one by one. You can have it, he says. 

The moonlight streams in the window 
and his unshaven face is whitened 
like the face of the moon. He will sleep 
long after noon and waken to find me gone. 

Thirty years will pass before I remember 
that moment when suddenly I knew each man 
has one brother who dies when he sleeps 
and sleeps when he rises to face this life, 

and that together they are only one man 
sharing a heart that always labours, hands 
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps 
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it? 

All night at the ice plant he had fed 
the chute its silvery blocks, and then I 
stacked cases of orange soda for the children 
of Kentucky, one gray boxcar at a time 

with always two more waiting. We were twenty 
for such a short time and always in 
the wrong clothes, crusted with dirt 
and sweat. I think now we were never twenty. 

In 1948 the city of Detroit, founded 
by de la Mothe Cadillac for the distant purposes 
of Henry Ford, no one wakened or died, 
no one walked the streets or stoked a furnace, 

for there was no such year, and now 
that year has fallen off all the old newspapers, 
calendars, doctors' appointments, bonds 
wedding certificates, drivers licenses. 

The city slept. The snow turned to ice. 
The ice to standing pools or rivers 
racing in the gutters. Then the bright grass rose 
between the thousands of cracked squares, 

and that grass died. I give you back 1948. 
I give you all the years from then 
to the coming one. Give me back the moon 
with its frail light falling across a face. 

Give me back my young brother, hard 
and furious, with wide shoulders and a curse 
for God and burning eyes that look upon 
all creation and say, You can have it. 

Added: 25 Feb 2002 | Last Read: 26 Sep 2017 7:08 AM | Viewed: 13688 times

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URL: http://plagiarist.com/poetry/2961/ | Viewed on 26 September 2017.
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