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November 30th, 2015 - we have 234 poets, 8,025 poems and 307,509 comments.
Philip Levine - Coming Close

Take this quiet woman, she has been
standing before a polishing wheel
for over three hours, and she lacks
twenty minutes before she can take
a lunch break.  Is she a woman?
Consider the arms as they press
the long brass tube against the buffer,
they are striated along the triceps,
the three heads of which clearly show.
Consider the fine dusting of dark down
above the upper lip, and the beads
of sweat that run from under the red
kerchief across the brow and are wiped
away with a blackening wrist band
in one odd motion a child might make
to say No! No! You must come closer
to find out, you must hang your tie
and jacket in one of the lockers
in favor of a black smock, you must
be prepared to spend shift after shift
hauling off the metal trays of stock,
bowing first, knees bent for a purchase, 
then lifting with a gasp, the first word 
of tenderness between the two of you,
then you must bring new trays of dull
unpolished tubes.  You must feed her,
as they say in the language of the place.
Make no mistake, the place has a language,
and if by some luck the power were cut,
the wheel slowed to a stop so that you
suddenly saw it was not a solid object
but so many separate bristles forming
in motion a perfect circle, she would turn
to you and say, "Why?" Not the old why
of why must I spend five nights a week?
Just, "Why?" Even if by some magic 
you knew, you wouldn't dare speak
for fear of her laughter, which now
you have anyway as she places the five
tapering fingers of her filthy hand
on the arm of your white shirt to mark
you for your own, now and forever.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 2716 times | Comments and analysis of Coming Close by Philip Levine Comments (12)

Coming Close - Comments and Information

Poet: Philip Levine
Poem: Coming Close
Volume: What Work Is
Year: Published/Written in 1991

Comment 12 of 12, added on November 8th, 2015 at 11:32 PM.

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Comment 11 of 12, added on September 28th, 2015 at 2:15 PM.

apbhg1 Thank you for your blog post.Really thank you! Keep writing.

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Comment 10 of 12, added on September 2nd, 2015 at 10:03 PM.

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