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Philip Levine - I Sing The Body Electric

People sit numbly at the counter 
waiting for breakfast or service. 
Today it's Hartford, Connecticut 
more than twenty-five years after 
the last death of Wallace Stevens. 
I have come in out of the cold 
and wind of a Sunday morning 
of early March, and I seem to be 
crying, but I'm only freezing 
and unpeeled. The waitress brings 
me hot tea in a cracked cup, 
and soon it's all over my paper, 
and so she refills it. I read 
slowly in The New York Times 
that poems are dying in Iowa, 
Missoula, on the outskirts of Reno, 
in the shopping galleries of Houston. 
We should all go to the grave 
of the unknown poet while the rain 
streaks our notebooks or stand 
for hours in the freezing winds 
off the lost books of our fathers 
or at least until we can no longer 
hold our pencils. Men keep coming 
in and going out, and two of them 
recall the great dirty fights 
between Willy Pep and Sandy Sadler, 
between little white perfection 
and death in red plaid trunks. 
I want to tell them I saw 
the last fight, I rode out 
to Yankee Stadium with two deserters 
from the French Army of Indochina 
and back with a drunken priest 
and both ways the whole train 
smelled of piss and vomit, but no 
one would believe me. Those are 
the true legends better left to die. 
In my black rain coat I go back 
out into the gray morning and dare 
the cars on North Indemnity Boulevard 
to hit me, but no one wants trouble 
at this hour. I have crossed 
a continent to bring these citizens 
the poems of the snowy mountains, 
of the forges of hopelessness, 
of the survivors of wars they 
never heard of and won't believe. 
Nothing is alive in this tunnel 
of winds of the end of winter 
except the last raging of winter, 
the cats peering smugly from the homes 
of strangers, and the great stunned sky 
slowly settling like a dark cloud 
lined only with smaller dark clouds.

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I Sing The Body Electric - Comments and Information

Poet: Philip Levine
Poem: I Sing The Body Electric
Volume: A Walk with Tom Jefferson
Year: Published/Written in 1988
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