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Philip Levine - Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child

Numb, stiff, broken by no sleep, 
I keep night watch. Looking for 
signs to quiet fear, I creep 
closer to his bed and hear 
his breath come and go, holding 
my own as if my own were 
all I paid. Nothing I bring, 
say, or do has meaning here. 

Outside, ice crusts on river 
and pond; wild hare come to my 
door pacified by torture. 
No less ignorant than they 
of what grips and why, I am 
moved to prayer, the quaint gestures 
which ennoble beyond shame 
only the mute listener. 

No one hears. A dry wind shifts 
dry snow, indifferently; 
the roof, rotting beneath drifts, 
sighs and holds. Terrified by 
sleep, the child strives toward 
consciousness and the known pain. 
If it were mine by one word 
I would not save any man, 

myself or the universe 
at such cost: reality. 
Heir to an ancestral curse 
though fallen from Judah's tree, 
I take up into my arms my hopes, 
my son, for what it's worth give 
bodily warmth. When he escapes 
his heritage, then what have 

I left but false remembrance 
and the name? Against that day 
there is no armor or stance, 
only the frail dignity 
of surrender, which is all 
that can separate me now 
or then from the dumb beast's fall, 
unseen in the frozen snow.

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Added: Feb 20 2003 | Viewed: 3465 times | Comments and analysis of Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child by Philip Levine Comments (0)

Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child - Comments and Information

Poet: Philip Levine
Poem: Night Thoughts Over A Sick Child
Volume: On The Edge
Year: Published/Written in 1963
Poem of the Day: Apr 4 2009
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