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Philip Levine - Something Has Fallen

Something has fallen wordlessly 
and holds still on the black driveway. 

You find it, like a jewel, 
among the empty bottles and cans 

where the dogs toppled the garbage. 
You pick it up, not sure 

if it is stone or wood 
or some new plastic made 

to replace them both. 
When you raise your sunglasses 

to see exactly what you have 
you see it is only a shadow 

that has darkened your fingers, 
a black ink or oil, 

and your hand suddenly smells 
of c1assrooms when the rain 

pounded the windows and you 
shuddered thinking of the cold 

and the walk back to an empty house. 
You smell all of your childhood, 

the damp bed you struggled from 
to dress in half-light and go out 

into a world that never tired. 
Later, your hand thickened and flat 

slid out of a rubber glove, 
as you stood, your mask raised, 

to light a cigarette and rest 
while the acid tanks that were 

yours to dean went on bathing 
the arteries of broken sinks. 

Remember, you were afraid 
of the great hissing jugs. 

There were stories of burnings, 
of flesh shredded to lace. 

On other nights men spoke 
of rats as big as dogs. 

Women spoke of men 
who trapped them in corners. 

Always there was grease that hid 
the faces of worn faucets, grease 

that had to be eaten one 
finger-print at a time, 

there was oil, paint, blood, 
your own blood sliding across 

your nose and running over 
your lips with that bright, certain 

taste that was neither earth 
or air, and there was air, 

the darkest element of all, 
falling all night 

into the bruised river 
you slept beside, falling 

into the glass of water 
you filled two times for breakfast 

and the eyes you turned upward 
to see what time it was. 

Air that stained everything 
with its millions of small deaths, 

that turned all five fingers 
to grease or black ink or ashes.

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Poet: Philip Levine
Poem: Something Has Fallen
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