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Philip Levine - The Helmet

All the way 
on the road to Gary 
he could see 
where the sky shone 
just out of reach 
and smell the rich 
smell of work 
as strong as money, 
but when he got there 
the night was over. 

People were going 
to work and back, 
the sidewalks were lakes 
no one walked on, 
the diners were saying 
time to eat 
so he stopped 
and talked to a woman 
who'd been up late 
making helmets. 

There are white hands 
the color of steel, 
they have put their lives 
into steel, 
and if hands could lay down 
their lives these hands 
would be helmets. 
He and the woman 
did not lie down 

not because 
she would praise 
the steel helmet 
boarding a train 
for no war, 
not because 
he would find 
the unjewelled crown 
in a surplus store 
where hands were sold. 

They did not lie down 
face to face 
because of the waste 
of being so close 
and they were too tired 
of being each other 
to try to be lovers 
and because they had 
to sit up straight 
so they could eat.

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Poet: Philip Levine
Poem: The Helmet
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