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Philip Levine - The Whole Soul

Is it long as a noodle 
or fat as an egg? Is it 
lumpy like a potato or 
ringed like an oak or an 
onion and like the onion 
the same as you go toward 
the core? That would be 
suitable, for is it not 
the human core and the rest 
meant either to keep it 
warm or cold depending 
on the season or just who 
you're talking to, the rest 
a means of getting it from 
one place to another, for it 
must go on two legs down 
the stairs and out the front 
door, it must greet the sun 
with a sigh of pleasure as 
it stands on the front porch 
considering the day's agenda. 
Whether to go straight ahead 
passing through the ranch houses 
of the rich, living rooms 
panelled with a veneer of fake 
Philippine mahogany and bedrooms 
with ermined floors and tangled 
seas of silk sheets, through 
adobe walls and secret gardens 
of sweet corn and marijuana 
until it crosses several sets 
of tracks, four freeways, and 
a mountain range and faces 
a great ocean each drop of 
which is known and like 
no other, each with its own 
particular tang, one suitable 
to bring forth the flavor 
of a noodle, still another 
when dried on an open palm, 
sparkling and tiny, just right 
for a bite of ripe tomato 
or to incite a heavy tongue 
that dragged across a brow 
could utter the awful words, 
"Oh, my love!" and mean them. 
The more one considers 
the more puzzling become 
these shapes. I stare out 
at the Pacific and wonder -- 
noodle, onion, lump, double 
yolked egg on two legs, 
a star as perfect as salt -- 
and my own shape a compound 
of so many lengths, lumps, 
and flat palms. And while I'm 
here at the shore I bow to 
take a few handfuls of water 
which run between my fingers, 
those poor noodles good for 
holding nothing for long, and 
I speak in a tongue hungering 
for salt and water without salt, 
I give a shape to the air going 
out and the air coming in, 
and the sea winds scatter it 
like so many burning crystals 
settling on the evening ocean.

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The Whole Soul - Comments and Information

Poet: Philip Levine
Poem: The Whole Soul
Volume: A Walk with Tom Jefferson
Year: Published/Written in 1988
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