Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Philip Terman: Reading Philip Levine

Reading Philip Levine


The last person to read this book

was Molly Renee Miller of 7527 Drive,

San Antonio Texas, 78249-2518, United

States of America. I know this

because the receipt is between pages

40 and 41, and she paid $8.95 on

December 30, 2011, at 8:41 P.M.

And now here it is, at 620 12th Street,

Franklin, Pennsylvania 4:17 A.M,

and of course I’m wondering

what you thought about it, Molly,

if you read it all the way through,

if it moved you as it’s moved me

with its descriptions of the poet’s

early days reading Dostoevsky and

lying beside his brother, as I did,

in that corner room down the hall

from our parents, how my brother

and I played twenty questions until

one of us fell asleep dreaming of animals,

vegetables and minerals. If you used this receipt

as a bookmark, you might have read

the earlier poem about the two workers

who didn’t know each other well but the man

interpreted the woman’s greased-stained lifeline

and she spit on his dirty glasses and

dried them with a napkin as they talked

until the bar closed and they parted

and walked home by themselves

but changed in ways they themselves

didn’t understand. Did that poem move you

as it moved me? To consider how most

of who we are consists of what we’ll never

understand, the way the poet won’t

reveal what happened between those two,

whether they will never meet again

or they will fall in love and grow old

and the man will write the poem about

the lucky life he’s lived, as I hope

your life is, Molly Renee Miller,

fellow-reader of this one book

that passed from your hands to mine.

I wonder, as I do now, if you set the book aside

and walked out at 5 A.M in the negative

six degree 25 mile- an hour wind chill

to look at the crescent moon,

because we’ve been reading a poet

who passed this very night, because

the wide Main Street will never

be more empty, because—

how could we know it at the time?—

we now realize that when a poet

who has come to live inside us

has taken leave of this earth,

we have no other option but

to wake and face the beautiful

cold emptiness and stroll the silent

streets until the only sound is

our hearts, beating in time

with all the words he left inside us.

copyright 2015 Philip Terman


. Philip Levine

One comment on “Philip Terman: Reading Philip Levine

  1. xhibitmagazine
    February 17, 2015

    Reblogged this on xHibit Magazine.


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This entry was posted on February 17, 2015 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , , , .

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