Something Has Fallen

by Philip Levine

Philip Levine

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.

Last updated May 02, 2015