With some writers—well, probably this is generalizable to “some people”—I can’t tell whether the work is any good because I have lived with it for so long that it seems like part of me. Margaret Soltan analyzes another Levine poem, showing where it may be lazy or unspecific, and I suspect that similar criticisms could be levelled at this excerpt; but this has been mine since I was 14.  It evokes a specific house filled with the sea’s sounds and reflected light, it raises those eastern ranges in my mind’s eye, and it was a comfort to me in many times when I wanted to cry forever with no one to hear.  I can’t find it online, so I hope I copied it accurately as a teenager!

 

That is the sea, that is the movement that fills
my house with the wailing of all we’ve lost
until there is nothing left but dust falling
into dust, either in darkness or in the first
long rays of yellow light that are waiting
behind the eastern ranges. Hear the moaning
of those great tiring arms. That is the sea
of all your unshed tears, that is all anyone
can finally hear, so you can cry, Cherry,
you can cry forever and no one will hear.

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5 thoughts on “R.I.P. Philip Levine

  1. When you go to Chile, which is as California was, less populated, and visit Neruda’s house on the bluff by the crashing sea with the reflected light, you will forget for a moment his various vagaries and as you watch the waves think of the line ahí cerca del mar, llorando. There are scholarly editions on line and translations but this is what I can find now: a barcarole. http://www.poemas-del-alma.com/barcarola.htm

      1. Lorca is most directly leading us to the Donne-like poets in the Spanish tradition, who inform everything and everyone including also Neruda. But this poem I think leads most directly to “Out of the cradle, endlessly rocking.”

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