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POETRY I WANTED YOU TO KNOW / Philip Levine Little yellow tufts of grass grew even in our front yard. 1937. The chow down the block snarled when I passed. He had a black nose and would strain, choking himself, against his leash. I tried going the long way around the block, but those kids called me terrible names, and my brother and I fought them until we were all crying. Behind the station was an abandoned convertible I drove from there to Chicago chased by dogs. When Davey and his mom moved in downstairs, the lady next door said the neighborhood was going. Her son, Clark, called Davey Abie and threw a potato through the kitchen window. Later the police came and took him for stealing a car. We made guns that shot strips of rubber cut from tire tubes and played at war in the alleys and garages until the first snows came. The late sun was golden along my arm, the heat was pleasant, not at all like burning, and I sat alone in the living room while the radio spoke of men freezing in the mountains of Spain. They died, and some of the men up there were ours, and their names were secret. When bombs fell on Shanghai I got a picture card with my bubble gum that showed blades of window glass killing grown people and children and a great hotel turned to red and yellow flames. At night I slept alone, deep in my bed, the covers over my head and dreamed of coins that made a trail to a box of gold. I never dreamed of war planes diving on undefended cities, of the Czechs The Missouri Review · 7 abandoned and lost, of German soldiers entering the Rhur, of my own brother leaving on a train for basic training. In the spring that followed I planted my firs.t tomato, and I hauled loads of rocks in my wagon to help my mother build her special kind of garden. At the drug store I bought, wrapped in burlap, a tiny rose bush, just a stick, for her birthday, April 12th. The next year there were four buds that were red, not yellow, as she'd wanted, not the tea roses, as she called them, that were her favorites. Before the month had passed, they became four tight little blooms, eyes closed, just touched with rain. They were mine, and the whole world was never the same. 8 · The Missouri Review Philip Levine DEPOT BAY / Philip Levine 100 miles south of Sydney I watched the sea curve in to the black volcanic reef I stood upon, and imagined the great meadows of the sea that stretched between me and anyone who knew my name or cared for me. I would walk back to the borrowed cabin, fall on a cot, and dream of flight over water, a singular bird rising and falling in the winds, and I would waken near dark sweating lightly in my clothes and not knowing for one moment where I was. Then I would rise and shave and take a last walk under a spray of stars that meant nothing to me. Thus it passed, five lonely days at Depot Bay, and someone came in a Land Rover to take me back to Canberra, and I flew to Sydney. I spoke to bus drivers and mailmen, got directions from anyone, met people like those I'd left at home and forgot the still sea and the bird fluttering like light. The woman I took to dinner died of cancer one year later, the man whose hand rested on my neck when he searched my eyes forgot my name and now writes me as David, that winter which was summer here lost whatever it was that made it unlike any other. All of me that was there has passed into what I remember: the sea The Missouri Review · 9 rocking the deep cradle of all of us and water and salt without end in which we turned this way and that, holding an unknown face that rose out of nothing and sank back, and one bird going out on a column...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 5-10
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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