Levine, Philip

United States, (b. 1928)

Animals are Passing From Our Lives

  1. It’s wonderful how I jog
  2. on four honed-down ivory toes
  3. my massive buttocks slipping
  4. like oiled parts with each light step.
  5.  
  6. I’m to market. I can smell
  7. the sour, grooved block, I can smell
  8. the blade that opens the hole
  9. and the pudgy white fingers
  10.  
  11. that shake out the intestines
  12. like a hankie. In my dreams
  13. the snouts drool on the marble,
  14. suffering children, suffering flies,
  15.  
  16. suffering the consumers
  17. who won’t meet their steady eyes
  18. for fear they could see. The boy
  19. who drives me along believes
  20.  
  21. that any moment I’ll fall
  22. on my side and drum my toes
  23. like a typewriter or squeal
  24. and shit like a new housewife
  25.  
  26. discovering television,
  27. or that I’ll turn like a beast
  28. cleverly to hook his teeth
  29. with my teeth. No. Not this pig.

Philip Levine. Not This Pig. (Wesleyan Poetry Series) Wesleyan University Press, 1968.

They Feed They Lion

  1. Out of burlap sacks, out of bearing butter,
  2. Out of black bean and wet slate bread,
  3. Out of the acids of rage, the candor of tar,
  4. Out of creosote, gasoline, drive shafts, wooden dollies,
  5. They Lion grow.
  6.  
  7. Out of the gray hills
  8. Of industrial barns, out of rain, out of bus ride,
  9. West Virginia to Kiss My Ass, out of buried aunties,
  10. Mothers hardening like pounded stumps, out of stumps,
  11. Out of the bones’ need to sharpen and the muscles’ to stretch,
  12. They Lion grow.
  13.  
  14. Earth is eating trees, fence posts,
  15. Gutted cars, earth is calling in her little ones,
  16. “Come home, Come home!” From pig balls,
  17. From the ferocity of pig driven to holiness,
  18. From the furred ear and the full jowl come
  19. The repose of the hung belly, from the purpose
  20. They Lion grow.
  21.  
  22. From the sweet glues of the trotters
  23. Come the sweet kinks of the fist, from the full flower
  24. Of the hams the thorax of caves,
  25. From “Bow Down” come “Rise Up,”
  26. Come they Lion from the reeds of shovels,
  27. The grained arm that pulls the hands,
  28. They Lion grow.
  29.  
  30. From my five arms and all my hands,
  31. From all my white sins forgiven, they feed,
  32. From my car passing under the stars,
  33. They Lion, from my children inherit,
  34. From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,
  35. From they sack and they belly opened
  36. And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth
  37. They feed they Lion and he comes.

Philip Levine. They Feed They Lion; poems. New York: Atheneum (1972).

About the Poet

Philip Levine (b. 1928), Pulitzer Prize-winning US poet. A graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, Levine has been a professor of English at California State University in Fresno and is currently the Distinguished Poet in Residence for the Creative Writing Program at New York University.

Common subjects in Levine’s poetry frequently include animals, factory workers of Detroit and the revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War. [DES-6/03]

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